Less Terrible is a Cubs DNA feature where one of our staffers picks two hated MLB personalities and tries to decide which one is less terrible. This column literally started on a dare as a way to give you, dear reader, a chuckle and a way to vent with us. This installment takes a look at two broadcasters that make Cubs fans cringe the minute they open their mouths, and sometimes without even saying a word, former White Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson and Cincinnati Reds/NFL on Fox announcer Thom Brennaman. Will either be deemed less terrible? Let's find out.
Regardless of what you might think, I do not in fact write these Less Terrible farticles to torment you. No, dear reader, I do them because they offer me the opportunity for a bit of catharsis and the chance to perhaps bring you along for the ride. One day you'll appreciate it for what it is, and you'll thank me.
Like now, when you're scrolling through and having to look at Hawk Harrelson's crinkled face and Thom Brennaman's sour puss. Just give it a few minutes and keep reading, and I promise you'll feel the catharsis and maybe even get a laugh or two out of these two chuckleheads with me.
Remember... we have three criteria for deciding who is less terrible: 1) How does their awfulness directly impact the Cubs? 2) How terrible are they as human beings in the general sense? And 3) has anything good ever resulted of their general badness? With that, we gone!
Question 1: The Cubs Proposition
Hawk Harrelson hates the Cubs. He doesn't just hate the Cubs, but he hates the historical Wrigley Field.
I could post one of those "Old man yells at cloud" memes right here, but honestly... Hawk's the living embodiment of one of those at this point, isn't he? As for "kicking the Cubs' ass," the teams split their season series last year. While not ideal for the Cubs, an ass kicking it was definitely not.
And in case you're wondering, this isn't the first time Hawk made comments about Wrigley, calling it a "joke" in 2017 and saying he wouldn't set foot in it again when he cut back his broadcasting duties the following year. I know Cubs fans weren't exactly crying, but still!
Speaking of Old Man Yelling at Cloud, Hawk is also that guy who calls for his team's pitchers to retaliate against other teams.
"B.S." is a technical broadcasting term, right?
You might be old school and agree with this train of thought, but I'm a little more on the side of not throwing a rock 90+ mph at a batter just because the other team's pitcher didn't exactly have his best stuff that day. Besides, Hawk was basically trying to send some poor White Sox to his doom. Would you want to be the guy who threw at John Lackey?
Thom Brennaman also hates the Cubs. But wait, you may ask... didn't Thom work for the Cubs? Why yes... yes he did. Thom shared time with Harry Caray and Steve Stone until 1995, when his refusal to commit to the team and leave his football broadcasting caused his contract negotiations with Tribune to stall. No harm, no foul, you'd think, right? Just the two entities parting ways and seeing things differently.
Why, then, does Thom always seem so salty? Sure, he works for the Reds, who were the Cubs' whipping boys for about four years after the rebuild. I mean, let's face it... the Reds have been bad. I'm sure it sucks to have a bunch of fans from the visiting team come into your ballpark and act like they own the place. Especially when your team is really, very terrible. We haven't been very subtle the last few years as a group, have we Cubs fans?
What I will say for Thom is that his saltiness has led to two incredibly funny, now-legendary moments in broadcast frustration that almost make you feel sorry for the guy. First came this gem in 2016:
Which became a meme unto itself:
Then this beauty last season, when Sparkles worked his Klutch magic and the Cubs took the lead during the late innings versus the Reds:
Listen closely and you can literally hear Thom breaking a pencil or some other object between the two "UNBELIEVABLES!" It's amazing, really, and honestly I'm laughing so hard right now I'm struggling to tyo;lakjdf.
Winner: Thom Brennaman
Question 2: How bad are these two knobs, anyway?
As Cubs fans, we're conditioned to dislike these two because of how they talk about our team. Are they really bad at their jobs, though? I suppose "bad" is all relative, yeah?
Let's start with Hawk. Harrelson is this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Another nominee this year was our own Pat Hughes, who would never, ever use the term "B.S." while calling a game, no matter how many times Rockies pitchers hit Sparkles in the head.
Hawk is also a homer. Now, homerism in and of itself isn't uncommon in professional sports, and is of course a matter of personal preference. Harrelson, however, has been said to be the most "homerish" announcer in all of baseball according to one study by the Wall Street Journal. His constant rooting for the White Sox, right up to calling them the "good guys," makes his broadcasts almost unlistenable if you want any sort of fair, balanced baseball experience. I'd even rather listen to John Sterling shout nonsense home run calls with the terrible Suzyn Waldman, and that's saying a lot. Thank goodness for Jason Benetti is all I'm saying.
Also, Hawk would have never done this.
When he's not hating on the Cubs, Brennaman is a pretty good baseball announcer. There's just something about our boys that brings the worst out in him, but he otherwise is a pretty balanced broadcaster. Outside of his baseball work, Thom Brennaman is a pretty decent football announcer, too.
Winner: Thom Brennaman
Question 3: Are either of these two any fun at all?
In a bubble, this question is easy to answer: No, these two are not fun. They're both kind of humorless and dour, and hard to like if you're not a fan of their teams. The big difference, for me, is that while neither of them is fun, one of them is certainly FUNNY, and it's the one that also gets to hang out with this guy.
Winner with the clean sweep: Thom Brennaman
So there you have it... while Thom might be annoying, at least he's fun to laugh at. Hawk? Well, let's just say it's fun that he's retired, and I hope he's finding life to be a little less sour. But hey, at least he'll always have this special moment when his retirement was celebrated by the city of Chicago, right?
Oh. Um, QED.