Baltimore Orioles: Do fans want blind homerism?
One of the many websites I visit on a daily basis is DCRTV, which is a mini-blog of sorts that’s written about the goings-on in the mid-Atlantic region’s TV and radio stations, personalities, etc. One of the annual traditions of sorts is for them to publish their annual list of bests and worsts as submitted by their readers. I was a bit surprised to see that a couple of readers submitted the Baltimore Orioles’ radio team of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra on their worst list.
My personal opinion is that Angel and Manfra do a great job calling the Orioles’ games on WBAL and across the network of stations. I would submit that they’re entertaining and very professional in their jobs, rarely showing “homerism.” That’s a big no-no in the broadcasting field; trust me, I majored in commercial radio! Interestingly however, a lot of fans (of various sports) with whom I speak look at things the opposite way. They want to know that the announcers are in effect rooting for the team. Part of why I feel Manfra and Angel are so good (and the same goes for the MASN announcers) is due to the fact that they relay the message that they’re on the Orioles’ side without “slobering over themselves.”
We can debate whether or not the Orioles’ announcers are homers or not anytime people want. However I suppose the question is whether or not that quality in and of itself is desirable in an announcer or someone reporting on behalf of the team. Again, I speak as a guy who went to school to be in radio (never panned out), and I know that sports announcers are trained not to show any sort of bias for a specific team. I would submit that many fans claim they want a guy who’s cheering or bleeding right along with the fans. As an example, Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos allegedly fired play-by-play man John Miller for not “bleeding enough black and orange.” So do fans really want that type of reporting over the airways during games?
Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Some people are going to read this and say who are you to say what we do and don’t want? And that might well be a fair question to ask. However I say that because I think that we have so few examples in sports of true homers, it’s tough for people to know how slanted homerism can truly sound. Hawk Harrelson of the Chicago White Sox is probably the most celebrated homer in sports broadcasting. Quite frankly, not all of his trademarks are bad or in poor taste; his 3-0 good guys trademark comment is actually a cool little tradition of his. It’s his use of words such as us, we, our, etc that can rub people the wrong way. So I suppose my point is that while some fans claim they want a homer, if they really had one the lack of professionalism would really stand out.
This is not to totally single Harrelson out, as he’s far from the only blind homer in sports broadcasting. I just feel that announcing a game should take a professional tone to it, even given the fact that the announcers work for the team. Of course nobody did this better than Baltimore’s Chuck Thompson, who called Orioles and Baltimore Colts’ games for decades. Thompson was cut from the same mold as Detroit’s Ernie Harwell, Los Angeles’ Vin Scully (also Brooklyn’s), and of course Brooklyn’s Red Barber.
I’m not suggesting that Manfra and Angel are in the league with any of those Hall of Fame broadcasters, however they’re certainly much more centrist than someone like Harrelson. However I’d like to see baseball announcers try to mold themselves after someone like Thompson or the rest of them.