Here we go again.
A golf announcer is getting criticized for a seemingly innocuous comment during a telecast and being forced to apologize.
The latest victim is NBC announcer Johnny Miller, the former BYU golfer who lives in Utah.
A week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open, Miller had to apologize for saying that runner-up Rocco Mediate looked "like a guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool," as well as, "guys with the name 'Rocco' don't get on the trophy, do they?"
Apparently the comments were out of line because they were supposedly making fun of Mediate's Italian heritage. In his apology, Miller explained that he was referring to Mediate's "everyman" qualities rather than his ethnicity, which is how I took the comments when I heard them.
The fact that Mediate didn't take offense, saying, "It doesn't bother me at all," should end the mini-controversy and show that it wasn't a big deal in the first place. Mediate also praised Miller for being "quite a good announcer" and he liked that he says what's on his mind.
That's what I like about Miller and why he's the most popular analyst on TV. He may not be as smooth on the air as Jim Nantz, the former KSL sportscaster. But Miller isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers with his frank comments about players and strategy. Sometimes he ruffles them a bit too much.
Earlier this year it was Kelly Tilghman who got in trouble for joking that the only way for golfers to beat Tiger Woods was to "lynch him in a back alley." She could have said "shoot him" and no one would have batted an eye. But her words were a little more serious than Miller's because of the connotation of "lynch" with the unfortunate history of the treatment of African-Americans.
Still, she quickly apologized, and Woods, who happened to be a friend of hers, accepted the apology.
I just hope the comments by Tilghman and Miller don't follow them around for the rest of their careers.
That's what happened to Fuzzy Zoeller, who made some silly comments a decade ago at the Masters, using an African-American stereotype about Tiger Woods' possible choice of food for the following year's Masters dinner.
I have to admit I felt obligated to ask Zoeller about it during a one-on-one interview when he came to Utah a couple of years later for an exhibition at Willow Creek Country Club. When I asked how the controversy had affected him, Zoeller looked the other way, said, "next question" and we moved on.
Unfortunately, Zoeller is probably more famous now for the 10 seconds of sticking his foot in his mouth than for his Masters and U.S. Open championships. It doesn't seem right, but that's the way it has become in these overly sensitive times.
While I believe people need to be held accountable for their words, I worry that announcers are going to start becoming so careful they become bland and milquetoast like so many on television.Golf can be boring enough to watch on TV sometimes, so we need to keep the likes of Johnny Miller around.
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