Tony Romo is a sellout.
On Sunday, during CBS’ broadcast of the Kansas City Chiefs-Tampa Bay Bucs game, Romo sold out the viewing audience for his affection, respect (and maybe even friendship) for Tom Brady.
Even as Brady, the Bucs’ old-new QB, struggled in the first half in an eventual 27-24 loss, Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback turned color commentator, blamed everyone… except Brady.
Romo handed out excuse after excuse.
His commentary about Brady was so sweet that viewers likely got a toothache just listening to it.
It was a sad reminder that former athletes aren’t always the best people to give an honest opinion about other players.
It’s a reminder that plenty of guys who turn to the booth or TV studio haven’t had formal training and aren’t close to being reporters or journalists.
Yes, many can’t be trusted to deliver sports fans an honest view of the game.
There are simply too many conflicts of interest — ranging from knowing players personally, sharing the same agent, or having played for the same organization.
It was so blatant, so over the top, that other TV analysts ripped Romo without saying his name on social media. ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark, a former defensive back in the league, tweeted this out:
“Dear current DBs I am sorry. I clearly don’t do my job correctly. I will now (as a former DB) look for every way to explain your mistakes as someone else’s fault. Former QBs do this well and I apologize for not having y’all back.”
Some fans, watching the game, got into the act and simply pounced on Romo like a blitzing linebacker in his playing career. One Tweet read: “Tony Romo is giving Brady every excuse in the book. Brady is washed up man.”
Clearly, on this day, Romo picked friendship over frankness.
This, of course, isn’t true for all. Some former athletes are great on TV. They bring both the honest insight of actually playing in games at the highest level and a brutally honest take on the situation.
Enter Charles Barkley on TNT.
The Hall of Fame NBAer protects no one, no league.
Barkley once said on national TV that the NBA was “unwatchable.” Barkley’s unvarnished mouth also cost himself his friendship with Michael Jordan.
Barkley criticized MJ’s work as an executive. Jordan took it personally.
But it’s why fans watch Barkley. We want it 💯. All the time. Fans are smarter than people give them credit for.
And this isn’t a jealousy thing. Romo is wildly popular with many NFL fans. Romo has a knack for calling plays and situations before they happen. That’s the kind of analyst you’re looking for when you watch a game.
It’s why Romo is getting gobs of money from the network.
Having athletes in the booth is nothing new. In fact, it was made popular in the 70s with Monday Night Football. Howard Cosell, an iconic sportscaster, worked with many.
But even he was bothered by it way back when, and famously dubbed it “jockocracy.”
Players have a stake in it, a horse in the race.
It doesn’t always lead to cozy coverage, either.
Many thought NBA analyst Paul Pierce was too harsh on LeBron James in his commentary because the two were rivals during Pierce’s playing days in the league.
The fact remains that players aren’t always the most objective. In 2017, 128 out of 324 NBA players didn’t vote for LeBron James for the All-Star Game. That was personal.
And as much as sportswriters and journalists are ripped by fans for not being fair, media members are actually the most objective because they don’t have a horse in the race.
For all the crap that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America gets about its Hall of Fame votes, those same guys voted Barry Bonds the NL MVP — seven times.
Bonds never had a good relationship with the media. But it didn’t stop them from honoring a player who was obviously worthy of the award.
It’s a warning to fans to be wary of where you get your sports information. Avoid places that are compromised.
It’s like going to the Players’ Tribune and expecting a story that makes a player look bad. Or going to your favorite team’s website and expecting a column saying the coach should be fired.
Neither will happen.
And neither will you always get unbiased coverage from former players — even when everyone is watching. Romo proved that.