Swirsky Versus Devlin – Who’s Better? Part 1, Chuck

Part 2 (Matt Devlin), comes tomorrow.

Last summer, longtime play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky bid the Toronto Raptors farewell, and was replaced by Matt Devlin. The two couldn’t be more different – Chuck is the entertainer, while Devlin is more traditional. Now, after one season, it’s time to evaluate. Who’s better? Let’s debate.

The Pro-Chuck Argument
Chuck is fun. Chuck is creative. Chuck coined many terms that became a regular part of the Raptorland culture (Onions Baby, Ka-Bosh, Salami and Cheese, etc), and he became just as popular as many of the players. Chuck was flashy, giving players fun nicknames, and he made even the worst games watchable. He came here from the USA, but he loved Toronto, and he helped grow the game in a hockey-obsessed city. Fans loved him, and he gave plenty of love back. Chuck was more than just a play-by-play guy – He was a fan, too. His radio show on the Fan 590 added to his persona within the city, and many fans were sad to see him go.

And of course, Chuck gave us many, many great calls. He channeled his inner Vin Scully, with a hint of his personal favourite, for this Mo Pete classic.

Mo Pete – Chuck

The Anti-Chuck Argument
Like I said, Chuck was an entertainer, but not everybody wants that from a play-by-play announcer. At times, his schtick overshadowed the game itself, and that wasn’t a good thing. The whole “salami and cheese” thing was fun, but it became flat out annoying by the end. He’d often banter about something meaningless while the action was happening on the court, and he called everyone he’s ever met “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.” Chuck rarely criticized the team (management, players, coaches), and he often seemed more like a mouthpiece for MLSE than an objective announcer. Finally, his basketball IQ was at best, mediocre, and he rarely offered any deep analysis of the game. For all of his virtues as an entertainer, Chuck generally relied on his emotions, rather than giving an objective sense of what was coming next.

Overall, I believe Chuck was perfect for a young basketball market. He helped sell the team to fans, and he made games fun to watch while the team stunk. For knowledgeable fans, he wasn’t always great. It got to the point where many of us were ready for a more objective, more traditional announcer. For others, though, Chuck was, and will always be, the best. We’ll review Devlin tomorrow, and I’m interested to hear other opinions. Enjoy your Saturday night, folks.


About the Author