The Case for Homer
The evening was late on this special Wednesday. Game seven of the 1992 National League Championship Series. The Braves were at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and Braves were down by a runs, 2-1. David Justice was at third, Sid Bream was at second base, and Damon Berryhill was at first with two outs. Francisco Cabrera stepped to the plate and fouled a couple of pitches off and the count was two balls and two strikes. Then it happened. Cabrera lined a fastball at the feet of left fielder Barry Bonds. Justice scored easily and Bream chugged around third sliding safely home just ahead of the tag. You may not remember the exact details, but you can hear Skip Caray’s remarkable call like it was yesterday,
“Swung, line drive left field. One run is in.
Here comes Bream.
Here’s the throw to the plate.
He is – safe!
Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!”
For me personally, I didn’t hear Skip’s call live. I was watching the game with my older brother, John. When Bream was called safe, we ran screaming around the house and I was so excited I had audible exclusion. I don’t remember Tim McCarver’s call, but once the screaming was done immediately turned on the radio to hear what our announcer Skip Caray was saying. I couldn’t wait to hear how he called it. We had shared so many losing seasons and now I knew his voice rang out with utter joy and relief. We had done it. We, the fans, and we, the Braves baseball team, had done it. Next stop was the World Series for the Braves, and although they lost the series to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games, the sound of Skip Caray’s voice rings home in the ears of Braves fans with the same result as when we first heard it, chills complete with goosebumps. But have those “homer” moments in the broadcasting booth gone by the waist side?
With webcasting platforms like ESPN3 and individual conference networks, such as the Big Ten Network and new SEC Network more broadcasters are being asked to quash the homerism and be more neutral. These networks are great for mid-major programs that don’t get the national spotlight. The fan base can see their teams live where ever they maybe, but without that familiar voice. These platforms bring great exposure to programs and allow for growth of the fan base. But, most of the platforms require a neutral broadcast and absolutely no criticism of the officials. No homerism allowed. That creates an interesting dilemma. Should these teams also have a “local” broadcast that has a homer?
At Kennesaw State, they do not have a home for athletics on local radio or a flagship station. KSU has relied on a live webcast of their sporting events, which I have been
fortunate to be a part of for several years. In 2013, the Atlantic Sun expanded their ESPN3 coverage and brought the platform to Kennesaw State. This was a great opportunity to get Kennesaw State national exposure on a well-known platform linked with the Worldwide leader in sports. Again, I was fortunate to be asked to be apart of the ESPN3 team at Kennesaw State. We did 19 ESPN3 games and averaged 2500 viewers per game, according to ESPN. That far exceeded expectation for the ESPN3 games and will allow the marketing department bring in new advertisers for the university. The problem was, if you know me, I am a complete homer for Kennesaw State. I am an Owl through-and-through and bleed black and gold. I couldn’t allow my homerism to seep outduring ESPN3 broadcasts…although I couldn’t contain it 100-percent of the time. I missed verbalizing the passion for my Owls. I missed sharing the highest highs and the lowest lows. I missed it and I heard from many fans who missed it as well.
In a recent article in Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch highlighted the $10.8 paid by CBS Sports and Turner Sports to get broadcasting rights to the NCAA’s national tournament. In an unexpected move, Turner Sports introduced the concept of Teamcast production for the national semifinals on TBS, TNT, and truTV. TBS will provide a neutral broadcast with a standard set of graphics. TNT and truTV will provide team specific broadcasts with team specific graphics. Most importantly, the play-by-play and color commentators as well as the sideline reporters will be encouraged to be a homer for their team. Broadcast teams haven’t been announce, but the regular broadcast voice for each team will be considered. Clearly, Turner Sports recognizes the importance of homerism.
There is no question that the ESPN3 platform was a great benefit for Kennesaw State as a mid-major program. But, I do believe a program like KSU that is continually moving the ball forward in all aspects needs a voice. A homer to draw in Owl Nation and be their link into the hearts and minds of the team. I’d like to know your opinion…