In the effort of full-disclosure, I'll get this out of the way: I am a hopeless fanboy homer when it comes to the Boston Celtics. That status can taint my opinion of things that happen to the team.
That said, I don't believe I am imagining things or projecting when I listen to an ESPN/ABC Celtics broadcast and feel like Mike Breen is hardly even attempting to disguise his hatred of the Boston Celtics.
I cannot be imagining the vast difference in his tone and cadence when the Celtics are doing well, and when the opponent is doing well. It's not that he's a Heat fan - he acts the same way when the Celtics play the Lakers, 76ers, or any other team.
During Wednesday night's game two between the Celtics and Heat, Breen was in rare form. During a first half that was mostly dominated by Boston, Breen sounded like a boy who had lost his puppy, only increasing in enthusiasm when the Heat went on a late-half run to close the Celtics lead. He questioned some of the few calls that went against the Heat, while affirming those called against Boston. It appeared he did all he could to discredit what was happening on the court.
At one point, there was a loose ball and Rajon Rondo and LeBron James chased after it, with Rondo appearing to be ahead of James before the 6-8, 250 lb Heat forward landed on top of the 6-1, 185 lb guard. Incredibly, there was a foul called on Rondo on the play. After several replays failed to showed LeBron leaping on Rondo, Breen's only comment was "It certainly wasn't a foul on James!"
A few seconds later, Breen was quick to point out in a disapproving tone that Rondo was complaining to the officials, he seemed to be suggesting that Rondo should receive a technical foul.
Later, Breen marveled at the fact that LeBron is such an aggressive defender, yet is hardly ever in foul trouble. He said it admiringly, yet most of the non-Heat fan audience noticed the same trend, but viewed it in a slightly more cynical manner.
As the Heat roared back in the third quarter, Breen's excitement rose. When the Celtics pushed back in the fourth quarter to take a lead, Breen's somber tone reflected it. He was positively giddy when Paul Pierce picked up his fifth personal foul, exclaiming in an upbeat tone that the Celtic captain was now just one call away from disqualification.
Rondo continued to make acrobatic shots, which drew barely a reaction from the ESPN play-by-play man. Dwyane Wade blocked a shot of a one-legged Ray Allen, and Breen exploded in a shower of effervescent exclamation for the play.
As the game ended Breen characterized the game as a "heart-wrenching defeat for the Celtics." He didn't sound too broken up over it.
Now as I stated at the outset, I'm an admitted Celtics homer. I'm going to be hypersensitive to what is being said about the team, and how the games are called. To reassure myself, a quick search of Twitter finds that I'm by no means alone in feeling that Mike Breen calls Celtics games with something of a bias.
Why? Is it a New York thing? Breen is a NY native, and has been the voice of the New York Knicks, first on WFAN radio and then on the MSG Network pretty steadily since 1992. Could it be something as silly as a New York/Boston rivalry?
It's hard to say, because I don't think he was always this way. I recall the Celtics 2008 title run and I know I didn't feel that way about him. I actually thought his announcing team was on the level for the most part. Something has changed since then.
I'll admit, many times I roll my eyes when I hear fans complaining that announcer X hates their team. Part of me is embarrassed to be writing this column, but after listening to Mike Breen call Celtics games over the last few seasons, I'm convinced that there is something about the Boston Celtics that Breen finds distasteful, and he has a hard time disguising it.
It's too bad. It reflects poorly both on the network and the NBA. For a league that already has a number of problems with public perception, they don't need another one.