In a move that had been whispered in television and tennis circles for the past few months, CBS yesterday announced that it has hired John McEnroe as an analyst for its coverage of tennis' U.S. Open in August.
The outspoken McEnroe, 36, who has been a part of NBC's French Open team, and will join its Wimbledon entourage starting next week, will join Tim Ryan and Mary Carillo in the stadium court booth in Flushing Meadow, N.Y.
"He's somebody special that brings an excitement to tennis and, let's face it, tennis is looking for an excitement level," said Rick Gentile, executive vice president for production at CBS Sports.
McEnroe will be paired with Carillo, a childhood friend, in the analysis of the men's singles semifinals and championship, a teaming that seems destined to lead to fireworks, since McEnroe has gone out of his way to disparage Carillo's ability to comment on men's tennis because she never played against men.
Gentile said Carillo will remain the network's lead tennis analyst and that she and McEnroe will not do a "Dan Ackroyd-Jane Curtin on the air," recalling the "Point-Counterpoint" sketch from the old "Saturday Night Live," where the two would fire off insults at each other during a debate.
"I just think it's going to be fun. They're both outspoken. They're both very strong people with personalities. They both have skills. It's going to be a fun kind of deal," said Gentile.
But McEnroe hasn't been content just to knock Carillo. During a French Open telecast, he said Martina Navratilova, whom Gentile said CBS is close to signing to a similar U.S. Open deal, was told to lose a July exhibition to Monica Seles, which will be shown on CBS.
Given McEnroe's history of for making less than flattering remarks about women in tennis, along with recent alleged statements attributed to golf analyst Ben Wright about women's golf and lesbians, does CBS have a problem with sexism?
Gentile said he doesn't think so.
"He [McEnroe] has said, 'Just as I would never broadcast women's tennis, Mary should not do men's tennis.' That's his opinion. We have no expectation or desire to have him do analysis for women's tennis. That's not part of the plan," said Gentile, adding, "Any group of comments can be connected anyway one wants to connect them, but I don't really see any connection other than they were both about women and one of them [Wright's] were alleged."
Lighten up, will ya?
Some of our Canadian friends have turned their complaining into out-and-out whining about the NHL's scheduling contortions to accommodate Fox in the first year of its five-year contract with the network, and Fox analyst John Davidson wishes they'd cut it out.
"I get sick and tired of Canadians whining over what could happen on American TV. The idea of this is not to hurt the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corp.] or ESPN or Fox, but to try to improve this [hockey], which could help Canadian teams," said Davidson.
The CBC's ratings for afternoon playoff games has slipped, but Davidson said he believes the short-term pain will help the league experience long-term gain.
"You have to juggle things to try to make it work. That means some things have to change. The underlying thought is to make the sport bigger and better," said Davidson. "Everybody's trying to do something that's better for the game. When you hear people whine and complain without taking a long-term view, it gets frustrating."
Leave it to David Letterman to put a different spin on Darryl Strawberry's return to baseball through a gig with the New York Yankees.
During Monday night's "Late Show," Letterman said: "The Yankees' feeling is that this [the signing] is going to bring a lot of people out to the park. And I'm thinking -- like attorneys, IRS agents, parole officers, dealers; just pack the place."