Discover more from The Sports Column
TONY ROMO SHOULD GIGGLE AT THE TV NETWORK DOPES WHO OVERPAID HIM
The media racket is filled with dumb bosses, and Romo is making a mockery of his CBS superiors, who gave him $175 million when he was a sensation and now stage “interventions” as his popularity wanes
Laugh, Tony Romo. Make another Subway, Corona, Pizza Hut, DirectTV or Skechers commercial. Play a round of golf, then another. And please realize that you deserve a career achievement award, having made even bigger dopes of the fools who run television sports divisions.
Three years ago, because Romo predicted plays before they happened and never stopped smiling, CBS decided he was worth $175 million as an NFL booth commentator through 2029. The unprecedented investment was either inane or insane, actually both. The network bosses were knee-jerk-reacting to people they should disregard as peripheral wannabes: the screechy look-at-me mobs on social media, who went overboard with their raves and created a Romonster because he was different and refreshing and seemed like a cool guy to watch a game with. This prompted those who write about sports media — by and large, dorky fanboys trying to justify their professional existence — to respond like sheep and deify him as a broadcasting god.
In truth, Romo was good at best, sometimes average, never worth $17.5 million annually. And now that the tweet dweebs finally have acknowledged reality, they’ve decided that he really, really sucks. They’ve taken a radical U-turn in the middle of dumbass highway: Now, he might be the worst football analyst who ever lived. That has caused the sports media sheep to deduce that he’s in a slump, which sounded alarms in the midtown Manhattan suite of CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. Last offseason, according to the New York Post, McManus and the network’s top game producer made separate trips to Romo’s home in north Texas.
The headline called it an “intervention to address Romo’s slippage.”
An intervention normally is associated with addiction or other social ills. To apply it in a sports TV context is all you need to know about megalomania at the executive level. With Romo receiving negative feedback for the first time — reviews, remember, from digital carnival barkers who influence sports media groupthink — the course of action from McManus and other CBS leaders was extreme. It was time, in their minds, to rescue Romo. They also were saving their own scalps for handing him $175 million, overpaying when they weren’t pressured to do so after ESPN bailed out of a brief bidding war.
Whatever they told Romo, it didn’t work, because his performances were as uneven this season as they were in 2021. Not that 332 million Americans care, beyond the tiny fraction consumed by such silliness. If you polled the masses, most will plead indifference about who broadcasts a game. They’re too busy trying to dodge viruses and feed their kids while praying that a Chinese spy balloon doesn’t land on the roof. The massive, top-this deals given to booth analysts — Romo’s $175 million begat Troy Aikman’s $1 million per-game average — only titillate the network brokers and industry agents battling in power sandboxes. When Fox lost Aikman to an ESPN poach, scion Lachlan Murdoch turned around and gave $375 million to Tom Brady, who may or may not be any good if and when he chooses to stop animated phone conversations during his daughter’s soccer games and jumpstarts his TV career.
And if Brady is deemed by social media to be deficient, Fox executives will stage their own intervention, which might prod Brady to tackle other pursuits, hopefully nothing like the movie bomb — “80 For Brady” — that he funded as a co-producer. If nothing else, the tweet mobs will bemoan the absence of Greg Olsen, the current rage of the booth, just as Romo once was, and force Fox to create a three-man yapfest of Brady, Olsen and perpetually exuberant play-by-player Kevin Burkhardt. The sports media sheep will support the move, of course, because it might get them a few “likes” from the mobs.
In praising Olsen, they’ll conveniently ignore an un-woke hiccup from his distant past. Google “Greg Olsen rap song” and up comes a debacle from his collegiate days at Miami, when he and teammates recorded an unfortunate music video. This was the contribution from Olsen, aka G-Reg: “(What’s your name?) G-Reg. (What you do?) Get head. (How you do it?) Drop my drawers, let her see my third leg. Chillin’ on the 7th floor, I gotta let these chickens know Big Greg is in the house, and I’m gonna to make these hoes choke. On my balls, on my dick then I bust a nut quick. On her face, on her chest, stick my dick between her breasts. Come on fellas, let’s get weird. Stick your dick up in her ear. While I’m laughin’ at these guys, a second nut all in her eyes. (Wait a minute, in her eyes?) In her eyes.”
Writing columns in Chicago at the time, I wasn’t impressed by his lyrics and wondered why the Bears drafted him. Sixteen years later, I chalk him up as a clueless collegian in less evolved times. Since then, Olsen has matured and become one of the most admired family men in sports, having helped his grade-school-age son through three heart surgeries and a transplant, an ordeal you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. The only reason I mention the filthy rap song: Not to embarrass Olsen, but to shame the sports media critics who have selective amnesia about broadcasters. They wish to protect people like Olsen so they remain in favor at the networks, where they maintain access to self-promoting executives and broadcasters and might cash in with job employment someday should their writing jobs shrivel up. If a video suddenly surfaced of Romo rapping about making “hoes choke” at Eastern Illinois, he’d probably be fired the next day. See, he’s in the media dumper right now, whereas Olsen is everyone’s fave.
This inconsistency happens throughout the sports media racket. I know columnists who did their best work in the 1970s and 1980s and, despite diminished efforts, have coasted on dusty reputations for decades. Same goes for local TV sportscasters who have name recognition but can’t correctly pronounce names. Their employers have seen circulation and audience numbers free-fall as a result. That’s the business Tony Romo entered. That’s the business he’s turning into a mockery.
So, yeah, he’s advised to ignore it all, enjoy his offseason and monitor direct deposit for those multi-million-dollar checks. The CBS bosses are the ones who mistakenly splurged for him and created the Romonster. And the reason they liked him — upbeat, fan-friendly spontaneity — now is being viewed as a lack of preparedness. They’ll have to eat their mistake, unless they find a red flag in his life that feeds an attorney’s loophole. He’ll just swerve around all questions related to his booth decline and tap into his golf obsession, which Fox Sports Radio host Colin Cowherd cites as the reason for Romo’s analytical struggles, earning Cowherd brownie points from network upper-ups. Also earning brownie points: Post sportswriter Andrew Marchand, who wrote the “intervention” story, which might have been planted by someone connected to Fox, seeing how Lachlan and his father, Rupert, still own the newspaper in some business entanglement.
“I think you’re always evolving,” Romo said last week during, natch, a paid promotional event for Michelob Ultra and Netflix. “I mean, some changes are good, some you’re like, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t do that.’ But I always trial and error a bunch and sometimes it works. I mean, the ability to adapt and learn, if you never try to change at all — I just think, like, the best players in the world aren’t afraid of failure. You’re going to fail all the time, but at the same time, you succeed because of that, as long as you think about it and try to understand how to improve and then go about the process to make that happen, which is work ethic and commitment. But you got to have a plan for it before.”
Spoken like an accidental thief who has tens of millions coming his way for trial and error, adapting and learning. “I just think it’s enjoyable to try and be the best you can be, and the only way to do that is sometimes to trial and error, and staying inside the umbrella of what you think that the viewer wants to help them enjoy the show,” Romo said. “You don’t always get it right, but I do think more often than not, just the people that come up to you all the time. I mean, it’s quadruple from my first two to three years, of how many people come up to me on the street and want to talk about it and how they loved it and stuff. So it’s really rewarding for that.”
At the highest levels of media, you’re better off shrugging and not caring than caring too much. Let the bosses play their clown games and live your life in the meantime. I once decided to do exactly that, returning an ample sum to a hapless newspaper so I could escape a room of loser editors, then appearing on HBO’s “Real Sports” to explain why. All the while, I was torched by social media and trashy websites, and, occasionally, I’d fire wry retorts. Eventually, I ignored them, and they moved on to other targets. Such as, Tony Romo.
With a zero or two more in his paychecks, he should do the same and tune out the clatter. CBS has to pay him for SEVEN MORE YEARS. Just laugh, bro, and keep selling whatever passes as Subway lunch meat.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.