Monday, October 16, 2006

Steve “Psycho” Lyons – finally where he belongs, on the outside looking in

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If you’re Fox Sports and you’ve hired Steve Lyons as a ‘color’ analyst its -- Fool me three times and enough is enough already.

For the third time in two years, and the second in two weeks, Lyons embarrassed Fox Sports Friday night. Fox Sports reacted immediately, firing the now former national broadcaster before game four of the American League Championship Series at Detroit’s Comerica Park, for what network officials deemed racially insensitive remarks. Two years ago, Fox Sports suspended Lyons for racially insensitive remarks for one game. Last week, Lyons and broadcast partner Thom Brennaman ridiculed a fan attending an NLDS game at Shea Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Steve Lyons is an embarrassment to common decency and an affront to mankind. His deviant behavior earned Lyons what should have taken place the first time he stepped over that mythical line in the sand – on the outside looking in, no longer a member of Fox Sports baseball broadcast team.

Fox Sports said enough was enough following remarks Lyons made during Friday’s game three coverage from Comerica Park. Brennaman and Lyons where joined in the broadcast booth Friday night by former major league manager Lou Piniella. In the second inning of the broadcast Piniella was talking about Oakland's Marco Scutaro, and the success Scutaro had enjoyed in the A’s first ALDS first round sweep of the Minnesota Twins. Scutaro, a career .258 hitter, had four hits in 12 at bats against the Twins.

Piniella compared it to finding a "wallet on Friday" and hoping it happened next week.

Piniella also said the A's needed Frank Thomas to get "en fuego" — Spanish for on fire — and that he was currently "frio" — cold.

Play-by-play announcer Thom Brennaman said, "The bilingual Lou Piniella."

Lyons then said, "Lou is habla- ing some Español there, and I'm still looking for my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now."

Fox Sports President Ed Goren called Lyons after the game, and told Lyons he was suspended. Lyons then flew back to Los Angeles. Lyons then called his girlfriend from LAX. According to The Los Angeles Times, she told Lyons that he had been fired. Lyons then went to Fox studios in West Los Angeles, where he was informed by Fox Sports chairman David Hill and Goren that he indeed had been fired.

"I was shocked when I was told this was an issue," Lyons said Saturday night from his home in Hermosa Beach according to a Los Angeles Times report. "I don't know how what I said could be taken as a racial statement. My aim is to make Lou feel comfortable, and this was just another way of doing it. We were all laughing about it.

"They're trying to make it like I was saying Spanish people steal wallets. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think it reads worse than the way I said it. It was a joke."

Steve Lyons just doesn’t get it. If this had been the first time Lyons had stepped over that mythical line in the sand he might have been suspended for one game and then reinstated, but as a three time offender, Lyons deserved to be fired.

Two years ago according to a New York Times report: Lyons was suspended without pay after insensitive remarks he made about then Los Dodgers' Shawn Green, who is Jewish and chose not to play against the Giants in San Francisco on Yom Kippur.

On that telecast, Lyons told a national audience that Green had "probably" taken the day off "for the heritage and not the religion. He's not a practicing Jew," Lyons said. "He didn't marry a Jewish girl." Lyons should have stopped there, but he continued, saying, "And from what I understand, he never had a bar mitzvah, which is unfortunate because he didn't get the money."

Lyons was suspended without pay for the Giants-Dodgers game on October 2. 2004 (Eric Karros sat in for him), but was allowed by Fox to return for the playoffs without making an on-air apology.

In a statement, Fox apologized to those viewers who were offended and conceded that Lyons had "exercised poor judgment." The network said he "had expressed extreme remorse." A Dodgers spokesman, John Olguin, said in an e-mail message that Green had not been offended by Lyons's comments.

Lyons should have been fired then and there. His comments where: insulting to anyone who has been or is a part of an interracial marriage. His assumption that every Jewish youngster receives a great deal of money when they have a bar mitzvah is insulting to what a bar mitzvah represents to Jews – a celebration of a young man being welcomed as a man by his faith. And to question how any member of any religious group chooses to observe the most religious day their faith observers in a given year, demonstrates a complete insensitivity on that person’s (Lyons) part.

Technically that would have been strike one. Strike two took place last week during game three of the NLDS, for some inexplicable reason offered rude an inexcusable comments after the Fox cameras captured Mets fan Stephen Teitelbaum, blind except for peripheral vision in one eye, was wearing a Jordy, a magnifying device, to help him watch the game.

Lyons and partner in crime Brennaman had no idea who Teitelbaum was, what his medical condition was or why he was glasses looked differently from other glasses. Acting like bullies, Brennaman and Lyons decided it was acceptable behavior for the two broadcasters to launch into a full frontal assault.

“A Psycho-meter,” Brennaman said, to welcome Lyons to town.

“Maybe he’s in virtual reality,” Lyons said. If he is, Lyons explained, “he should stay there.”

And maybe, Lyons suggested, the Dodgers should don the contraptions to better hit Tom Glavine. Lyons then hit on the most logical puerile explanation: “He’s got a digital camera stuck to his face.”

The New York Times Richard Sandomir reported the incident lasted 53 seconds and at no time did any member of the Fox broadcast crew attempt to find out who Teitelbaum was or why he was wearing the special device he was wearing. The network that considers “The Simpsons” award winning programming demonstrated in no uncertain terms how quickly a live broadcast can lose control.

Drafted by the Boston Red Sox, Lyons’ playing career was much to do about nothing. In nine major league seasons, Lyons was a career .252 hitter. However, one night at Tiger Stadium, Steve Lyons became Steve “Psycho” Lyons overnight.

His most remembered incident occurred at Tiger Stadium in Detroit on a Monday night in 1990. In a televised game played on July 16, he created a stir that was replayed countless times. After sliding headfirst into first base to beat out a bunt hit, Lyons dropped his baseball pants to empty the dirt out and brush off his shirttail. After a few seconds (and a reaction from the crowd of over 14,000), he realized what he had just done, and quickly pulled them up, humorously embarrassed. Although he was wearing sliding shorts under his White Sox uniform, this incident earned him another nickname, "Moon Man" Lyons. At the end of the inning, women in the stands waved dollar bills at him as he came to the dugout.

Soon after Lyons playing career ended, Lyons joined a Chicago all-sports radio station in 1995. A year later, Lyons joined Fox Sports, starting as an in-studio analyst and graduating to Fox’s game coverage. He worked as a primary anchor on the Fox Sports Net News Desk, and was a color analyst for 50 games of the 2003 Arizona Diamondback season. He is now part of the Dodger broadcast team.

The news went from bad to worse Sunday. Los Angeles Dodgers spokesperson Josh Rawitch told the Los Angeles Times Lyons status as a part-time broadcaster with the Dodgers was ‘under review’ – translation, Psycho Lyons’ contract with the Dodgers will NOT be renewed. The same is true of Lyons' status as a pre- and post-game analyst for FSN Prime Ticket.

Is Steve Lyons a racist? There is no proof to suggest that he is. Is Steve Lyons a bully? There is no proof to suggest that he is. Is Steve Lyons guilty of bad judgment – absolutely! Should Steve Lyons have been fired – absolutely! Should Steve Lyons be given another chance – absolutely not, never!!

Three major broadcasting incidents in a two year period clearly demonstrate a pattern of abnormal behavior. If the comments that Steve Lyons made are a reflection of his belief system then how and why was he ever hired as a broadcaster must be questioned. How different are the hurtful comments Mel Gibson directed at a California police officer, and the views Lyons has expressed on more than one occasion?

Are Lyons’ comments reflective of the so-called jock mentally, a belief system where boys never become men, and believe for some inexplicable reason its acceptable behavior to demean others? How should other athletes who have become broadcasters feel about the immature, boorish behavior of Steve Lyons? Many athletes have enjoyed careers in the sports industry long after the cheering ended, as broadcasters. Many have tremendous talent, and offer a great deal to games they’re a part of. Is Steve Lyons someone who has done damage and harm to the reputation of fellow broadcasters – ultimately that will have to be determined by anyone who is interested in hiring Steve Lyons again – an unlikely event. Justice has been served on Steve Lyons!!

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Wikipedia

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