Sean McDonough Flap Over ‘Asian’ Name Another Non-Gotcha Moment For Mainstream Media

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A made-in-the-mainstream-media squall is causing sports broadcaster Sean McDonough some heartache because he had a little fun with a Pakistani surname during a Boston Red Sox broadcast.

Yet this one doesn’t pass the old David Letterman test:  Is this anything?

The answer:

No.

McDonough during a lull in the Wild Card game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees on Tuesday, October 5 pointed out the unlikely 107-win regular season the San Francisco Giants put together this year. The Giants president of baseball operations is Farhan Zaidi, whose name is roughly pronounced “FAR-hahn ZY-dee.” He was, according to his Wikipedia page and other sources, born in Canada and grew up in the Philippines, the son of Muslims originally from Pakistan.

The manager of the Giants is Gabe Kapler, who once played for the Red Sox.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange McDonough and Red Sox play-byplay broadcaster Will Flemming on WEEI radio (via audio from SFGate.com):

 

Sean McDonough:  Tell me, who saw San Francisco’s 107 wins coming?

Will Flemming:  Maybe nobody outside of Farhan Zaidi and Kapler, they’ve just done an unbelievable job and who knows, maybe we can have a World Series reunion.

Sean McDonough:  Their GM’s name is “High Anxiety”?

 

There you have it. McDonough turned “FAR-HAHN ZY-DEE” into “High Anxiety.”

Why does this mean anything?

Well, Zaidi is a Muslim. And McDonough made fun of his name. (A little.)

It’s not much of a comment from McDonough, who was apparently trying to fill space. It’s even less of an observation from a Reuters reporter who bothered to point it out on Twitter.

Cue the outrage.

News stories in The Boston Globe, NBC Sports, Yahoo Sports all reported the incident as if it’s … an incident.

One web site actually called it “a racially insensitive moment” allegedly part of the Boston Red Sox’s allegedly “racist legacy.” If that comment is for real – and maybe I’m missing an inside joke – it’s remarkable for being false in every detail.

Chad Finn of The Boston Globe reported reaching McDonough, who, he says, “chose not to comment on the record.”

Let’s imagine some off-the-record comments:

 

What is this about?

Are you kidding?

No offense was intended or achieved.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

 

McDonough’s name-sounding aside is in a long tradition in sports. In 2009, a walk-on kicker took Boston College by storm. He had an odd-sounding (to American ears) name:  Steve Aponavicius. (Roughly:  STEEV uh-PAW-nuh-VIH-shus.) It’s Lithuanian. B.C. kids took to calling him “Sid Vicious,” the stage name of an English punk rocker who died seven years before Aponavicius was born.

Did a firestorm erupt?

No.

Aponavicius, you see, being Lithuanian, is not a member of a protected class.

And there lies the rub.

There shouldn’t be protected classes in America.

We’re all Americans — or, at least, people who live here. No special status need apply.

A truly vicious attack on someone should be called out, no matter who the victim of it is. Harmless fun – or even, as in this case, harmless nonentity – should be ignored.

A noteworthy aside, though:  Sports broadcasting is an increasingly dreary business.  Play-by-play announcers routinely miss key parts of plays that they are presumably watching on the same monitor that viewers are seeing at home. They spend endless minutes droning on about a game coming up three days from now that no one watching this game would possibly care about. They make hyperbolic statements about run-of-the-mill plays and players, and ignore interesting facets of unusual plays and occurrences. They sometimes seem to forget that instant replays exist. There are entire broadcasts that sound like one extended series of overhyped promos.

In this sad context we have one – and exactly one – Sean McDonough. He is one of the best sports broadcasters ever. His incisive and at times highly opinionated commentary is often riveting stuff, homing in on key occurrences in a game that ought to be emphasized.

He calls players and coaches and officials to account. He doesn’t hedge bets, or call obviously bad decisions “controversial,” as if maybe there are two sides to it.

His last-second calls of exciting finishes are among the best ever, as this greatest-hits compilation shows.

He also has an actual sense of humor, which can sometimes make even a boring game worth paying attention to.

One favorite moment is when he was calling a late-night early-round NCAA Basketball Tournament game with Bill Raftery, a fellow Irish-American, maybe 25 years ago. As the game pushed well past 11 on March 16, he announced to CBS (his employer) that at midnight McDonough and Raftery would be out of there.

(To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you see.)

Then there was the time one of those floating sideline cameras went haywire during a college football game, moving out of control and shooting up sparks, causing a stoppage. McDonough proclaimed it “Delay of game on ESPN.”

In order to exhibit a sense of humor you have to exercise it – to look for the funny things in life and try out ways of describing them. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. Always, you move on.

That’s what McDonough was doing Tuesday with an unusual-sounding name. He swung, and he missed.

So what?

It wasn’t an attack. It wasn’t demeaning. It wasn’t that funny.

It wasn’t, as David Letterman might say, anything.

 

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