Steve Young doesn’t like football or watch games, and That’s Fine

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Steve Young is a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, a Super Bowl champion, an inductee to the Pro Hall of Fame and currently a football analyst for ESPN. Except apparently, he doesn’t really like football anymore.

Last week Bloomberg published a story about Young entitled Steve Young is an Athlete Who’s Actually Good at Finance. The story is ostensibly about Young’s efforts to establish a life for himself after football and how he has managed to become very successful in this endeavor where many others have failed. However, that message tends to get lost when snippets such as this are included:

Young says he may have quit ESPN years ago if not for his private equity partners, who like him to keep a high profile. When he works a Monday Night game for the network, he spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium preparing his commentary, he says; the rest of the time, he’s holed up in HGGC’s suite, cramming for deals. Once the game starts, he barely watches the action. A couple of transactions, he notes, have even been agreed to with handshakes in the suites.

“My wife hates football, and my kids don’t really care,” Young says. “I see myself as a deal guy first. I’ve put football behind me. Roger Staubach once told me—and I’ll never forget it: ‘When you retire, run. Never look back.’ ”

This is obviously a bad look for Young as well as ESPN. The above quote makes it sound as though Young isn’t invested in football or his job at ESPN beyond what it gains him in his other job. And ESPN is made to look as if they are employing someone, a very visible member of their Monday Night Football crew, who isn’t really doing their job.

So of course ESPN sent Young to do damage control. Via Awful Announcing:

“I participated in this story to encourage athletes to think about their futures because I want to inspire them to think this way. I have worked hard to build an expertise in two different fields, and I am proud of that. I have built one over the course of 35 years as a football player and analyst. The other, in private equity, I’ve established over 18 years. I’m focused on being excellent at both — and without sacrificing one for the other,” Young said. “Staying connected to the game and working for ESPN are very meaningful to me. In no way did I intend to suggest otherwise.”

ESPN senior vice president of events  and studio production Stephanie Druley also noted that Young “watches games, actively participates in production meetings and contributes weekly analysis to our studio shows using a camera that ESPN installed in his office.”

Except games he attends, evidently.

If football has become secondary to Young in his post-NFL life, that’s fine. If ESPN has no qualms about how Young goes about his job, that’s fine. Steve Young probably knows enough about football to analyze games and provide intelligent commentary without giving his full attention.

Many sports fans are intelligent enough to realize that national sports commentators don’t really watch or pay attention to their local team(s) on a daily or even weekly basis. They watch a game or two to prepare for a game they’re calling, speak to a coach and some players, read some recent headlines and say whatever comes to mind. They’re subject experts, not experts on particular teams.

They can comment on generalities but when attempting to provide analysis of the situation with a specific team they will often get things wrong or provide odd interpretations of events simply because they’re not around the team on a daily basis. And that’s fine.

Young said what he said and no amount of damage control will change that fact. Just don’t pretend it doesn’t mean what it obviously does. It only calls more attention to the fact that ESPN doesn’t want everyone knowing Steve Young, NFL commentator, doesn’t really pay much attention to the NFL or put much thought into his commentary.

As long as ESPN believes Young is doing his job, Young is putting forth enough Ieffort to make ESPN happy and Young doesn’t turn into Phil Simms, it’s fine.

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