The League Pass package has been on a free trial the past few days, meaning we’re getting more than the usual amount of visitors chiming in with comments such as: “OMG, Tommy Heinsohn is such a homer! You Boston fans drink that green Kool-Aid worse than anyone else!!!!”
Every week an opposing fan who watches their team play Boston on League Pass will submit a comment about the fact that Heinsohn is a homer and follow that ground-breaking analysis with a general complaint about Celtics fans. This will then spawn a few more comments about Heinsohn, some defending him as an Oracle of Truth, others ripping him and (the smart ones, in my opinion) arguing that Hiensohn is aware of his own schtick and plays it up for entertainment value.
This sort of discussion drives me crazy. Memo to all non-Celtics fans: Any C’s fan with a functioning brain understands that Tommy Heinsohn is (at times) a homer. We are not all sitting there in front of the TV, drool running down our chins, nodding as Tommy accuses LaMarcus Aldridge of not even trying on defense (as he did Friday) or laments a call against Boston as “bogus!”
Boston fans are just as capable as anyone else of discerning objective commentary from rooting.
More to the point: A local announce team without some home-town bent might be in the minority among team-based TV crews. Is this appropriate in the age of League Pass? And should we really care so much about this?
Tommy Heinsohn can’t be objective because he played nine seasons with Boston (winning eight titles) before winning two more titles as a head coach. Here’s the thing, though: Have you listened to Austin Carr on Cavs broadcasts? Or Dominique Wilkins analyzing Atlanta cames? Matt Bullard (a former Rocket) took off his headphones to yell at officials in a game earlier this season because he was unhappy with some calls that went against Houston. A lot of analysts refer to their team as “we” and “us.” Scott Hastings (broadcasting Denver games) is as biased as Heinsohn—maybe moreso. The Raptors crew may actually believe Andrea Bargnani is better than Dwight Howard.
I long ago decided I wouldn’t get riled up about biased announcing crews. There are too many of them, and the game is too beautiful and too complicated to get agitated over Tommy Heinsohn’s complaints about the officials. Spend that energy watching one player on a few defensive possessions or trying to figure out how your team defends the screen/roll. I barely even hear announcers anymore, unless they point out something I hadn’t noticed, do a nice slow-mo breakdown of a particular play or are just so damned nice to listen to that you can’t help but enjoy their work (Marv Albert, Mike Gorman, the Clips Ralph Lawler, questionable comments about Hamed Haddadi aside).
You can tune out the bias. Trust me, I have. Announce crews who insist on talking during every second of the game or discussing unrelated stuff they think is “funny” annoy me far more than Hastings, Bullard and their ilk.
I understand why the hometown bias irritates people, though. You pony up the cash for League Pass, turn on your team’s game against Toronto and curse the fact that you’re getting the Raps broadcast. I get it. It’s a problem the NFL doesn’t really have, since the league negotiates its broadcasting deals with the mega-networks as a single league and not as 32 teams negotiating independent deals. (The NFL also has only 16 weeks of action, whereas NBA and MLB announcers have to find a way to entertain fans night after night after night).
And the hometown crews seem like something of an anachronism as more consumers watch games on League Pass and as professional standards for journalists have gotten higher and higher. There’s a reason (many, many reasons, actually) TNT and ESPN don’t just take the local feeds when they broadcast games; it would appear unprofessional for a major journalism outlet to do so.
Unfortunately, I don’t think League Pass will ever become popular enough to force a change in the make-up of local announce crews. A huge majority of people watching the local Boston feed of a Tuesday night Celtics game are still Celtics fans, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
So we all have to just deal with the biased announce crews. So accept it, and stop telling me that Tommy Heinsohn is a homer. I know he is. So is your guy.