By: John Molori
November 08, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Steve speaks
- Numbers game
- Delay doldrums

Lyons answers criticism with candor and confidence; Pats-Colts score in ratings; Sylvester talks Pats? radio

Two weeks ago, Media Blitz opined that Fox was right in firing baseball analyst Steve Lyons for some racially insensitive comments.

Just as review, during the recent 2006 ALCS between Oakland and Detroit, Fox analyst Lou Piniella initially said that the surprising play of Oakland? s Marco Scutaro was akin to finding a wallet.

Subsequently, Piniella used the terms "en fuego" and "frio" in his commentary. Lyons then stated that Piniella was ?hablaing Espanol? and added, ?I still can?t find my wallet. I don?t understand him (Piniella) and I don?t want to sit too close to him now.?

Fox reportedly received numerous complaints. The remarks were also perceived as controversial because Piniella comes from Spanish descent.

Lyons, a three-time Emmy winner and Fox?s number two baseball analyst, was fired while on the plane ride home from the game. Media Blitz had a candid conversation with Lyons this past week and the discourse shed some new light on the recent developments.

?I had a hard time finding anyone who thought I should have been fired,? says Lyons, who has retained his job as a Los Angeles Dodgers analyst. ? There are some people who don?t like my style, but when a situation happens in a game, I feel like I can break it down as well as anyone.

?I am more casual in style than hardcore. I have fun with the game. I would not have changed what I said because I've always maintained that my joke was about a wallet, not about anybody's ethnic background. If I made a mistake, it was combining my statement with Lou (Piniella) speaking Spanish.?

Lyons publicly apologized for his comments and said he did not mean to offend Piniella or anyone. I believe him and I don?t think he should be labeled a racist. But given these ultra-sensitive times and the diverse cultures tuning in, why would he even go there?

He responds, ?I didn?t think I was going there. My joke was about Lou taking my wallet. Had Fox fired me because I was jokingly implying that, they would have had a better case.

?They fired me for making comments that the network could not tolerate, so people go back and look at it again. It looks ten times worse on a transcript that it does when I said it. I?ve been doing national baseball for eleven years. I know when I?ve said something wrong.?

Lyons firing may have been an offshoot of two previous treks into the controversial. One involved a Fox camera shot of a fan wearing special glasses during a 2006 Mets-Dodgers NLDS broadcast. Play-by-play man Thom Brennaman and Lyons made light of the fan who, it turns out, was 85% blind.

Says Lyons, ?I never heard anything from Fox about that. The man was on camera for 53 seconds and we had to say something. No one knew he was blind. I really regret saying that he was wearing a virtual reality mask, but I didn? t know.?

Another incident involved Shawn Green?s dilemma of sitting out a game during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur in 2004. Lyons joked that Green struggling with the decision, and he never had a bar mitzvah, so he couldn?t even take advantage of receiving money as a gift.

He states, ?I like Shawn a lot and I knew he was troubled by his decision to play or not. I was trying to make him feel better. I am not Jewish and I had no idea I was offending anyone.

?People don?t remember that earlier in that game, I said that I loved Shawn Green as a player and everyone wishes that they had a brother like him. I will stand up to that incident and admit that I made a mistake. Saying I didn't mean it is never good enough in my business."

Regarding the most recent exchange with Piniella, Lyons states, ?My joke was about a wallet, not about him speaking Spanish. I didn?t know that Lou was Spanish, but it wouldn't have affected what I said because it didn't matter what nationality he was.

?I didn't even know my own nationality until I was 21 years old and somebody asked me. I had to call my Mom to find out. We never cared about ours or anybody else's.?

?I?ve never thought in terms of race. I have a biracial grandson. I like to have fun when doing a game. That?s how I got my job. The network always encouraged me to speak off the cuff. Lou laughed harder than anyone at what I said. We had dinner after the game and he said that was the best exchange we had.?

Given the sensitive racial times in which we live, Fox?s dismissal of Lyons remains valid, but after speaking with the articulate and clearly thoughtful Lyons, I get the feeling that this firing was more about Fox?s past issues with Lyons and less about the most recent controversy.

The fact is that both Piniella and Brennaman defended Lyons, but to no avail. Moreover, Lyons says he was in negotiations with Fox for a new contract when the incident occurred.

Lyons? Fox work made up 80% of his salary. His local work with the Dodgers in Los Angeles accounts for his other income. ?Thankfully, the Dodgers stepped up big time,? says Lyons.

?I'm so proud to be a part of the Dodgers organization. It took courage for them to stand up to my firing from the Network (Fox), but had they fired me too, I would have been an ex-broadcaster, labeled as a racist with no job prospects.?

Rivalry ratings

Sunday?s Pats-Colts game averaged 21.98 million viewers, one percent higher than last year?s Indy at New England tilt on ABC. According to Nielsen Media Research, Sunday?s game scored a 14.0 household rating and 22 share, two percent lower than the Indianapolis-New England matchup on Monday night last year.

NBC states that Sunday?s game was the fourth highest rated prime time NFL matchup in the last five years, a number that is even more impressive given the tough competition.

The Pats and Colts logged an 8.6 rating with adults ages 18-49 on the way to winning the night in primetime. "NBC Sunday Night Football" outscored all of its head-to-head competition, including a new episode of ABC?s wildly popular "Desperate Housewives"

According to NBC, 50 million viewers watched all or part of Sunday?s game. Overall, "NBC Sunday Night Football" is averaging 17.8 million viewers through nine games, 11 percent better than ABC?s ?Monday Night Football? through nine games in 2005.

Indianapolis scored the highest national rating/share for Sunday?s game with a 47.8/60. Boston was second at 32.6/49 and Providence was third at 31.1/43.

Howie?s house

Several fans at Sunday?s game commented that the radio broadcast of the contest on 104.1 FM WBCN is several seconds behind the live action. Media Blitz had received a few emails from readers voicing the same views.

Howie Sylvester is the producer of Patriots broadcasts on WBCN, the Patriots? flagship station. He states, ?WBCN is now broadcasting in what is commonly referred to as HD Radio.

?It?s a new digital technology that will eventually become the standard for all terrestrial radio broadcasting, and it allows us to broadcast on two subchannels along with our main channel that you hear on regular radio.

?The downside of this technology is that the signal is delayed by about 8 seconds in processing.?

Another reason for the delay is related to FCC regulated content. Says Sylvester, ?CBS Radio (owner of WBCN) has required that all its radio stations broadcast in delay 24/7 to prevent obscenities from getting on the air.

?In the past, live sports events were exempt from this, but because of the increased fines the FCC has handed out recently (over $300,000 per occurrence), they?ve decided to delay sports as well.

?We?re using a four-second delay in our broadcasts, so overall, Gil (Santos) and Gino?s (Cappelletti) call averages out about twelve seconds behind real time.?

Producers like Sylvester are not blind to the effects on fans, but see the bigger picture. ?Believe me, we understand the frustration the fans in the stands are feeling,? says Sylvester.

?But for TV viewers with DVRs (digital video recorders similar to TiVo), it?s now even easier to sync up our broadcast to what?s on TV. Just pause your TV until Gil & Gino catch up.

?This is one of those situations where you can?t make everyone happy. It seems our largest constituency is watching the game at home, and eventually they?ll all have DVRs, so we hope this serves the most possible listeners.?

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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