The power of one to incite stupidity

Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith.  Image Credit: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith. Image Credit: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

As sports commentators will do, some game conversations will digress into banter about family, other games, politics or, if Charles Barkley is involved, running for governor or the “trbl” play of someone in the game or the teams as a whole. According to the AP and carried by ESPN, a brief exchange during last week’s Clippers-Grizzlies game cost play-by-play announcer, Ralph Lawler, and analyst, Michael Smith, as each was suspended for a single game for remarks about Memphis’ Iranian born center, Hamed Haddadi. Clippers point guard, Baron Davis, sided with the broadcasters saying,

A lot of times when you’re commenting on games, it’s a source of entertainment. And a lot of times, people may take offense. But the viewers need to understand that it’s entertainment, and people are entitled to their opinion. I stand by Ralph and Mike because they’re great guys and they only want to support and help everybody in the league.

The full exhange, lasting some 40 seconds, was published on the L.A. Times website. From late in the game:

Smith: “Look who’s in.”

Lawler: “Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?”

Smith: “He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA.” (Smith pronounced Iranian as “Eye-ranian,” a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)

Lawler: “There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA,” repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.

Smith: “He’s the only one.”

Lawler: “He’s from Iran?”

Smith: “I guess so.”

Lawler: “That Iran?”

Smith: Yes.

Lawler: “The real Iran?”

Smith: “Yes.”

Lawler: “Wow. Haddadi – that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.”

Smith: “You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?”

Smith: “If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.”

Lawler: “Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.”

Smith: “Especially the post players.

Lawler: “I don’t know about their guards.”

Hamed Haddadi. Photo Credit: NBA.com

Hamed Haddadi. Photo Credit: NBA.com

According to both the AP and L.A. Times, the complaint was due to Lawler’s pronunciation as “Eye-ranian” and the suspension was the result of a single viewer’s email. Haddadi, a one year veteran from Ahvaz, Iran, may or may not resemble Sasha Baron Cohen or his alter-ego, Borat (judge for yourself), but is currently playing like him: 0.7 points per game and 1 rebound per game for the 7′ 2″ center.

One person made one complaint about the way an announcer pronounced a country and two people were suspended from their jobs. FOX Sports has lost its collective mind. The statement from the network said:

We regret the remarks made by Clippers announcers Michael Smith and Ralph Lawler during Wednesday’s telecast. While we believe that Michael and Ralph did not intend their exchange to be offensive, the comments were inappropriate.

I once heard Barkley say to Ernie Johnson, Jr., on an NBA game broadcast (not the studio program):

Ernie, I bet your parents didn’t even let you play with the black kids growing up, did they?

Sir Charles didn’t get suspended. The late Skip Caray, of Atlanta Braves broadcast fame, once called Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt, “Mike Sh-t.” It was a slip, but he said it nonetheless. There is a place in sports commentary for entertainment, humor and silly observations and, as Caray proved, the occasional blunder of the live broadcast. Not all announcers are funny, many of them are not even good, but the ones who are either or both bring added enjoyment to the broadcast. FOX Sports’ decision was idiotic, moronic and vapid.

Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts: Contact FOX Sports.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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