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October 16, 2006

Racist like a Fox, or Crazy like a Lyons?

Fox baseball analyst Steve Lyons was fired after Game 3 of the ALCS on Friday. The crime: saying something so weird on air that Fox officials decided it must be racist. Various reporters and bloggers have tried and failed to explain the meaning of the exchange between Lyons and Lou Piniella (it has something to do with Spanglish and a wallet), and have come to two different conclusions about Lyons's intentions.

One of the best descriptions of the incident comes from the New York Times, which makes it seem that Lyons simply mistimed a (slightly) comedic callback.

The incident Friday afternoon began when Lou Piniella, a guest analyst working with Lyons and Thom Brennaman, noted that the Oakland Athletics could not expect shortstop Marco Scutaro to continue to produce runs as he did when he drove in six during the division series against Minnesota. Piniella said that expecting similar production would be "like finding a wallet on a Friday night and looking for one on Sunday and Monday, too." Four minutes later, they had moved to different subjects and Piniella said something in Spanish. "The bilingual Lou Piniella," Brennaman said. Lyons said: "Lou's 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."

Here's the breakdown among writers:

Steve Lyons is racist

Jon Heyman of

Piniella's FOX-TV's partner Steve Lyons was justifiably fired after his unfunny, off-color remark about needing to stay away from Piniella and watching out for his wallet following Piniella's use of a couple of Spanish words.

His exchange with Piniella—which included the always ethnically sensitive dialog "habla-ing Espanol"—shouldn't have been construed as accusing Hispanics of being lazy deadbeats with no hope for economic survival aside from stealing, you see; he was just saying he couldn't trust sitting next to a Latino after his wallet went missing. See, all better now, right?

Truth Caucus

"I still can't find my wallet."
—FOX Baseball announcer Steve Lyons on air referring to Lou Pinella's "Hispanic" heritage. (He was subsequently fired.)

USA Today

But Fox's Steve Lyons ran afoul of the most basic job requirement of sportscasting: Avoid comments that can be construed as using ethnic or racial stereotypes—and don't assume that claiming such comments were meant in jest or were just nonsense will be a defense.

Associated Press

Fox baseball and regular season Dodgers' Prime Ticket broadcaster Steve Lyons has been fired for making a racially insensitive comment directed at colleague Lou Piniella's Hispanic heritage on the air during Game 3 of the American League championship series.

Mankato Free Press

Lyons was fired Friday for "jokingly" suggesting that that fellow commentator Lou Piniella was a wallet thief because he's Hispanic—just the latest in a series of examples of lack of taste and judgment.

Steve Lyons is an idiot

Freedom Folks

Nut, yes. Racist? I'm not seeing it.


I don't know what he's saying. I don't get the joke enough to even know how much of it's racist, and how much it's just Steve Lyons being a total doofus.

Toronto Star

I'm not convinced that Fox baseball analyst Steve Lyons' comments during Friday's A's-Tigers game were racist or even insensitive. But there's no doubt they were just plain stupid, the latest in a long list of silly statements from Lyons, and prompted Fox to cancel his act.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post

While we were never fond of Lyons' act on Fox—forgive us, but we've never tuned to a baseball telecast for laughs as opposed to baseball—to conclude that Lyons purposely made a malicious crack about Hispanics (or the blind, the week before, or Jews, two years ago) is unreasonable.

If Gelf had to pick a camp, we'd side with the idiot crowd, and perhaps even scold some of those in the racist crowd for not fully explaining the origin of the wallet comment. Mostly though, Gelf agrees with this comment from the East Valley Tribune: "As Steve Lyons can attest, all it takes is one bad inning to knock you right out of the baseball playoffs."

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- Sports
- posted on Oct 18, 06
J Sears

"Hablo-ing espanol". That's pretty funny. I'm going to have to use that one. I agree with and applaud Gelf's position on the matter.

- Sports
- posted on Oct 04, 12
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