It's time to stop being Baltimore-nice about local sports icons Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis and their cable TV careers.
Being Hall of Famers on the field doesn't automatically translate to success in the studio or broadcast booth. In fact, it's often the opposite, with a former star's over-sized ego and sense of entitlement making him the least likely to succeed.
Actually, I haven't been that hometown-nice to Lewis. Last year, when he started waving his credit card around on ESPN and offered to pay half of a fine levied by the NFL against San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks for a hit on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, I called him a hotdog and a blowhard and compared him to a drunk in a bar.
Still, I was too nice.
And I have been pulling punches on Mr. Iron Man way too long.
Given his I-don't-really-want-to-be-here demeanor in the TBS broadcast booth during the first two games of the ALCS series, it needs to be said: Ripken stinks as a TV analyst. I hope this is the last series he ever calls for TBS.
He could not have been more off the mark in his analysis of Orioles' pitcher Chris Tillman in Game 1. As I said in my review the next day, as late as the third inning, when the Royals started scoring, Ripken still was saying that Tillman was “struggling with his control just a little bit.”
It was a lot more than "just a little bit," and it took Mike Bordick, who was standing in a camera well down on the field for TBS, to set the record straight by saying what everyone but Ripken appeared to see: that Tillman's mechanics were fundamentally messed up from the first pitch with his front shoulder flying open time and again, damaging his control and velocity.
But worse, Saturday in the second game, Ripken was sometimes silent for stretches of time, even after Ernie Johnson, TBS' smooth play-by-play announcer, tried to tee it up for his analysis.
Compared to MASN's Jim Palmer, who is 15 years older, Ripken seemed somewhere between somnolent and comatose in this playoff series during the first two games.
Ripken was a little less lethargic in the telecast Tuesday night of a 2 to 1 Orioles' loss, but it didn't make for that much better a performance. And showing up for only one out of three games does not an all-star make.
As for Lewis, I have been so focused on the larger media story of TMZ successfully getting video of Rice's vicious attack on his then-fiancee, that I didn't have time to monitor how the former Ravens linebacker was handling the story on ESPN.
But in going back and looking at it: what a red hot mess, especially Lewis saying, "There's some things you can cover up and then there's some things you can't. Right now, is a sad day for me because the reputation that I left in this organization, this isn't it."
Many commenters on social media thought it was exactly the reputation he left the Ravens with, given his obstruction of justice plea in an Atlanta murder.
Deadspin and others ripped ESPN for even letting Lewis speak on the Rice matter given the huge conflict of interest Lewis has when it comes to the Ravens - as well as all his Atlanta baggage.
The more Lewis talks about matters like this on ESPN, the more the public sees how little his words actually mean. He delivers them with great vigor, but when you line them up and start to take them apart, it is all too clear that he is often speaking nonsense.
And every case of an NFL player behaving badly is going to only remind ESPN viewers of the decidedly checkered past Lewis brings to its NFL studio shows.
ESPN should have stepped in last year when Lewis injected himself in the Drew Brees story as a participant, and it never should have let him anywhere near the Rice story given his past.
Blame ESPN for having such low standards. But condemn Lewis for seeming to have none when it comes to serving the interests of his owner-friends, like Steve Bisciotti, or the NFL public relations machine - rather than those of viewers and fans.