Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jim Williams: It’s better to think before you speak

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Oct 17, 2006 5:00 AM (14 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 6 of 5,713 articles

BALTIMORE - Steve Lyons, in my opinion, is not a bigot. But his feeble attempt at humor in front of a national audience was far from appropriate, and FOX Sports did the right thing by firing him.

FOX canned Lyons, a longtime baseball analyst, after he made “racially insensitive” remarks during Friday’s ALCS Game 3 between Detroit and Oakland. Lyons was working the game with Thom Brennaman and Lou Piniella.

The comments came in the second inning when Piniella mentioned A’s shortstop Marco Scutaro’s success at the plate in the playoffs. Piniella went into an analysis of how Frank Thomas and Eric Chavez needed to be more productive and compared Scutaro’s production to finding a “wallet on Friday” and hoping it would happen again the next week.

Piniella said the A’s needed Thomas to get “en fuego” — hot, in Spanish — because he was currently “frio” (cold). After Brennaman praised Piniella for being bilingual, Lyons said Piniella was “habla-ing Espanol” and added, “I still can’t find my wallet.” Lyons finished digging his grave by saying, “I don’t understand him, and I don’t want to sit too close to him now.”

Lyons, who was told by network executives after the game that he was fired, said, “If I offended anybody, I’m truly sorry. But my comment about Lou taking my wallet was a joke and in no way racially motivated.”

Last Monday, the popular “Mike and the Mad Dog Show” on WFAN in New York featured a verbal battle with Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, whom the hosts accused of not being behind Joe Torre.

Lidle called the show and asked Mike Francesa and Chris Russo how they could know what he thought of Joe Torre without asking him. At the end of the half-hour debate, Lidle said, “I’d like to meet you sometime and we can sit down and you guys can really get to know me instead of just what you think about me.”

Tragically, that meeting, of course, will never happen. Lidle, 34, and a flight instructor were killed last Wednesday when his small plane crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan.

But perhaps we all can learn from the mistakes of Lyons, Francesa and Russo. We need to think before we speak. It’s such an old adage, it has become cliché. But as last week poignancy reminded us, in the realm of broadcasting and beyond, it still holds great truth.

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. You can reach him at jwilliamsexaminer@gmail.com.

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