The press release landed in my inbox yesterday. I would have told you right away but blogger was having issues. I can’t describe how thrilled I am over the news that Mary Carillo will be joining the Tennis Channel lineup to offer her unique style of commentary during Roland Garros and the US Open 2011. This is fantastic news. Finally, we will have a lively alternative to the grim Corina Moriaru.
I have no idea why the Tennis Channel has stuck with Moriaru for as long as it has. Girlfriend must come dirt cheap. What’s wrong with Moriaru you ask? Well for a start, her voice is gratingly annoying; she always sounds as if she is bordering on tears which depresses the hell out of me. Then there are her duh tennis observations that are so duh that one gets the sense that she would be duh without the media cheat sheet.
But (in my opinion) Moriaru’s biggest failing is that she lacks a true sense of humor. Sure she grins foolishly at the camera and smiles a lot. But that is not the same as having the kind of quick-thinking wit that allows you to come up with hysterically acerbic comments on the fly. Carillo has this latter ability in spades, plus intelligence to burn. I know that some tennis fans don’t like her for the very reason that I adore her. Suck it up chicas.
The reasons why Mary Carillo left ESPN in the middle of the 2010 US Open have remained shrouded in mystery. Jon Wertheim circumspectly alluded to philosophical differences, whatever the heck that means. Speaking only for myself, I believe that any network that is still holding on to those two assholes whom I have ungraciously dubbed El Gordo and El Flaco (aka Mike & Mike in the morning), is not deserving of the talent that is Mary Carillo. I applaud her for having the guts to say sayonara to the ESPN beast.
Mind you, let me not totally kick said beast in the butt lest it kick me back. I am deeply grateful to ESPN for their periodic tennis coverage. I wish that tennis tourney results appeared more routinely in their bottom-line news ticker. But hey, I know that this is basketball and baseball country, and that ESPN is as much about the superficial glitz as they are about commentary that can be compressed into a 30-second sound bite.
Yet my impression of Mary Carillo is that she has an instinctive understanding of how to come up with the 30-second sound bite if need be. What makes her far more threatening to the insecure is that she insists on combining this with solid tennis commentary. Some would prefer her to stick to her Carillo-isms. For others, it is these very pithy comments that make her annoying.
Carillo-isms are the name affectionately given to those mordant comments generated by Ms. Carillo at her zingiest best. Like when, in 2001, she looked dead-on at the camera and told Andy Roddick that he needed to fire his coach. Within a week poor Tariq (remember him?) was history. Here are a couple of other famous Carillo-isms I was able to find on the internet:
Mary: “Marcelo Rios told his coach before firing him, ‘I want to go in a different direction.’ His coach said, ‘What direction? Down?!'’And that’s exactly what happened!”
Or her comments on Justine Henin’s decision to take an abbreviated honeymoon: “They intentionally took a short honeymoon...they went to the Bahamas but only for a couple of days. Basically Justine said to him, ‘Alright, polish off that pina colada and let’s get outta here, I gotta go practice!’”
But Mary is so much more than her zinging comments. She is an articulate and insightful commentator. She does not play favorites, unlike most of the other commentators (Brad Gilbert anyone?). And as they say in the Caribbean, she doesn’t put water in her mouth when it comes to expressing her opinions, regardless of the ranking of the player.
This kind of refreshing honesty, combined with humor and intelligent analysis is exactly what tennis commentary needs. In this spirit, I hope that the Tennis Channel has the courage to allow Mary to fly. Carillo is not meant to be contained. She is a bright woman with laser-keen powers of tennis observation. Kudos to the Tennis Channel for giving her this opportunity to excel.