Thursday, January 21, 2010

ESPN: Fire Mary Carillo (Updated)

Dear ESPN,

I've never seen Mary Carillo as anything but a commentator who covers the sport with insight and wit and as much objectivity as she can muster when certain players aren't on the court. I've defended her around the Internet for years against accusations of ineptitude and far worse. When it comes to Serena Williams, I've found her criticism a bit acidic, but fair, giving her the benefit of my doubt, if I had any doubt about her feelings at all.

Tonight, she crossed a line.

She actually said from the broadcast booth that the world No. 1 and defending Australian Open champion is trying to start a gender war and that she got away with threatening murder.

I spit out my tea.

This from an analyst who doesn't understand that having the best serve and having the best service games won statistics are two different measures of ability and execution. One's an opinion, the other, a quantifiable fact.

Serena committed no crime, Mary Carillo. She wasn't arrested and charged. She wasn't handcuffed or dragged out of Arthur Ashe stadium in shackles.

Pam Shriver came armed and ready, as though she knew Mary would take her rant to another level during Serena's second-round match. Sounded like Pam read from a page, bringing facts to the table and let her colleague and all of us know that no man in the NFL who had an actual physical altercation with an official was fined more than $25,000.

Mary Carillo has driven fans away from tonight's broadcast because they didn't want to hear any more of her slanderous vitriol.

ESPN, do the sport a favor and fire Mary Carillo. And if you can't or won't do that, then ban her from calling another Serena Williams match for the rest of her tenure with your corporation.


Craig Hickman

I had intended this only as an open letter venting, but a reader suggested I post the ESPN contact link here for anyone who wants to send them a complaint. If you prefer snail mail, their corporate address is:

ESPN, Inc.
545 Middle St
Bristol, CT 06010


lilac said...

Well written. This is just sad.

mr. said...

I like Mary Carillo and think she's a good commentator. Calling for her to be fired because she expressed an opinion seems like an over reaction. Tennis commentary would be boring if they didn't speak honestly and share their opinions. Should you have your blog deleted because I disagree with you? Of course not.

Craig said...

mr. thanks for your comment.

Be honest. Share your opinion. But be professional about it.

A blog is not a broadcast booth and I'm not on anyone's payroll.

I don't mind overreacting to certain things. Besides, I offered a less extreme suggestion.

This is an open letter which I've little doubt no one at ESPN will even care to read.

I simply spoke honestly and expressed my opinion.

We are free to disagree.

siva said...

Craig, what actually happened? Why start again on that incident? Good that we don't get to hear that here in Singapore.

sG said...

Wow, Mary. Just wow. I wasn't able to watch Serena's second round match so I totally missed this. I can't believe she said something like that. I generally like her commentary on the sport so this is disappointing.

Jonus said...

OMG its so funny you blogged about this because I was thinking the exact same thing while watching Serena's match...She was berating the number 1 player in the world...LET IT GO MAR!!!! REALLY??? Thank god for Pam who really rescued the conversation...I think Mary even said that she would have punished Serena more on top of the fine and suspended probation that she was given!!! If they dont fire her, DO NOT let her commentate on ANY Williams' matches...

Beth said...

Craig, so well spoken. Bravo.

Whole Sight said...

Didn't catch this latest episode, but I've never been able to stand Mary Carillo as a commentator anyway - she repeats the obvious and the trite as if it were the height of breathless drama. I can't imagine other major sports tolerating a broadcaster so deficient in actual insight, though I guess it happens. What is terrible is when she and Johnny Mac get put together for a show - they seem to accentuate each other's worst qualities.

Karen said...

As a sometime fan of Serena Williams, I second this petition. The commentary last night was horrendous. It got so bad that I eventually had to mute the television as it was distracting me from the tennis. I could not under the circumstances enjoy the match which I think was the sole purpose of ESPN broadcasting it to their viewers and advertisers spending good money on product placement. It was awful and Serena Williams deserves much better than this.

lollanna said...

Well said Craig!! Mary Carrillo has been on the William sisters their whole career. Last night was absolutely unacceptable. She has always been negative and racist towards them, I don;t know if it is jealousness or just ignorance. These girls came from COMPTON!! who made it in one of the most racist games around, yes I said it it is a racist game and you all know it. Mary no longer needs to cover Tennis, let her cover the NFL since she thinks she knows so much about it or is that to ghetto for her!!

Beth said...

wholesight....great points. Yes, she does make things sound like they are completely novel and exciting when they are neither. BTW have been meaning to tell you I like your profile's very cool.

Helen W said...

Link Whole Sight I've never been much of a Mary Carillo fan either, although I do like Johnny Mac. Why is it that there are so many horrible American tennis commentators: Bud Collins, Dick Enberg, Cliff Drysdale to name but three? But then the other side has Robbie Koenig to apologize for ....

MMT said...

I'm no fan of Mary Carillo, particularly her penchant for hyperbole and manufactured catch-phrases and attempted zingers. I didn't hear her accuse Williams of threatening murder - that's a gross exaggeration of what happened.

But her assertion that Serena is using gender as qualification of her response to her treatment at the hands of the ITF is spot on.

Over and over again Serena claims that many have said much worse than what she said, and were treated less harshly, but I have yet to hear a single example thereof.

Nobody in the history of the game has ever come close to the tirade she hurled at that lineswoman at the US Open - I'd like to see an example to the contrary. As such, her unprecendent fine is wholly justified, and I would also say she was fortunate to escape a suspension.

I'm all for equality of the sexes, but I find it patently self-serving and disingenuous for her to reduce her offense down to cursing, then compare herself to others who have cursed at officials and claim she's been victimized. That's nonesense.

As for Mary Carillo - I don't think she's said anything particularly insightful about tennis in 10 years, so I wouldn't mind seeing her go.

mfsaw2003 said...

i didn't get the chance to watch serena's match but i did see venus and i think it's interesting that it was pam shriver who countered mary carillo. if you heard the commentary between pam and mary jo during venus' match, you know they went to town completely dogging venus with chris fowler only egging them on. their basic argument was venus is a huge disappointment because she only has seven grand slam singles titles and has not evolved in her game like andy roddick, who they conveniently forgot only has one singles title. it got to the point where there seemed to be this sort of game where both commentators seemed to try to one up the other by naming venus' faults, and this was all in the first set where she was winning by two breaks.

As far as mary carillo, she's always seemed to dislike the williams sisters. i remember one comment where she said that maria sharipova was more recognizable than venus or serena in every american city except for east st. louis. i'm sure you can figure out what she meant by that. unfortunately her feelings seemed to be shared by most of the commentators including martina n. and i think the reason why is the sisters are not beholden to anyone or conciliatory. they're not eager to please everyone and are admittedly, sometimes cocky but when you're six foot, athletic, powerful, and have won as many majors as they have don't they deserve to be a little cocky.

Sorry about the rant but i was just really fed up with the ESPN commentators last night.

By the way, can anyone tell me if Mary Jo, Mary, or Pam have won any singles titles. Looking at wikipedia I don't think they have and if that's the case I think there might be a little jealousy involved on their parts.

Tin said...

Craig, practice what you preach!!! If you look back at some of your postings, your comments are "acidic" as well. Why should she be fired for voicing her opinion? For the record I believe Serena should have been suspended for her repulsive behavior during the US Open. You seriously want Mary Carrillo to be fired because of her comment but you want mercy & leniency for Serena for verbally abusing and threatening a linesman? Lets not forget she had her racket in her face!

ps. Craig, even if you're not in anyone's payroll doesn't change the fact that you're attempting to get someone fired for "free speech". Mary "simply spoke honestly and expressed her opinion".

Savannah said...

MMT they are accusing Serena of starting a gender war because the previous offenders were Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. And lets not forget Andy Roddick's antics.

You can look up the Agassi incidents, they're documented, and the McEnroe incidents as well. Yanina Wickmayer also went off the deep end this year against a lines woman who had to be taken to the hospital after being hit in the face with a ball thrown by Wickmayer. That incident is documented too.

John Isner went on a cursing jag Day 1 but not a word was said by Carillo and crew. Fans on Twitter reported it. Andy Roddick's rant was caught on camera but the sound was mysteriously off so we fans couldn't hear what he said. The incident was dismissed as Andy being Andy.

Serena is absolutely correct in referencing previous incidents. The US tennis establishment, still smarting from Agassigate, wants to sweep the actions of male players under the rug.

Savannah said...

AND Baghdatis broke not one, not two but three racquets during his match yesterday. Verbal sanction? Nope.

Karen said...

I think they just decided not to show Serena Williams' match in their replays of last night's matches. I wonder why. TC showed it with Leif and Corina doing commentary. Will advise if ESPN2 here in Jamaica will be showing it.

MMT said...

None of these ladies, MJF, MC or PS have grand slam singles titles. MJF has 7 singles titles, but Shriver as 21 singles titles to her name, and far more doubles. She was, in fact, ranked as high as #3 in singles in 1984.

That said, none of them have the pedigree of the Williams sisters. I have to say that their criticisms are not dissimilar to equally (lacking in) pedigree(d) male counterparts in PMac, Cahill and BG, but for whatever reason, it is not well received.

Navratilova is not particularly enamored of the Williams sisters either, but her pedigree as a player allows her observations to remain more technical than editorial. I don't know that these other ladies would be listened to at all if they weren't as editorial as they are.

I know that the Williams sisters can be somewhat polarizing in many different respects, and I think at the core of the negative spectrum of their polarization is the perceptio that they should have achieved more. While I agree that in the abstract, their talent and training should put them in the same category as the Navratilova/Evert/Court/Graf/King echelone, it has to be said they have not yet matched their cumulative career achievements.

One thing going for them is that I don't see burning out any time soon, and for me, the biggest reason for that is that they rely much less on current coaching than their contemporaries - they just don't seem to need it like other current players, and I think this self-reliance will lead to them eventually winning the number of slams that would put them on the Mt. Rushmore of tennis.

Between the two, I think Serena is more likely to reach that level than Venus, but they both have it in them. One problem Venus has had is that she is a contemporary of her sister, but the aforementioned giants of women's tennis (with the exception of Graf) were also contemporaries, so that doesn't quite explain it all.

In the grand scheme of things, if you ask me if I'd prefer that they reach 18+ slams and burn out or something less than that, but remain happy well adjusted people in real life, I'd choose the latter.

MMT said...

This a link to a description of the Wickmayer incident. Per her explanation it was an accident. No threats and no abuse, just an act of irresponsible neglect for the safety of the linesperson. And she was defaulted from both singles and doubles as a result.

That's completely different than Serena's episode.

As for McEnroe, Agassi and any other male player - there's no incident of either of them threatening physical harm to an official - or anyone else for that matter. And I have to say that it is this exact kind of nebulous comparison, absent of the details which Serena has cleverly distilled down to just swearing, that makes the comparison incorrect, and more importantly not applicable in a way that would suggest Serena's being victimized because she's a woman.

If you compare unlike things and then conclude gender bias based on that comparison, the way Serena has, I think that qualifies as using gender to cover for her very specific transgression.

If I'm missing an incident where a male player threatened to violence on an official or an opponent at a slam and got off with no consequences, PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME.

But these generalized comparisons are not, in my opinion, good ones.

Pamela said...

Thank you, Savannah. I'm not surprised that casual fans of tennis aren't aware of those incidents. I am however, appalled that Mary Carillo has selectively forgotten them and chosen to demonize Serena Williams the way that she did. She isn't hosting a blog. She was live on air and representing ESPN, she should be held responsible for her commentary. It was truly disgusting.

If anyone decides to start a petition, my signature is available. In the meantime, I will be writing ESPN myself and Craig's "open-letter" will be attached. It was inexcusable.

Kind of amazing that Andre Agassi aiming a 122 mph serve at a lines person not once, but twice is seen as less than "If I could, I would ... " screaming. Amazing.

mfsaw2003 said...

MMT check out this link which describes in detail the Agassi incident. I also want you to take note of the language used and compare it to how Serena is discussed. And thank you for answering my question about MJ, MC, and PS. I knew they had singles titles but i wasn't sure if they had won any majors.

Savannah said...

The Agassi Incident

Just in case you were wondering what it is and why it's caused most of those calling for Serena Williams head to suddenly mute their calls here is an article from 2001 that describes what happened. was flawed by moments when Agassi, who may never have another good chance of winning the title, could not contain his frustration and resentment.

The former champion complained so sulkily about one line decision that a section of the crowd booed him. On another occasion he swore loudly enough to upset a line judge, who came trotting dramatically all the way from her position at the back of the court to tell the umpire, which resulted in Agassi receiving a code violation warning. At the end he launched a ball into the back stop, nearly hitting the line judge who had made the tough call. He was lucky not to suffer further censure for that.

In the press conference the one-time king of glitz was caustic, embittered and almost unable to answer. Was the warning a little unfair? "Yeah, big time. I blame her husband for that," Agassi spat. What did he think about the quality of tennis? "I thought it sucked - really did."

Savannah said...

Great minds think alike Pamela.

edma1022 said...

Craig, while you're at it, why not petition the whole crew - starting from Fowler, to Enberg/Drysdale, to Brad, and especially PMac. I would only be partial to Cahill, who's prolly the most levelheaded of the team.

Listening to PMac and Gilbert sucking arse when Roddick plays is nauseating. Partially because when the guy loses, they're the very same ones who bring him down with equal horrible critique. The same goes for the women commentators. They are all guilty of selective memory when it comes down to criticisms leveled at the WS, the Russians, the Belgians, and the Serbians.

And, Savannah, I found the quick mute button on my remote as well. So there.

Craig said...

MMT, I think the example Pamela offered about Agassi is on point. If I were a linesperson and someone intentionally served at me, hard, not once, but twice, because he didn't like my call, I would feel threatened.

But Agassi was being Agassi and all was right with the tennis world.

There's verbal abuse, there's the verbal threat of physical abuse, and there's the act of attempted physical abuse. Which of these is more egregious?

And whoever claims that I think Serena deserved "leniency" hasn't read my previous comments about the event which I will not repeat here.

What she doesn't deserve, however, is to be talked about as though she's a criminal.

That is reprehensible.


I would also like make this point: Serena was verbally warned for breaking a racquet at the end of the first set. Without that warning, her second offense would not have resulted in a point penalty, though they may have handled it in a different way with virtually the same result. When certain top male players break racquets and are verbally abusive to officials they are not immediately warned by chair umpires. If any of these men are fined, as was, say Roger Federer, it is not reported or incessantly commented upon by those in the broadcast booth. When Andy Roddick goes off and verbally abuses chair umpires, he's not reprimanded in any public way and perhaps not even privately. I don't know.

There are double standards, indeed. To deny that is to be blind to what is right in front of our eyes. Do these double standars excuse Serena's behavior? No. Two wrongs don't make a right. But who better to point them out at this time than she? If folks don't want to hear about it, then they should stop asking her questions about it in interviews and stop talking about it from the commentary booth.

Enough is enough.

Craig said...

I see that my recollection of the Agassi incident is a bit flawed. He abused two linespeople, not just one.

Thanks for the research, folks.

In would imagine that Serena might be referring to this episode when pointing out that others have done way worse and were treated less harshly.

What's ironic is that Serena is claiming gender bias and in the Agassi's situation, he blames the lineswoman's husband for her emotions, while Alan Mills calls her "athletic."

Yes. Let's talk about gender, why don't we.

Pamela said...

The bottom line is what she said is tantamount to slander. Period.

We live in a litigious society, she and ESPN would be lucky if this doesn't reach that level.

Savannah said...

Craig you were right. There were two incidents.

He became angry in the fourth set, when two calls by the same linesman in the same game went against him. He subsequently lost his serve to fall behind 4-2, then hit a wild 122-mph serve that just missed the linesman. (he missed the service line by more than 10 ft)

Before shaking Rafter's hand, Agassi fired a forehand toward the lineswoman at the other end of the court.
"I meant to hit that in the net," Agassi said with a glare that suggested otherwise.

Tournament referee Alan Mills said Agassi would be fined $2,000 for the obscenity but would not be punished for the shot that nearly struck the lineswoman.

Kitty said...

appalled at Mary's harangue about something that happened 5 months ago. I too was so pleased that Pam Shriver came to the conversation with some facts which completely shut Mary up. Thank God.

I actually like Mary Carillo and think that she does offer great insight into tennis however what I find unfortunate is her and other's penchant for setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. Serena has been punished and, as we now know, was given the largest fine ever. When does a person get to move on and we the public let it go? Where is forgiveness and compassion? It's only tennis after all.

BayouPeach said...

Oh my goodness, I thought I was the only one. There were several times during the match where I hollered at the TV, 'SHUT UP MARY!' She really pushed it to the limit last night. It's well documented that she doesn't like the Williams sisters. I'm guessing jealousy has a lot to do with it. Pam became my hero last night, when she effectively shut mary down with statistics and facts. If there's a petition to be signed, I will gladly lend my signature.

Craig said...

Tin, take your bullshit back to the hole from which you crawled out.

Karen said...

This is a 3 part post. Sorry for the length:

I have been reading through the comments and thanks Craig for allowing everyone to air their views. For the record I think those who are in agreement with Carillo have missed the point entirely. The point of this is that: the incident happened, she apologised. An authority with jurisdiction in this matter heard and determined the issue and levied the approrpiate judgment. The issue that has arisen is that Serena gets repeatedly asked in press conferences, as well as Serena herself having launched a 92K campaign to allow her to raise a similar amount of funds to donate to charity. She has no problem in paying the fine. She has acknoweldged that what she did was wrong. A number of issues have arisen: 1. whether if it was a man whether the punishment would have been the same, the answer to that is no. Posters here and elsewhere have raised ad infinitum numerous cases of egregious behaviour by male athletes. As a matter of fact, one player in particular showed absolutely no remorse as not only did he threaten (throwing and/or hitting a ball in someone's direction with the intent to cause harm to that individual is an assault), as is threatening to shove a ball down someone's throat. 2. The Grand Slam Committee which has oversight of things of this nature, met and heard arguments over a 3 month period from all parties, including Serena's legal team, the USO organisers, the affected lineswoman and the various tournament directors of all 4 grand slams. At the end of that process, the Committee made its ruling.

Karen said...

What has come about is that in every single news conference Serena has been asked the question by reporters, some of whom have sought to imply that she has anger management issues. What has gone above and beyond free speech or anything on which Carillo and other ESPN commentators can rely, is the fact that in every single match that I have had the misfortune of watching Foot Fault Gate (as I have termed it) has been raised. While it is surely her right to comment on an issue as she sees fit, the fact that she went as far as to imply, nay, accuse Serena of getting away with murder. It was at this point that ESPN cut the broadcast and decided that it would be best if the broadcast took a break as it had become increasingly clear that while Carillo was trying to make her argument that Serena had no standing in which to bring an argument that the fine was gender related, Pam Shriver (not known for being a big Serena fan) provided evidence to the contrary that this was not in fact the case. She proceeded to relay to viewers the fact about NFL fines for infractions far worse than what Serena was accused of. ChuckRogers is of the view that this discussion should continue indefinitely. My question is how does this help the sport?

Karen said...

Last night thousands of viewers were incensed to the point that they took to twitter about it. Tennis fans turn on their tv to watch tennis, not to listen to commentators sharing their views on what would make tennis better, because viewers know that these commentators have no standing with the tennis authorities to effect any change whatsoever. If Carillo felt as strongly about this as she did, perhaps what she should have done was have her lawyers submit a brief to the Grand slam committee during its deliberations as to how Serena's egregious breach of tennis etiquette and her attempt to murder a lineswoman has brought the sport into disrepute. I have seen worst instances on the court of players (females in particular) who daily flout one of the longest standing rules of tennis, and indeed of all sports, and that is cheating. They consitently get coached from the stands, even though this is illegal, and both commentators as well as tournament officials turn a blind eye to this. If Carillo feels strongly about upholding the dignity of the sport, then she should make it her business to effect change across the board. She should not be selective in her approach. I, as a fan of both Serena and of tennis believe that this particular incident needs to be put in the backroom of a dark day in sport for both Serena and tennis. If someone like Roger Federer, the so-called hallmark of excellence in the sport chose to play an exhibition event with Serena Williams, after carefully considering the other women who played in that exhibition, then it needs to be said that she is not the devil in a yellow dress as Carillo would like us to think she is.

On another note, after listening to Mary-Jo criticise Venus' game, clearly she has no intention of calling her for Fed Cup duty?

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

Oh and just as an aside, if the incident with Serena does not have some gender tendencies attached to it, how come Justin Gimelstob still has a job doing commentary on tennis after his comments about Anna Kournikova were made public?

Craig said...

Mary Jo Fernandez sat in the studio and admitted that the reason why she was so disturbed by Serena's behavior is because, in her words, "Women vent their frustrations in private."

Someone tell me how this woman isn't admitting that perceptions of gender have no sway over how some people have perceived this incident? And if people have perceived this incident with these notions of appropriate behavior for women, then how can it be implausible that people would mete out a different punishment for a woman who crossed the line than for a man who crossed the same line and went even further?

Pamela summed it up best: Mary Carillo's remarks were tantamount to slander.

We'll revisit this discussion in the future.