Yesterday, I watched the men’s final of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, with Andy Murray once again reigning supreme as he did in 2013. This time, Milos Raonic of Canada was the victim in straight but tough sets, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6.
In the pre-match coverage, ESPN made note of the fact that John McEnroe was a “grass court consultant” of the Canadian player as well as a match commentator. While he didn’t commentate on Raonic’s semifinal win over Roger Federer, he did sit in the ESPN booth and gave analysis in the Murray-Raonic final.
Don’t get me wrong. As an at least 75% Irish-American, I admired McEnroe as a player. He often argued with the stuffy “old boy network” that ran tennis back in the 1980’s, famously commenting on a call that didn’t go his way in 1981 at Wimbledon: “You cannot be serious!”
McEnroe’s done well in his post playing days as a commentator, and has called several Grand Slam matches over the years for US networks and others worldwide. But all that time, he’s never been in the position (that I can remember) where he was both a commentator and a consultant for a player he’s commentating on.
ESPN didn’t have a problem with McEnroe serving both masters, but I think they blundered in doing so. With all the coverage and commentators they had on the payroll, I think the best thing to have done was to have John’s brother Patrick McEnroe serve as the sole analyst to Chris Fowler, or bring another analyst in to supplement the pair.
John Madden was a great NFL coach, but he was never a coach and a commentator at the same time. I don’t think it’s the best ethics to let experts also serve as coaches or consultants. Somewhere, Howard Cosell turns again in his grave.