White Sox TV announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson has so many pet phrases, he can go entire innings without saying a single thing he hasn't said exactly the same way before. "Duck snort," "chopper two-hopper," "right size, wrong shape," "don't stop now boys," and, of course, "grab some bench": it sometimes seems they could be programmed into one of those old Casio keyboards, and color analyst Steve Stone could do the games himself just by pressing the right button at the right time to set himself up.
Yet while the Hawk might be the worst offender when it comes to manufacturing and then overusing such phrases, he's by no means alone—not in the field of sports announcing, and not in this town. So, in the spirt of the beloved annual Life in Hell list of banned words, here are some phrases that should be taboo in our radio and TV booths and on all sports broadcasts.
"We've got some work to do": Sox radio color man Darrin Jackson has recently fallen in love with this singsong refrain and deploys it no matter how many times his more acerbic partner Ed Farmer makes fun of him for it. You've indeed got some work to do, DJ: come up with something original to say.
"Jean Pierre": It was mildly amusing the first time a writer anglicized Henry Blanco to call him "Hank White," but it grew old fast, and now DJ's Frenchifying of Juan Pierre's first name has grown hairier than that. English is tough enough for you and Farmer, so try to stick to that.
"Notre Dame": The firing of Charlie Weis hasn't kept Farmer from gushing about the Fighting Irish at any and every opportunity. Hey, Farmio, not every Sox fan is as enamored of Notre Dame as those in your enclaves of Evergreen Park and Beverly.
"Gem of a game": This crutch of the Cubs' departed Chip Caray, as in, "He's pitching a gem of a game," was used so often it still grates when anyone else drops it into the broadcast. So unless you want to join Chip somewhere else, avoid it.
"Dribble drive": This redundancy coined by the Bulls' Neil Funk when he was doing radio has now been adopted by their radio play-by-play man, Chuck Swirsky, while Funk continues to deploy it regularly on TV. Look, fellows, if you drive without dribbling, that's called traveling. Then again, cynics could point out it serves a purpose in describing NBA action, where Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James are routinely permitted to pick up their dribbles and run three or four steps for a dunk.
"Onions, baby!": Swirsky coined this in his days in Toronto doing Raptors games, and he's brought it here as his signature phrase of praise. It's time someone pointed out that it's not whimsical or quirky, just stupid. Imagine having to write a song including it, on the order of "Hey Hey, Holy Mackerel." And, no, please don't consider that a dare.
"And the Cubs lose again": But you can't really blame Len Kasper or Pat Hughes for that one.