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How to be a hometown broadcaster

Tuesday 4/23/24

Listening to Jack Edwards call the Bruins game last night and thinking about some of the chatter I've encountered lately about him and Boston announcers and so-called homers, a few ideas occurred to me about how a team broadcaster ought ideally to be, as in, where they're coming from.

People can get upset when the local broadcaster does not openly pull for the home team, as if they want him or her to be like that same person sitting there on their couch, yelling at the TV, either actually or internally. They want to think the broadcaster cares like they do. To be affected by the result.

It shouldn't be this way, but many people do go to work the next morning feeling as they do because their team won or lost the night before.

That speaks to perspective in life, what one has in one's life, what one seeks and values, and how well one understands and recognizes value. A certain openness of eyes to the world.

People outside of that market are much more likely to find such a broadcaster intolerable. They might mute the sound. Even if they don't mute the sound, there's a good chance they'll say that they did so.

Here's what I think a local broadcaster should aim to do, and what the ones have done: You want to show the point of view of the team who employees you. And, to put it in literary terms, to be a reliable narrator. Point of view isn't necessarily partisan. It can be about where you''re sitting, or, in this case, on whose sideline you're sitting.

You want to show how it looks to that team, to those players, and to a lesser degree, to those fans, because you don't want to be a fan or come across as a fan. You're giving a character's point of view, and one character is the team as a whole. A character is also a player. A region. The announcer is the third person narrator; the local team is the main protagonist. But in the actual drama, the other team is as important a character.

Dostoevsky can give us Raskolnikov's point of view, but that doesn't mean he's approving Raskolnikov's own views or actions. The best broadcasters have a greater degree of excitement in their calls when the local team scores than when the out-of-market team does, but it's not a huge amount of separation.

You can tell, but a goal or big bucket or touchdown or homer for the opposition sounds like a funeral announcement. And if you're not paying attention to the call of the game and are looking away and just hear the voice, you might not know at first who put one up on the board.

Point of view is different from partisanship. Everyone would be wise to learn this truth of life. Point of view is important to empathy. We can empathize with those with whom we don't agree or have nothing in common. And that's important. That's a life thing. But life things are manifested in less important things, like sports things, which have the value they do precisely because of these life things.


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