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Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008

Blackout

Sports in Real Life

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Some things should not be repeated.

False rumors, hurtful information and John McCain's bid for the presidency are examples of actions which should be nipped in the bud, never to be repeated. They're of no use to anyone.

During Sunday's Packer game in Minnesota, Vikings' kick return man and defensive back Charles Gordon broke his left leg in Minnesota's 28-27 win over the Green Bay Packers and is expected to be lost for the remainder of the season. He appeared to have his ankle caught under a Green Bay tackler while trying to fight for extra yardage. Probably the most costly effort in his life young life.

This was one of those "oh my god, did I just see that" type of injuries. Gordon's foot went in more divergent directions than a McCain stump speech. Boat propellers do less rotating than Gordon's leg. It was almost surreal to view the play, watching a man endure such unimaginable movement of a body part-it's something that can't be envisioned until seen. If former Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann was watching the game, I'm sure he aged ten years in vicarious pain.

This brings me to my question du-jour. Fox broadcaster, Joe Buck (as I assume Fox policy dictates), said there would be no replay footage of the injury. From a journalistic perspective, should a network show what transpired, or are they treading on feeding animalistic urges of a voracious public as demonstrated in the film Network. When is it good reporting versus indulging in the most morbid of all curiosities. National and local television stations don't hesitate to show you a crime scene littered with bodies covered in plastic and blood pools. Should sports be exempt from the public's right to know.

I think so.

The dean of the Milwaukee sports scene, Fox-Six broadcaster Tim Van Vooren,

says it's a thin line between news and sensationalism. "In general, I think repeatedly showing a gruesome play does venture toward insensitivity," Van Vooren said. "Joe Theismann's broken leg is burned into the memory of
anyone who saw Lawrence Taylor tackle him in a nationally televised game."

Van Vooren says he wasn't able to hear the Fox telecast in the press box in Minneapolis on Sunday, so he wasn't able to speak to the network's decision specifically.

"With his personality and profile," Van Vooren continues, "Theismann has been able to accept the reminders of that play. However, not every player
has that same personality or experience in the spotlight." Van Vooren says in the era of YouTube, the live video of the play will get posted and says he can't fault the producer of a game for not providing replay as a supplement to that posting.

The dean of Chicago Cubs broadcasts, Len Kasper, says it depends on how gruesome the play is and whether he has a chance to view it before a replay. These factors will dictate how he approaches the replay. "The producer will warn us," Kasper said. "We'll only show it once. The producer will have two or three different angles of the play and determine what is germane. Ultimately it's the producer's call. They see it in the truck."

Kasper says when a player is hurt on the field they will often go back to it later. "The last thing you want to do is show a replay of an injury and miss current action. Then you have to go back and show game action you missed because of the replay."

Jags and knobs will invariably run onto the field, streaking, seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. Do the same rules apply? "I think it's fair game to mention it," Kasper said. "The only problem with that is if you show something once, it will be shown until the end of time. It'd be different if you could guarantee something would only be shown once. These days, if somebody picks up on it, it'll show up on rain-delay theater. If we show somebody sleeping in the stands, you have to be aware it's going to show up somewhere."

Associate dean of Milwaukee radio sports shows, Doug Russell, says we don't need to see something grotesque. "It doesn't serve a purpose," Russell said after a recent morning broadcast on WSSP. "With Joe Buck telling us about the injury, there's no reason to show it. His commentary tells you all you really need to know."

Russell says he recalls an injury a few years ago when current Brewer Jason Kendall was with the Pirates, and how Kendall hit first base and sent his ankle flailing about. "It was disgusting," Russell said. "The Theismann injury was just as bad. It was the last snap he ever took in the NFL. There's no reason to show something like that over and over again. It gives me the creeps. I'm going to leave the room. It makes my stomach turn."

He says the networks are showing more restraint than they have in the past. However, Russell says there may be an upside to showing on the field antics. "If some yahoo wants to jump out of the stands and run onto the field, I wouldn't have a problem with them showing that. But they should also show the consequences of what happens when you go out onto a field. Usually a guy running on the field will have the crap knocked out of him. Showing that could be a good thing."

Howie Magner is an associate editor with Milwaukee Magazine and says he agrees with a network's decision not to show a replay of a serious injury. "I think it's the networks way of saying, we're not going to encourage this type of behavior," Magner says. "We're not going to give him his fifteen minutes of fame."

As anyone with a computer will tell you, you can search Google for the footage and retrieve it in an instant. "I don't necessarily have a problem with them not showing it," Magner said. "The bottom line, as adults, we can deal with this type of thing. For young kids watching the game, they could lose their lunch."

Good point. If you choose to view the video on the Web, do it on an empty stomach.