A recent Wall Street Journal article examined all 30 MLB broadcast teams to see which TV crew is the cream of the homer crop. To the surprise of exactly zero baseball fans, Chicago White Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was the "winner," the guy who most frequently shunned the norms of objective journalism to nakedly root, root, root for the home team.
Which got me thinking about the differences between baseball and football announcers. Of course, all NFL games are aired on national networks and cable channels, so the better point of comparison would be the local NFL radio broadcasters.
Around these parts, that would be Paul Allen, the voice of the Minnesota Vikings for the past decade. Over the years, PA has earned a reputation as a different kind of cat, both on his KFAN morning radio show and his call of Vikings games. From the sound of it, he lives and dies with the fates of the Purple. His enthusiasm for a Vikings touchdown is rivaled only by the depths of his despair when, say, a Vikings quarterback throws an interception when the team is a field goal attempt away from the Super Bowl.
And yeah, PA takes his shots from those who believe his over-the-top antics are beyond the pale, even by NFL standards. One local wag even chronicled via Twitter the number of times Allen referred to the Vikings as "we" or "us" during last Sunday's broadcast. It was good theater, as PA inched near the randomly determined over/under line of 34 homer calls, and for the record, he finished at 32 so I hope you banged the under until they ran out of paper.
But isn't that what we've come to expect, not just from PA but from all home-team NFL announcers? I lived in Las Vegas for a few years and the local sports radio station aired the San Diego Chargers radio feed on game days. And let me tell you, their color man – former Chargers running back Hank Bauer – makes PA look like Vin Scully by comparison. I've heard similar approaches from the radio broadcasts of the Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos, so I'm guessing this is pretty much a national trend.
It's not surprising, especially when you consider that most local announcers in all sports are actually team employees. Yes, it's a dirty little secret that in most markets, the teams have final say on who sits behind the microphone on their local broadcasts, and that's true for NFL radio as well as MLB, NBA and NHL TV and radio. So if you're fed up with what you perceive to be a parade of bootlickers and cronies on the airwaves, your best bet is to take up your frustration with your favorite team, because they're likely calling the shots.
What do you think, Vikings fans? Do you want a local radio announcer who plays it straight down the middle, giving equal time to both teams and calling out the home team when, say, they go 3-13 or post back-to-back 90-loss seasons? Or do you enjoy the homer approach, where the man on the mic is riding the same roller coaster of emotion as you and your buddies in the rec room? As always, please post your comments below – we'll hang up and listen.
Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.