So, over the weekend, ESPN announced that race lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid is no longer employed with ESPN. ESPN said only that they "decided to go a different direction." Marty was in the ABC booth for IndyCar races for the last several years.
Here’s the deal: people get fired. I got fired in 2007. Well, technically, it was a layoff of one. I got severance and didn’t commit any fireable offenses, but I still got the human resources walk out. So I don't kid myself. I got canned. The message was clear: “we’re going another direction.”
All these things flash through your head when you get canned. And, although I know there were people where I worked who were happy, maybe even celebratory, that I got wacked, nobody posted a bunch of halleuahs online about it.
The man fired me, I started my own full-time freelance writing business (Relief Writer), and it’s been the happiest six years of my professional life.
Also, the day I got fired I took up residence in a glass house, so you’ll not see me throwing stones of celebration when someone else gets "let go," even if I didn't like him or her very much.
Not so with some race fans who seem to be letting their passions get the best of them with a celebratory cry of “YES!” when the word came out that Marty got the hook. I get where that comes from. Being a sports announcer is an extremely difficult job. Every syllable is parsed and commented upon. Lord knows I’ve participated with snark roiling through my notes from each race. I'm also quite sure I have failed to be fair on occasion to Marty everyone else in the booth over the years.
Play-by-play announcers understand that the scrutiny and criticism comes with the job. You have to have a thick skin to be in the broadcast booth. Passionate fans also tend to become kind of selfish in a way. We focus on what would make the sport more awesome for US, and view events a bit abstractly through the lens of how it benefits US.
And, I think a lot of fans love to use announcing as a scapegoat to take the blame for a putrid race product. The argument goes: "The race wasn’t bad; the telecast/announcing was bad! If the broadcast was worth a crap, this no-passing, fuel-strategy parade would have been SCINTILLATING."
Whatever you say, Pollyanna. But, hey, that stuff comes with the announcer's mic, especially in the era of a zillion channels for fan feedback. Marty got his share of criticism. Fair and unfair. I was far from blameless in that area. But I met Marty here and there informally as part of operating this blog. I interviewed him before the 2012 Indy 500. He was pretty philosophical about the life (and professional death) of a broadcaster in that interview. He always struck me as a nice guy. He seemed to me to be very low ego and doing his best.
What I know for sure is I would SUCK in the announcer booth. I would set new records for putrid. It’s a very difficult job. You got five people talking in your ear. You gotta keep track of what’s up on the track. You gotta throw it to your booth mates, kind of manage that relationship, throw it to the pit reporters, work in the sponsor mentions and, oh yeah, keep it fresh and lively. And if the race sucks, you gotta try and make it interesting for the audience. That’s all.
Bottom line for me is that Marty Reid doesn’t deserve to have people dancing on his professional grave. Very few people deserve that. Do unto others and all that. If you want to look forward to who's next in the booth, fine. Maybe do that without ridiculing Mr. Reid.
Go in peace Marty Reid. Best wishes. Thanks for the memories.