I really couldn’t write a better Hawk send off than dozens of other folks have written. I have enjoyed parts of Hawk’s bit for years, particularly his catch phrases and his enthusiasm for the White Sox. I know LOTS of people in the White Sox fan base and even interlopers are tired of Hawk’s “act” and tired of his “child-like qualities” but I for one am going to miss Hawk Harrelson. I think the era of us having these entertaining, hyperbolic and mercurial personalities in the television booth of a baseball game are over (I mean, that doesn’t mean one broadcaster won’t attempt to choke another broadcaster out off camera over which chair they’ll sit in, but that’s entertainment for the interwebs, not for the actual broadcast). Just a few of the reasons why Hawk was so unique are listed below….
Homerism – I can only speak for me, but when I listen to the home broadcast of my favorite team, I’d like that person to be as personally invested in the team winning or losing as I am. Hawk is MORE invested than the fans out there. What other broadcaster runs down to the clubhouse to check on Todd Frazier after an injury? What other broadcaster gets mad af and goes silent for a whole half inning? What other broadcaster screams at the umps or goes down to the clubhouse to even give them a piece of his mind. NOBODY!! Hawk did / does all the shit that any of us fans would do if we were in his spot.
He threatened to punch Jay Mariotti – The 108ers aren’t really fans of physical violence, in fact we avoid it at all cost, but when someone is really fucking asking for it, well, I can do nothing but take great delight in them being scared out of town over it. Mariotti was a scumbag before we knew he was into hitting women. A loud mouth jerk off sometimes gets what they deserve and Hawk was ready to serve it up to him, so for all of us out here who also think he’s a fucking jagoff I raise my glass to Hawk in a typical #108ing style.
Stories – This motherfucker LIVED! Hawk has sooooo many stories! If you think about it, a baseball broadcast is part sporting event, part talk show and Hawk was fluent in both. I know people would occasionally call it “The Hawk Show” and mean that as a derogatory term, but for me, I love that Hawk could fill in the dead times with stories both of on and off the field exploits. As the late great Kurt Cobain said “Here we are now, entertain us!” A lot of the modern broadcasters just haven’t lived enough life yet to have anything like this for us. They’ve been too busy hustling up the next play-by-play gig after their graduation from Syracuse. It isn’t their fault, but it is to our detriment as consumers.
Originality – The entire White Sox fan language has basically been created by Hawk. You can’t get through watching an entire White Sox game with another fan without a Hawkism spilling out of one or both of your mouths. The persona of Hawk is an original character that I don’t see being recreated in the remainder of my lifetime. It seems people are content to receive broadcasts in a non-hyperbolic, well-mannered, controlled delivery (sorry Gus Johnson) and so the bombastic characters of yesteryear like Hawk are probably finished. If you can’t get excited when Hawk is delivering a BIG CALL on a game winner for the White Sox, then something is wrong with you.
After getting my thoughts down on paper (web paper, i guess), I got to thinking…..maybe tv broadcasts don’t really need an on-air broadcast team in the traditional sense. If we can’t have a colorful character with a bunch of stories coming at us and mostly what we get is cookie cutter college broadcast program types, then why not innovate this shit and move in a different direction? We have the visuals, so what might make sense instead. Mind you, this is no shot at our current play-by-play man Jason Benetti, who does have a personality and can be very engaging on air, but if you flip around to the rest of the tv broadcasts on MLB.TV, you are getting less and less folks that can really spin a yarn.
AI Broadcaster – Artificial Intelligence is being used everywhere else in all of our other regular activities, why not just grab a bot or two and get to testing. Survey the public for the most generic, pleasing, unoriginal voice (sort of like your run of the mill Bryan Adams album) and program that to recognize the activity and just give you the facts. That’s what I often hear the intelligencia want, they don’t want a big over the top story guy, they just want the information coming at them, so here you go, and eventually once it’s rolled out everywhere, then the cost will be lower and the innovation will be complete.
Sound man – How about we just hire up the great sound men of each city, whether it be DJ’s for Radio sound men / women or whatever. In Chicago, we have Chris Tannehill from 670 the Score. Just let him loose in the booth, to play anything and everything he wants as a sort of backing track to the game play. It could be music, so maybe during the early parts of the game you have something more like shoe-gazer like My Bloody Valentine, busted up by various sound bites that more accurate describe the big action when it occurs. This would probably suit the twitter crowd great. Later in the game when there is a lot more tension, you could flip the switch some some metal or hip hop depending on game play situations. I dunno. The folks that do this shit would probably come up with something really cool to back the game with. I’d love to see it tried.
Mic the field – I mean, really mic the field, I want Steve Albini to be the first person to hang the mics for this shit. Then, all we get is crowd sound, bat sound, ball hitting glove sound, umpires yelling, etc. You could really create the visceral sounds of the ballpark at home with this approach and it would cost a fraction of the price.
Constant commercials – I know this is getting ownership groups everywhere to have tight pants, but you could employ a read man or woman and literally get every facet of the game sponsored to varying degrees. You could run a panel of the screen with up to the second stats and then have the ad man drop in that that pitch out was sponsored by Menards. That sacrifice bunt was sponsored by Depends, or whatever the fuck.
All the rest of the game innovates when it gets to a stagnant spot, I’d have to guess that one of these innovations or something really cool that my feeble mind could not even process are on the way. Congrats on retirement Hawk, you’ll be missed.