- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

It was a tough week to be an in-game sports analyst. One wonders if our hometown fave Tom Paciorek will return to the Nats next season as a mime. We’d miss his offbeat charm, but he’d never have to worry about duplicating the experiences of Steve Lyons and Lamar Thomas.

For the uninformed, Lyons, a baseball analyst for Fox, was axed after last Friday’s LCS game between the Tigers and A’s for cracking a joke that could have been perceived as offensive to people of Hispanic heritage.

Thomas, an analyst for Miami Hurricane football games, was fired by the University of Miami after making comments supporting an on-field brawl between players from Miami and Florida International.

Let’s examine the situations separately.

Lyons was in the booth Friday with fellow analyst Lou Piniella and play-by-play man Thom Brenneman. Piniella noted that A’s infielder Marco Scutaro had been hitting well, comparing his unexpected surge to “finding a wallet.” Later, he said another A’s player needed to get “en fuego” — hot in Spanish — because he was “frio” — Spanish for cold. Brenneman then made a casual remark about Piniella’s bilingual abilities.

And then Lyons spoke, noting that Piniella was “hablaing Espanol” and adding “I still can’t find my wallet.” He then said: “I don’t understand him, and I don’t want to sit too close to him now.”

Fox fired Lyons immediately after the game for making comments deemed “inappropriate”

Steve Lyons is a bit of a clown, but I have no idea whether he is prejudiced against anyone. It’s entirely possible he was suggesting that a Spanish-speaking person would be more likely to steal a wallet. If that’s the case, then he deserved to be fired. I’m as opposed to political correctness as anyone, but you simply can’t make racist comments on the air and keep your job.

Here’s the problem: Do we really know what the heck Lyons was talking about in his exchange with Piniella? I read over the exchange 16 times, and I’m not sure what he meant. He could have been talking about the proliferation of nuclear arms to Malawi and it would have made just as much sense.

On ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning Show” on Tuesday, Lyons said he was simply trying to make a joke that linked two of Piniella’s thoughts from earlier in the game. Not a great explanation, but it’s reasonable to think that, in the course of a game, one might attempt to make a joke and fail miserably at doing so. Failing miserably at being funny is not a fireable offense. If it was, Rosie O’Donnell would not be on “The View.”

For this reason, Fox needed to give Lyons the benefit of the doubt … or at least a better opportunity to explain himself.

The situation with Lamar Thomas is different situation entirely. The brawl between Miami and FIU on Saturday was one of the most immature things I’ve ever seen at a sporting event (and I grew up attending games at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia). There was punching, stomping, shoving and even a flailing helmet. Followed by more punching, stomping, shoving and mouthing off.

Now, I’m not a fan of broadcasters who get on their high horse, but the obvious thing for any analyst to do in this instance was to condemn the behavior. It’s a no-brainer. Apparently, however, Thomas (a former Miami player) thought otherwise, saying “You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don’t come into the [Orange Bowl] playing that stuff.” He went on to suggest the players continue their brawl in the stadium tunnels. Classy.

Bye bye, Lamar. You — and the booted players from Miami and FIU — won’t be missed.

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