Monday, October 16, 2006

Last Call for Psycho

Mills of the gods

Steve "Psycho" Lyons, a former ball player who once removed his pants during a baseball game, was fired from his broadcasting job at Fox for making a "racially insensitive" remark. I'm not sure if the remark was racially insensitive or not, because I did did not hear it, and really have a hard time telling from the context it was in. I also have had the misfortune of viewing Mr Lyon's TV attempts before and sort of doubt that anyone can interpret some of his "psycho babble" clearly enough to determine that a racist remark was made. As I understand it, one of his broadcast partners, Lou Pinnella, who could really hit, but is like listening to a bar of soap analyze a game, had said a couple of things in Spanish, I think fuego and frio. Prior to the statements, Pinella had been relating his personal philosophy of managing, which he does well, despite three or four firings, and indicating that just because you are lucky one day, you should not expect that the same move will bring you luck the next. What he said was, "just because you find a wallet on a Friday, does not mean that you can count on finding one next week." or something like that. Psycho responded by intimating that he did not quite understand what Pinnela was saying, using the term "hablaing the espanol" and was worried about his own wallet because he wasa sitting so near Pinella. The implication people are drawing is that Pinella, being of some Hispanic origin (I always thought he was Italian) might steal Psycho's wallet.

I do not get that, but again, I did not hear the exchange, and I doubt Fox will have it in their playoff highlights package. I guess using the term "hablaing" could be considered insensitive to the Spanish speaking, especially in the context of baseball's history of making fun of the way Hispanics speak English. When I grew it, it was common for sports writers to quote Spanish speaking players by trying to capture their accent and English mistakes.I used to hear my broadcast hero, Gene Elston, say that certain players did not "habla the Ingles" very well. That never struck anyone at the time as racist, or funny. He was just using Spanish words. But again, I did not hear what Lyons said and he may have gone further than Elston, or as a society, we may have passed Elston's particular sesnitivities.

I will say this, the only reason that you hire a crummy ex-ballpalyer named Psycho to broadcast your games is that you hope he will do the oral equivalent of removing his pants in the broadcast booth. Fox Network, of all groups, should not be too sanctimonious about things like this, since they appear to me to be racially insensitive in their news coverage on an almost daily basis. Years ago CBS had the brilliant idea of hiring a Las Vegas type bookie named "Jimmy the Greek" to appear on their pre-game show and pick winners against the line for the betting fan. The guy was an absolute slob. He got into a fist fight with another idiot braodcaster, Brent Musburger and when he managed to survive that, granted an interview, while drunk, to some fly by night camera crew(at a restaraunt) and proceeded to tell America, from his historical/genetic perspective why black athletes in the NFL were better than white athletes. He was promptly fired, but CBS got what they deserved for hiring the son of a bitch.

The great liberal Howard Cossell once referred to the excellent but smallish Washington Redskin receiver, Art Monk, as "the little monkey".This created a firestorm as Mr Monk was African American. Cossell claimed that it was a term of endearment that he called his grandchildren. He also pointed out that he was just about the only news guys who backed Muhammed Ali when the whole country thought he was an evil traitor for changing his name and not wanting to go to Viet Nam. Cossell survived the firestorm and no one ever mentioned the fact that Art Monk played on a team that uses the most blatantly racist name imaginable, the "Redskins".

I was watching the day the former NBA star Rick Barry offended his broadcast partner the greater NBA star Bill Russell by commenting on the "watermelon grin" Russell displayed in an old picture being shown to the audience. The term "watermelon grin" refers to the way a length sliced watermelon section resembles a smiling mouth, and has nothing to do with race. The fact is, that there are just some words and phrases which can not be use because they might be misunderstood. The term niggardly has not been used in years because it just sounds wrong. Even typing the word , when you know the definition, and know it has nothing to do with race, makes you nervous. Anyway, that was pretty much it for Rick Barry's national broadcast career. There were others. Tom Brookshire, a former NFL player, broadcast analysis, and (I thought) violence freak, bit the big one when he commented that the Louisville basketball team looked like they had "a collective I.Q. of about six." No one ever mentioned that that was double Mr Brookshire's I.Q. (when defenses were called for roughing the passer, Brookshire used to opine that they ought to put "little dresses" on Quarterbacks and not let anyone touch them).

At any rate, I will not miss Psycho (unless it means that I have to hear more from Mr Pinella). I note that Fox replaced Psycho with a guy who has an Hispanic surname. so that should square accounts. But by next year, fox will come up with some new controversial flavor of the month for the broadcast booth and then claim shock and dismay when he does something stupid on the air.


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