Chuck, what took so long?

There’s not many reasons to interrupt a vacation but Chuck Swirsky quitting the Raptors is one of them. Believe it or not my first reaction to the news was, “Oh, no!”. That was the emotional me talking, the one that likes to hang on to old t-shirts with holes and stains that came from God knows where. After digesting the news a little and soaking in the hot, humid, disgusting Dubai air, I realized that this was great news and something that was probably long overdue. No disrespect to the Swirsk (well, some) but his enthusiasm for a bad team and constant hyperbole were getting on everyone’s nerves. The fans had “outgrown” him and his act was wearing thin; his popularity was mostly limited to either the young ‘uns or the ones who watched the majority of the games on the US feeds. The thoughtful, knowledgeable and passionate Raptor fan had little use for him anymore.

It’s time to show him a little respect. In his early days he provided something fresh, something exciting and one wanted him to bust out the “Mojo” and the “Boom-shaka-laka” almost every time. It was a nice touch when watching a mediocre team. When Vince Carter did his thing in Toronto, Swirsky was the perfect voice for him. Nothing he could say would be considered exaggerated because every Vince dunk was truly “worth the price of admission” (this year a TJ Ford dunk with the Raptors up 17 and 20 seconds left was called that). The radio was the perfect medium for Swirsky because he spent his time describing the play-by-play instead of chiming in on the analysis – something that was always lacking in him. Chuck and Jack were the best radio team the Raptors have had. Ever. Swirsky’s enthusiasm and excitement for the game shone through on the radio without being over-bearing or annoying. It was radio – anything goes.

Two things led to Swirsky’s decline. Vince and TV. Fans did not like the fact that the TV guys never called out Vince Carter. It bugged us to no end, watching Vince smile away at the end of 20 point losses while the announcers completely ignored this sacrilege was too much to bear. Excusing Carter’s behavior when he was on the Raptors and then heavily criticizing him once he was on the Nets was something no Raptor fan can forget or forgive. It’s understandable on the part of Swirsky/Rautins but its also unforgivable on the part of the fans. Here was a superstar that nobody had the balls to say wasn’t pulling his weight but the second he moved to a different team, you suddenly grew nuts to say what you saw? Fans like me couldn’t get a grip on this and lost a large amount of respect for the people we rely on to bring us games.

Swirsky is made for the radio, once he came to television there was simply too much air-time to fill and he did a horrible job of deferring to the analyst when he needed to. Asking condescending questions like, “What are the Bulls running, Leo?” while giving a free pass to Lenny Wilkens’ and Sam Mitchell’s horrid offensive sets never quite made sense and irked us even more. Hyping up Andrea Bargnani and refusing to acknowledge his faults was Swirsky’s most recent crime and the one fans are likely to remember the most. His lone vote for Bargnani in the Rookie of the Year voting lost him a lot of credibility and cemented him as a homer. Begging for the NJ series last year didn’t make any sense either and although Orlando was a desirable matchup this year, Swirsky’s constant unwarranted confidence display in the Raptors was hard to comprehend and even in his final year he continued to ignore and downplay the Raptors’ faults and focused on the few strengths they had. Simply put, there were too many times where he didn’t call it the way he saw it.

The “Salami & Cheese” did him more harm than good, it was a gag that should’ve been used for a couple months and dropped. It never should’ve become a crazy form of self-promotion that it ended up being. It got to the point where other announcers were pulling it out against the Raptors! The call was always a mild insult to the opposition and when the Raptors went on a losing streak, the jokes started to flow. It’s one thing to call it on a game-winning shot, its another to bring it out early in the fourth when you have an audience on NBA League Pass. Not cool or very sportsmanlike. It was only natural that most fans ended up outgrowing the shtick, but Swirsky never got the message. The Kobe incident didn’t help either.

Swirsky was great for us and helped us increase our fan base in the early days with his exciting calls and over-the-top announcing. As the team grew older and fans became more knowledgeable and demanded more from the team on the court and in the booth, Swirsky couldn’t fit the bill. It was partially because he was paired with Leo Rautins and the two were horrible together, often getting into clearly uncomfortable situations for stupid reasons while providing mundane and regurgitated analysis. Chuck and Jack were a much more complimentary team and Jack did a great job of taking over the broadcast and doing the analysis, leaving Swirsky to do his job – calling the play. Maybe if he was always paired up with Jack, the fans would appreciate him more since he’d be drowned out by Jack’s always accurate, honest and up-front analysis – something everybody loves.

Swirsky says he’s gone for personal reasons and has left “money on the table”. Its hard for me to believe that the constant bashing on RealGM and other Raptors blogs didn’t have a bearing in his decision. He seemed pretty damn excited to be a Canadian citizen and did extend his contract in 2007 and had everything going for him in Toronto. I’m not going to sit here and doubt his “personal reasons” but its hard for me to believe that the criticisms from the fans didn’t help him make his decision much easier. The change from loving Canada to leaving Canada is too drastic to simply be attributed to personal reasons.

I think he’ll be fine in Chicago because he’ll be back on the radio. I would’ve loved to see Swirsky stay and do the radio for the Raptors, an area where Paul Jones struggles tremendously. As it is, he’s gone and we’re in need for a play-by-play man. If you’ve been reading this space you know that I never got over John Saunders and although I doubt he’ll take the job given his CBS and ESPN commitments, its worth a call. Ex-Bluejay man Dan Shulman would be great too. Whatever the Raptors do, they better not hire Paul Jones or Rod Black.

I think I’m going to end this post because the battery on this laptop is running out. Sorry if I sounded incoherent in this post but I’m making this at 2AM and am terribly sleepy after a day in the ridiculous humidity.

Here’s something crazy about Dubai. License plates are considered prestigious, almost everyone has a 5 digit license plate which costs nothing. If you get a 4 digit one, its more prestigious and can run you around $10,000. A 3 digit one runs you approximately $50,000 and mostly the very, very rich and the Sheikh’s relatives/friends have those. The 2 digit ones belong to the Sheikh’s family and if you want one, be prepared to spend 1 to 2 million dollars. As for the 1-digit license plates, the Sheikh’s son has one of those. They’re a sign of social status which is totally fucked.

The extravagance, the materialism and the abuse of poor South Indian and Philippine labor is too much. This city is literally built on their sweat while the natives (Emirati’s) see no problem exploiting them and treating them as second class citizens. That’s what I’ve understood so far.

I’m back on Tuesday and will continue with the “Crosshair” series then. Andrea Bargani is next. See you then!

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