Thursday, January 10, 2013

Must you Musburger? Keep your Lust and Advice to Yourself!

It's the latest sports coverage misstep since last NBA season when an ESPN.com mobile writer ran the headline "Chink in the Armor" next to a photo of then-New York Knick's player Jeremy Lin, who is of Taiwanese ancestry.

Monday night, during the college football national championship game on ESPN, veteran commentator Brent Musburger stepped into it with his lengthy rave about Alabama QB A.J. McCarron's girlfriend.

It happened in the first half, between plays, when the camera went to a crowd shot that included two women. Musburger started raving about the brunette, calling her "gorgeous" and "beautiful." He also gave a rather quick compliment to the older woman who was A.J.'s mother. But his flattery returned to the younger woman. He then rambled about how every young boy in Alabama should go outside to toss the football with his "pop" so that he can grow up to be an Alabama quarterback and attract beautiful women as McCarron has.

As the camera returned to action on the field I said out loud, "That was inappropriate." And I thought too how Murburger's ogling the younger woman while the camera also continued to show the older woman, McCarron's mother, was insulting to her.

I watch more than my share of sports on TV.  Men's tennis is a favorite and it's not uncommon during coverage that the camera cuts to a player's girlfriend or wife, often a very lovely young woman. And there are certainly many very attractive top-flight women players as well. 

Amid the criticism of Musburger's lusty, sexist and altogether inappropriate comments about McCarron's gal Katherine Webb, I thought about the tennis I watch on TV and how the commentators, who are often two or three men, refrain from such evaluations of female looks and beauty.  They may be thinking "so and so" is a babe, but they seem to know better than to say something that will get them into trouble.

Not so, apparently, with Musburger, a live sports announcer since the early 1970s, who should know better.

Musburger's  questionable comments quickly became the talk of not just sports talk but also the newswires and morning talk shows.

MSN, in a Tuesday headline, asked if McCarron's girlfriend "stole the show?" from the Alabama Crimson Tide who destroyed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 42-14. Wednesday morning Katherine Webb was interviewed by Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show. Webb, a very well spoken, poised 2012 Miss Alabama USA, actually defended Musburger, saying she was flattered by his praise and that the media were being unfair in criticizing him. 

Obviously feeling differently, ESPN issued an apology and made it clear Musburger had been given a good "talking to" about his comments.

My social media network indicates little tolerance for Musburger in this situation.  One Facebook friend called his comments "creepy" while another, I feel, even more precisely hit the nail on the head, writing, "Denigrating women again- you have to be 'pretty' to succeed, instead of smart, mature, and an achiever."

Both of these comments, by the way, were from men.

I have long been aware of Brent Musburger, 73, dating to when I was young and my father would groan when he realized a game he wanted to watch was being called by the man with the Howard Cosell-ish affect on people.  Sports fans either love him (OK, that's too strong-tolerate may be a better word) or hate him (not too strong a word for many of his detractors).

I must confide that I think more favorably of Musburger since learning a few years ago that he is graduate of Northwestern University's fine Medill School of Journalism where I earned a master's degree. And I must say, as a Notre Dame fan, I appreciated how during Monday's lopside Alabama victory, Musburger came across, to me anyway, as sympathetic and not overly critical of the Irish.

As a former broadcast journalist with years of experience in TV news anchoring and live reporting at various stations, I can sympathize when someone's off-the-cuff or ad lib remark becomes an "oops, I shouldn't have said that" moment.

Musburger did irk me a few years ago during another college football broadcast when he kept saying how the running backs on one team kept getting "stoned" at the line of scrimmage by the other team's stout defense.

After four of five "stoned!" exclamations from Musburger I had to laugh and wonder if ol' Brent was stoned-- as I turned the channel to escape his annoying commentary. 
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Capsule Report:
I was among the millions of people watching Monday night's national championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama when at one point between plays the camera went to a shot of the crowd that included two women.

ESPN announcer Brent Musburger starts raving about the striking brunette who he identifies as the girlfriend of Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron.  Musburger also gave a rather quick compliment to the older woman, McCarron's mother. But his flattery returned to the younger woman, gushing about how "gorgeous" she is. He then rambled into how every young boy in Alabama should go outside to toss the football with his "pop" so that he can grow up to be an Alabama quarterback and attract a gorgeous woman as McCarron has.

As the camera returned to the field I remember saying to my wife, "That was inappropriate." And I thought too how Murburger's ogling of the younger woman while the camera also continued to show the older woman, McCarron's mother, was kind of insulting to her.

The next day I learned that many other people were put off by Musburger's offhand comments and that traditional and social media were abuzz with a new "scandal."
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