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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2002
It's probably my fault, but why do I tune in to so many sports updates on ESPN, Fox and CNN? All I see and hear, mixed with news and scores, is a revolving cast of announcers dominated by fresh youngsters not quite ready for prime time.
Some juvenile voices will mature into quality pros, but shouldn't they have to pass extensive tests before being allowed to blurt racy opinions and overcooked phrases?
Can't any of them go an hour without using "take it to the house" or "see ya" or "I'm not believing this" or that most overused, misused of English words, "unbelievable"?
Please don't tell me their flimsy demeanors are coached by TV bosses. Is it not still okay to dispatch results, with appropriate color and zeal, without trying to make every telecast a comedy club stint or some talking head's audition tape?
Why don't the update kids gaze at the proven styles of Bob Costas, Dan Patrick, Joe Buck and Bob Ley, high-level talents who depend on abilities, knowledge and judgment rather than empty theatrics?
Should there not be producers who favor substance and excellence over cutesy terms and bombast? Most network babies spend too much time working to develop a signature phrase, hoping it might serve them as well as "Oh my!" has worked for Dick Enberg.
Mostly, they strike out.
Then again, maybe it's just me.
WORDS FROM THE BLEACHERS: Letters from Times readers, ranging from warmth to fire-spitting anger, found my lap, reaffirming the diversity of opinions on sports.
A letter from Jean Becker of New Port Richey was nice enough to say: "You did a great job writing on Emmitt Smith. I worked at the University of Florida when Emmitt was a football player for the Gators.
"He would not let his God-given talent make his head bigger. Emmitt is always on the straight and narrow. This great man is so good because his mom and dad taught him right from wrong."
But an e-mail from Ty Sloan of Gainesville was raging about Steve Spurrier, not due to dislike but because the Ball Coach is now creating for the Washington Redskins instead of coaching one of Ty's favorite home-state teams, the Gators or Bucs.
"What a painful weekend, seeing my UF boys so helpless against the Miami Hurricanes. Spurrier might not have won, but the Gators would have believed their chances were better if he'd been in charge. Rex Grossman must feel like a deserted quarterback. I see a 7-4 disaster season.
"The next morning, after driving from Gainesville to Tampa for my NFL fix, the suffering would only worsen when the Bucs played like amateurs in the first half, made a stirring comeback, but then botched overtime.
"Why couldn't the Glazers have been smart enough to never have taken another ill-fated run at Bill Parcells and then panic and pay dearly for Jon Gruden? Two hours up I-75, they had a bigger winner than either Parcells or Gruden. Spurrier was finally ready to coach in the pros, but the Glazers were too deaf and dumb to be aware.
"It's doubly painful."
Then, an e-mail from Patty Lamonica of St. Pete Beach exuded warmth about Pete Sampras. "I cheered as though he were my son, not that I dislike Andre Agassi, but the U.S. Open drama became the ultimate when Sampras rebounded from the tennis near-dead to prove to all the world that he is maybe the sport's greatest of all champions.
"We could all see Pete tiring. His tank was near empty and a fifth set might have been too much. But this quiet, low-ego fellow has deep courage. I cried when he won the Open.
"Just like Agassi, Pete had been written off. Pushed back among the tennis nobodies. Both he and Pete deserve our cheers, but Sampras most of all. Why can't we spend more time talking about Pete and less about overrated jocks like Warren Sapp?
"Too many of today's athletes are stained by drug problems, misbehavior, jail time and ugly attitudes, but Sampras is a model that any mother and father would love to see.
"It always bugged me that Pete was called "dull' and never given the status of a John McEnroe or that jerk Jimmy Connors. Pete is an exceptional guy who spent some of his best years living in Tampa, so a lot of us locals saw up close what quality there is in this great champion."
Does he know Emmitt?
Whatever happened to Bert Campaneris?
-- To contact Hubert Mizell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.