Fired Lyons hurt but not down
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
To his dying day, Steve Lyons will feel he was treated unfairly by the Fox Broadcasting Co.
Three weeks after being fired from his job as baseball analyst over remarks made during the AL Championship Series, Lyons isn't in a remorseful mood.
'I'm not going to get my job back, which really hurts,' says Lyons, 46, the former Beaverton High and Oregon State standout who worked for the network for 11 years. 'It hurts they fired me and tried to label me as a racist on the way out the door. They screwed up. They look bad for what they did.'
Lyons was working on a broadcast crew with Lou Piniella when he made the remarks that cost him his job. Piniella was discussing light-hitting Marco Scutaro of Oakland and the success he was having at the plate in the series. Piniella said not to count on it continuing, that it would be like finding a wallet on Friday and expecting to find one on Sunday and Monday, too.
Moments later, the subject had changed and Piniella said something in Spanish.
'Lou's habla-ing some español there, and I'm still looking for my wallet,' Lyons cracked. 'I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now.'
A day later, Lyons was fired by Fox Sports Chairman David Hill for what was deemed a racially insensitive comment.
'If I made a mistake, it was in combining two topics and saying something right after Lou spoke in Spanish,' Lyons says. 'Right after he made the comment about wallets, I knew I was going to say something (funny) about it. To fire me and try to label it as if I were saying Spanish-speaking people steal wallets is ridiculous.'
Lyons says he has been a guest on about 30 radio shows since the firing, 'and I found one guy who wanted me fired, and that was a caller,' he says. 'There is no public sentiment on Fox's side. Zero. Where is the public uproar? There is none.'
Two years ago, Lyons made a remark that Fox considered inappropriate involving Jewish outfielder Shawn Green, 'a mistake of ignorance,' Lyons says. 'But (Hill) told me I was fired based on the (Piniella) incident only.'
Lou D'Ermilio, senior vice president of media relations for Fox, returned a phone call for Hill from the Portland Tribune.
'We're not allowed to say anything more than what was in our brief statement when the situation occurred,' D'Ermilio says.
Lyons' irreverent style and wit are what appeal to viewers who enjoy his work.
'That's how I got my job, for my outspoken personality,' he says. 'I won three national Emmys for that network. They always said, 'Be funny, be controversial, have an opinion.' This happens, I get zero support.
'When you make a mistake as a broadcaster and say you didn't mean anything by it, that's not good enough. I wouldn't hide behind that excuse. I'm saying I didn't do anything wrong. If you want to infer something out of what I said or try to connect the dots, you can find something wrong with almost anything someone says.'
Lyons will retain his job as TV analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and - ironically - probably will keep his role doing pre- and post-game commentary for the Dodgers on Fox.
'The Dodgers stepped up for me big-time,' Lyons says. 'If they had followed suit, I would be an ex-broadcaster. They had to have felt a tremendous amount of pressure, knowing a network fired me and the fact their audience is 40 percent Hispanic.'
The Dodgers have mandated that Lyons attend a sensitivity training session.
'I'm looking forward to it,' he says. 'Nobody hopes they're in a situation where they're instructed to do so, but I'm looking to take something out of it, if it's something I have to do.'
• Lyons says he was thrilled with Oregon State's ride to the national baseball championship last spring.
'You can't play baseball in Oregon. There are no good players up there, right?' he says. 'It was almost all Oregon kids on that team kicking butt nationally, but it can't be done. At least, that's what they used to tell us when I played.
'I have not had a lot to do with the program since I left, so I've not been close to the turnaround Pat (Casey) has generated there. But I know how difficult it has been for them to put a stamp on a nationally ranked program when it rains so much up there. I can't tell you the pride I feel for what the Beavers have done.'
• You look at the career record - 260-70 - and think 'winner.' But McNary High's Tom Smythe, who is stepping down after this season and will look for other football-related adventures, is about much more. He has always done it his way, with innovative offenses and less structured practices. It was about making the game fun, for the kids and for himself.
The thing I like best about Smythe is his countenance after a loss. You learn more about a person in defeat than after victory, and he was always calm and gracious. Now that's a winner.