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Tim Healey of Channel 3 seems so clinically depressed as to be incapable of uttering anything but reading the scores handed to him as they come over the wire. There is a single common denominator shared by every television sports reporter in this market. They all want to be friends with Joe Bugel and the Cardinals players. It seems their fondest wish is to pat Bugel on the back and tell him what a great job he's doing. They want him to know them by their first names and use them when he appears with them on the air. To them that is the symbol of success in Phoenix. And, above all, they want the job to be comfortable for both them and for Bugel. Let's all be gentlemen.
In that they have succeeded. The only ones who are left out in the cold are the football fans who are forced to watch a very dull football team that keeps losing year after year. Not only must they watch a dull team, but then they are also subjected to a mediocre, gutless crew of media people covering up for the Cards.
This extends to the radio coverage on KTAR, as well. Tom Dillon, the lead announcer, obviously feels he must maintain his friendship with Bugel. At least Dillon must do so until Bugel gets fired sometime this winter.
Here's Dillon talking to Bugel after last Sunday's game.
Does he ask Bugel why he quit giving the ball to Johnny Johnson, a strategy that was working so well it would have assured victory? No, of course he doesn't.
Does he ask Bugel when he's going to stop using injuries and poor officiating as an excuse for losing?
No, of course he doesn't. This is what we get instead.
"Thanks for the visit, Joe," Dillon says. "I know it's a tough one. But I wish you and the family Merry Christmas."
And Bugel says, "I want to say thanks to our fans, and I want to wish them all a Merry Christmas." Todd Walsh is another of the Cardinals' radio color men for KTAR. He apparently thinks it is his duty to defend the work of the local radio and television media.
He spoke disparagingly last Sunday of an Indianapolis writer who charged that "the Cardinals are playing out the string."
Walsh knows they aren't playing out the string, because the players, all protecting their lucrative jobs, tell him so. And he pretends to believe them.
It's not only the Cardinals who have quit and are going through the motions. It is also the local television and radio personalities assigned to cover them. What they are doing--and have been doing--is engaging in one big, lazy cover-up for all the years the Cardinals have been playing in Sun Devil Stadium.
But Bugel isn't through selling his snake oil yet.
"Our pride's at stake," he now says. "We gotta build for next year."
What pride, Joe? What next year?
A final glimpse tells all. At the close of the radio show last Sunday, Dillon presented Bugel with a gift for appearing.
"Here's a gift certificate for you, Joe," he said.
Then Dillon signed off.
"And thanks to Bill Bidwill for the nice dinner we enjoyed last night in Indianapolis," Dillon said over the air to the great Buddha who is the Cardinals' owner.
P.S. The Cardinals' tax reports reveal that Bidwill pays himself a salary of $1.3 million per year. He can afford the dinner.