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Monday, June 29: The Circle Of Broadcasting Life

Posted by Matt Terl on June 29, 2009 – 8:42 am

Renaldo Wynn
was at the broadcasting bootcamp last week, the NFL’s three-day seminar designed to prepare current players for a second career in the announcing booth. As I mentioned on Wednesday, SI.com‘s Ross Tucker caught up with Wynn — among others — to get some thoughts about current announcers.

Wynn was impressively frank. After hammering Tiki Barber as his least-favorite current announcer, here’s how he responded to the question of what qualities he “really dislike[s] in an on-air personality:”

Wynn: “The least-liked broadcasters are former players who get in the booth and they start bashing other players immediately. They start bashing other players and forget they used to be a player. You can be critical if you need to be without personally bashing people. I think you lose your credibility.”

So you have to wonder what, exactly, Wynn would make of this morning’s news from an ex-player who recently became an ex-broadcaster.

Former Redskin, Giant, and Eagle Brian Mitchell is disputing the idea that his dismissal from ESPN 980 was entirely based on economics, as the station’s chief executive has claimed. Mitchell told USA Today’s Michael McCarthy, “If you never discuss any money, or any changes in my money with me, then you already have your minds made up. This didn’t have a damn thing to do with the economy.”

I have no idea what the economics of running a radio station are — although Mitchell’s $150,000-per-year salary certainly sounds like a budget drain to my untutored ears — but, as I see it, even if Mitchell is correct in his assessment … well, so what?

Let’s look again at what Wynn told Tucker: “The least-liked broadcasters are former players who … start bashing other players immediately.”

Mitchell probably drew the most attention of his broadcasting career this past season for — wait for it — bashing running back Clinton Portis. “Bashing” is a loaded term, of course, so I went back to their discussion (for lack of a better word), in both audio and transcription form (thanks, DC Sports Bog!) and … well, here’s how Portis characterized his problems with Mitchell’s analysis:

Portis: “We got some haters, and there’s one on this show. He’s so caught up in whatever I do and being negative about it. Man, I really want to know what’s going on….There’s a man on your show who can’t keep my name out of his mouth, it’s always the negativity.”

I’m comfortable classifying that as bashing.

So, the question: if the players can’t stand analysts who are ex-players with an ax to grind, and Mitchell fit that category, and quality radio depends on getting players to appear and act civil at the show hosts … what does it matter if that’s the reason Mitchell was let go?

It’s possible that I’m overthinking this, and disappointing as well. Because Les Carpenter’s account of Wynn’s experiences at the Broadcast Boot Camp from Saturday’s Washington Post is much, much more interesting than Mitchell’s complaining. It might be my favorite piece Carpenter has written for the paper, in fact, a detailed and fascinating look at what it actually takes to make the transition to the announcing booth.

Like just about everything else on Earth, it’s more complicated than it might initially appear, and far more complicated than Mitchell’s oversimplification of his role — “I’m an analyst. I analyze positive and negative.” — during his encounter with Portis would indicate.

But aside from watching tape, the gathering of information does not come naturally to most players. They are not accustomed to pumping teammates for nuggets they will then use on the air — almost as if doing so would be a betrayal of trust. At one point, Kyle Brady, the recently retired tight end, suggested to an instructor, Solomon Wilcots of the NFL Network, that he didn’t think his old football stories would be interesting to the general public.

It’s a really illuminating read, the sort of thing that I’d love to see more of, and it’s excellent (and unsurprising) to see that Wynn acquits himself well. He’s struck me as a serious guy during my encounters with him, and I’d expect him to bring that same focus and seriousness to his next career as well as his current one.

I don’t want to be too hard on Brian Mitchell, though. In the end, it was his provocations that brought us the immortal phrase “Portis Pockets Straight,” and that forgives a lot of sins.

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