Homer broadcasters are both friends and adversaries, you might seek them out to satisfy your ire, or for a nice big pat on the back. I love hearing homers lose, but I love hearing my homers win. It’s a tradition irrevocably tied to competitive sports. You have your city, your team, and your fond biases.
But there are some homers out there who elevate their local pride to an art. They create microscopic little universes where referees want nothing more than to engineer the downfall of our good and proud warriors, and every other color stands for wrong ideals. Anyone can boorishly complain about offensive fouls, pass interference, flopping, and unwritten rules, but it takes a certain type of person to let that momentary infuriation turn into lifelong scars. So here, my friends, is our picks for the 10 biggest homers in sports broadcasting.
Okay, so technically Jon Gruden shouldn’t be on this list because he’s not a traditional homer. He’s a national broadcaster on Monday Night Football and has rarely, if ever, shown any biases towards his Buccaneers or Raiders. What I will say though, is that I have never ever heard Jon Gruden utter a disparaging word about any professional football player in his career. He has only glowing, passionate remarks for everyone from Tim Tebow to Aaron Rodgers. I actually like tuning into Gruden commentary when he’s talking about my team because it gives me a false sense of hope that Super Bowl contention is within grasp. That’s Jon Gruden, the universal homer, and that's okay.
Listen to how excited this grown man gets when a player on the Colorado Avalanche beats up a player on the Chicago Blackhawks. I mean, it's Doug Gilmour so I get it BUT STIILL. I don’t know much about Mike Haynes, but what I do know is that he shouted “HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES” to an opposing hockey team. That will live on forever.
Spurs fans are always complaining that the hometown team never gets any respect. They point to their workmanlike productivity, or their Euro-style slashing offense, or Tim Duncan’s bulging eyeballs, and ask the world why we still don’t care. Coastal bias! A star-focused media! The cult of the new! The answer is far more simple really: We don’t like guys who use the word “we” when talking about their local professional basketball team. Sean Elliott is literally the worst Spurs fan in the world, and honestly, I think he’s single-handedly responsible for the culture of false entitlement where “built not bought” somehow replaces “we were really bad and drafted one of the best players of all-time #1 overall in 1997.” That’s the kind of attitude that makes Sean Elliott the worst.
I grew up in San Diego, which is near Atlanta in terms of mainstream indifference and an unfixable dearth of local pride. I’m pretty sure that’s why I hate the institutional, self-propagating tradition-machines of places like Alabama, Green Bay, Toronto and especially Duke. Enter Dick Vitale, the cuddly old guy who is deservedly one of the most iconic and memorable broadcasters of all-time. Dude has given his life to college basketball, and he absolutely deserves our respect. Except that he loves Duke so damn much that it makes him utterly unwatchable. So I’m slotting him here at seven, I don’t have the heart to lump him with legit crazy people like Hawk Harrelson, but we all know that Dick Vitale is the shadow that looms over all homer announcers.
Look, we don’t want to harp on Boston too much, but it’s really hard to write a list about homer broadcasters without returning to Beantown fairly regularly. I love Jack Edwards, he’s got that old stony voice that tends to elevate the viciousness of hockey, and I love that he wages all-out verbal warfare against the Canadiens every time they play the Bruins. It's fairly clear that Jack Edwards likely has never met a French-Canadian he didn’t want to punch in the face.
Gary Danielson calls the SEC for CBS, the greatest sports conference in the history of both national and international competition. College football does not exist outside of the Southeast for Gary. A couple years ago he said that a one-loss Alabama team should perhaps get the BCS Championship nod over an undefeated Oregon team, or an undefeated Kansas State team, or ESPECIALLY an undefeated Notre Dame team. This is, of course, the only natural conclusion to reach considering that the SEC is the holiest venue in God’s kingdom to host sporting events of distinctly undefiled nature. Yes, Gary Danielson’s piousness is so gross it actually makes Notre Dame sympathetic.
If you’re a basketball announcer, a good way to tell if you’re a homer is if you start calling for offensive fouls when Shaquille O’Neal is dunking over your center. That was most of the time, when watching Grant Napear’s Kings broadcasts, a man who I’m sure is still losing sleep over those Lakers series. It takes a tremendous leap to be upset about officiating while harboring master-flopper Vlade Divac on your roster.
Hawk makes it onto the list not necessarily for his homerism, as for his utterly corrosive anger. I get mad when my favorite sports teams don’t do what I want them to do, but Hawk Harrelson shakes his fist at god. Opposing home runs render him silent, sabermetrics makes his skin crawl, he’ll mumble “Lord have mercy” over a stolen base. How is Harrelson not dead yet? There are 162 games in an MLB season, if you got this stressed out 162 days a year you should be on your third heart attack by 35. Are we sure Hawk Harrelson isn’t a cyborg? And if he does go down, could the White Sox organization be held accountable for murder?
Tommy Heinsohn is among the last people on Earth who can personally remember the legacies and heroics of Bill Russell’s Celtics teams. He was, quite literally, there. Some human beings have been around their teams long enough that the well-being of the player and the franchise are one in the same, but Heinsohn’s more than that -- this dude is the Celtics. He breathes through them, bleeds with them, and recovers along with them. As a player, coach, and announcer he’s been a part of every legacy-making moment in Celtics history. He is a legend, and that makes him easily the most obnoxiously holy announcer in the history of professional sports. For you League Passers out there, Heinsohn is the guy accusing every single one of your players of flopping while comparing Kelly Olynyk to Kevin McHale. A delicate blend of diehard Boston patriotism, old-man entitlement, and a genuine deep-seated belief in his fundamental ideals (Celtics are good, everyone else evil) that nobody can and nobody will ever touch Thomas William Heinsohn at the altar of homerism. Thank you for giving the rest of America another reason to dislike Boston.