Steve Young is scrambling this week and Warren Sapp isn’t even chasing him. Young is trying to undo the “damage” he did to himself and possibly to the profession of “analyzing” football games. Among other things, he revealed that he "spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium preparing his commentary" for Monday Night Football games.
Football people — OK, the media — were shocked. How could he be so cavalier about the serious, highly complicated job of analyzing our football games? How could he prepare for only an hour?
My response: That much?!
Young, an analyst for ESPN and co-owner of a multi-billion dollar private equity firm — definitely not in that order — came off as indifferent about the football gig in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “My wife hates football, and my kids don't really care," Young said. "I see myself as a deal guy first. I've put football behind me. Roger Staubach once told me — and I'll never forget it: 'When you retire, run. Never look back.'"
Actually, Young didn’t run from football, he ran back to it, straight to the TV booth. When he retired from football in 2000, he said he would like this written on his tombstone someday, “He did this, this and this, and he played some football.” Fill in one of those blanks with “football analyst.”
Young revealed that not only does he not spend much time preparing for the weekly game, he “barely watches the action” once the game begins (so, in that sense, he’s like the rest of us — have you seen MNF’s ratings?). Instead, according to the Bloomberg piece, he is "schmoozing people connected to the private equity firm, HGGC, that he co-founded a decade ago." Also: Young would have quit the ESPN job years ago, but his business partners want him to maintain “a high profile” and use the MNF games as a marketing tool; HGGC hosts potential clients in a luxury suite at every MNF game. (Watching Young juggle all this during a game would be more entertaining than most of the games themselves.)
ESPN naturally came to his rescue, releasing a statement that painted Young as a dedicated, hard-working
businessman football analyst, and Young tried to walk back his statements in numerous interviews, but the damage was done. Sporting News wrote that maybe Young was “mailing it in.”
Oh, please, Young is preparing for a football game, not the GMAT. He’s analyzing football games, not stock reports. The only thing that takes much preparation time is learning to pronounce all those Polynesian names. Young blew the cover off analyzing football games — it’s not a tough job, it’s just a tough job to get.
Look, it is rare that football analysts and sideline reporters tell you anything that is a) interesting; b) informative or insightful; c) something you didn’t already know or that someone sitting next to you in the family room didn’t already say. That isn’t really why football analysts got the job.
If you’re wondering how you can watch football games for a living and deliver commentary from the sideline or the booth, fill out this job application:
1) If you walk through a mall, would people recognize you?
2) Have you ever been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
3) Have you ever had a jersey retired?
4) Are there any Super Bowl rings on your fingers?
5) On your résumé, is there any mention of MVP, GOAT or All-Pro anything like that?
6) When it comes to looks, would you say you are more George Clooney than Danny DeVito?
7) Can you talk — in coherent sentences (not critical, but helpful)?
During an appearance at a charity event years ago, Young referred to himself as “The Gimmick.” Translation: He was there because his name recognition was a draw. It’s the same reason he is in the booth. Ditto for the rest of them: Terry Bradshaw, Shannon Sharpe, Phil Simms, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, Jon Gruden.
They make lots of money to do this (apparently the gabby Simms and Gruden are paid per word). If TV really wanted someone who could report on the game, they’d hire, you know, reporters. But TV wants the gimmicks and Young fills the role, even if it barely interests him and requires little thought.
"Staying connected to the game and working for ESPN are very meaningful to me,” he told Sporting News while doing damage control. “In no way did I intend to suggest otherwise."