Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another "Oh My" Moment for Dick Enberg

When is a Dick an Ass? When he's an Enberg.

2009 U.S. Open tennis winner Juan Martin Del Potro got a trophy, $2 million dollars and a Lexus, but all he really wanted to do was say a few words in Spanish.

Once again, Dick "Oh My!" Enberg has lived up to his name by squeezing the air out of big broadcasting moments and begging the question: why don't you retire and leave the airwaves to the competent? As a sports commentator for CBS Sports, 74-year-old Dick Enberg has stayed too long at the fair and should be put to pasture. All he can add are the usual bromides about the obvious stars, though even then he manages to mangle their names, tennis being an international sport and Enberg being the lazy and embarrassing embodiment of The Ugly American aesthetic. Remember Enberg's gaffe at the 2007 U.S. Open when he called Justine Henin - who was so shattered by a messy divorce settlement earlier in the year that she withdrew from the Australian Open - by her married name of Henin-Hardenne during the trophy presentation? But hey, as Shakespeare pondered, what's in a name, right?

And as far as international relations go, who cares if these award ceremonies - with the exception of the French Open (God bless the French!) - are by defacto conducted in English. Is that a problem, we monolingual Yanks ask? (Made me think of that Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in which a clueless Larry David mistakes the Norwegian golf pro for a Swede: "Swedish, Norwegian - what's the difference anyway?" to which Sven angrily retorts "Language, history, culture!") U.S. Open Women's Singles Runnerup Caroline Wozniacki conducted her post-match interview in English, Danish, and Polish. Federer speaks at least four laanguages fluently, and even Nadal has gotten savvy enough with his Spanglish to talk to the American press. But with the exception of soccer star Landon Donovan and Lakers star Kobe Bryant, I've never seen an American sports figure conduct an interview in a foreign language.

But I digress (as I usually do)...my point is, we're lucky that so many international sports figures - many of whom have bypassed school to turn pro at an early age - can speak English. But it is their second language at best. So during their Taylor Swift moment of glory in the spotlight, let them express themselves in their native language if they want. And don't first refuse and then grudgingly let them speak "quickly" as Dick Enberg did on Monday night. As Progressive pitchwoman Flo would say, "That's cold!"

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the U.S. Open trophy (or rather atrophied) ceremonies Monday night following world No. 6 Juan Martin Del Potro's exciting five set victory over five-time defending champion Roger Federer when Enberg brusquely brushed off Del Potro's request to say a few words in Spanish like the teary-eyed 20-year-old Argentine wunderkid was a panhandler asking for bus fare.

Del Potro's Spanish address prompted a huge ovation from the crowd (which included many Argentines in their national soccer jerseys and waving flags) and brought tears to his eyes. It was a big moment of national pride - one that Argentina needs in a year in which their soccer team is struggling to qualify for the World Cup.

I'm glad that I'm not the only one to criticize Enberg and CBS for the awkwardness of the trophy presentation ceremnonies. I agree with the viewer who wrote the following complaint to the U.S. Open officials, one that perfectly illustrates how demeaning this dis was to Del Potro:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to register a very strong complaint about the US Open telecast last night - in particular, about your hosts’ behaviour at the presentation ceremony.

Juan Martin del Potro had just won his first major, defeating his idol in the final, and he wanted to address his friends and family in his native language - I don’t understand Spanish, but it was clearly something that meant a lot and was a very emotional moment for him.

It was most disrespectful and extremely crass of Dick Enberg to deny del Potro his moment by first declining outright his very polite request, and then later granting it only after being extremely condescending (”Quickly.”). I don’t know whether it was him personally, or whether someone from CBS was in his ear telling him to finish it quickly, but how can anyone possibly promote, defend or excuse such behaviour? In addition, the pathetic excuse given was a lack of time - but there was obviously enough time to tell del Potro that he was getting a nice Lexus (and making a pitch for the product at the same time)!! I am sure that Mr. Del Potro would have greatly preferred to speak to his people instead of being told what wonderful prizes he was getting for winning.

Again, I am dismayed by the great disrespect shown to a worthy champion in favour of appeasing corporate sponsors and/or pursuing the regularly scheduled programmes, and hence I am of the opinion that Juan Martin del Potro is owed an official apology from CBS and Mr. Enberg

And a blogger named YoungGuns added:
During tonights US Open award ceremony Dick Enberg did a couple things that were more disrespectful than what Kanye West did last night. What Kanye did was a classless thing to do and whether or not he was drunk (which I believe he was) it was something that no entertainer should do to another.

What Dick Enberg did did is much worse however. Dick decided to treat Roger Federer like the winner of the tournament while Del Potro was treated like an aftershow. He allowed Federer more time at the mic and made many references to the past championships rather than the one at hand. To top things off he orginally did not allow Del Potro to speak in his native tongue to his fellow countrymen after the English interview stating that they were running out of time and needed to get on with the ceremony. Only after a little convincing did he allow the rebuffed and crestfallen Del Potro to speak "a few quick words in Spanish."

His U.S. Open quips won't make this edition

Naturally the suits at CBS defended Enberg and said he was only doing his job. As the National Post wrote, "Enberg's bosses were probably screaming in his earpiece to move quickly to get back-to-back episodes of How I Met Your Mother — reruns, no less — on the air." But as a supposed lover of the game of tennis, Enberg surely must know that regardless of the corporate vultures for whom he shills, there is the Sportscasting Moment that can never be replayed. This was it, this was Del Potro's moment, and Enberg the Company Man sided with the filthy lucre over The Beautiful Game. Swing and a miss, Dick. Again.

Related Links:
Can I Speak in Spanish? (NY Times)
Angry reaction to host who refused to let Del Potro speak in Spanish (Buenos Aires Herald)

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3:35 AM  

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