CBS's Olsen no longer handing out NFL bouquets

November 12, 1991|By Bob Raissman | Bob Raissman,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- Has Merlin Olsen traded in those tickler bouquets for a blow gun armed with some very pointed darts?

Well, after hearing his commentary during CBS's Giants-Phoenix game Sunday, we must say the man is going through a metamorphosis. Olsen took out the gun and aimed it at the biggest cat on the field -- Lawrence Taylor.

After discussing Taylor's post-Philly freakout "47 people quit" remark with play-by-play man Dick Stockton, Olsen -- unlike assorted tapeheads and pen-toters who applauded Taylor's spiel -- made one heck of a point.

"If I were a teammate of Lawrence Taylor's, it [his post-Philly comment] would be eating at me, especially considering his preparation Monday for this [Phoenix] game was 36 holes of golf," Olsen said.

Monday, Olsen wasn't backtracking. "I think that a day before a game a player owes it to himself and his team to concentrate and get a day of rest," Olsen said. "Maybe I'm out of it, but I couldn't conceive of playing golf the day before a game."

There were some who just didn't get what Olsen was saying. On a New York cable channel, Harry Carson -- reacting to Bouquet Boy -- explained that Taylor has played rounds of golf before games for a long time. But, in our mind, that wasn't what Olsen was getting at. His point was clear. When Taylor ripped his mates that Monday night in Philly, he was trying to lead by example in a time of crisis. What kind of example was he setting by playing golf when his team is on the eve of a must-win game? That was Olsen's point, and he scored a bull's eye with it.

There's no question Olsen (who talked to Taylor at length before the game) has become more opinionated since moving to CBS from NBC. "Maybe I'm getting grouchy in my old age," he said. "But I'm growing very impatient with some of the things I see happening on and off the field."

CBS NFL producer Mike Burks, who works on Olsen's crew, said the mechanics of his broadcast -- announcers aren't locked into the standard play/replay format -- give Olsen more time to be opinionated. "Merlin is comfortable with that fact," Burks said. "We didn't sit down and tell Merlin to be controversial."

But now, Olsen has time to take out the hammer. "Now, more then ever before, I can talk about issues during a game," Olsen said. "It has everything to do with the system I'm working with."

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