I always thought part of a television broadcaster’s job was to react to what viewers were seeing. If the cameras were on a gruesome quarterback sack or an angry coach, the play-by-play person’s role was to explain the scene.
Veteran broadcaster Brent Musburger did this during Monday’s college football national championship, when he elaborated on camera shots of the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Katherine Webb.
The 73-year-old Musburger, working Alabama’s national championship win over Notre Dame, reacted to a camera shot of Webb, a former Miss Alabama, by saying, “You quarterbacks … You get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman.”
Musburger then interjected, “Whoa!”
ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys later released an apology through Twitter Wednesday, writing, “We always try to capture interesting story lines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.â€ť
Musburger may not have needed the “Whoa!” In his defense, that was my initial response, too, based on the initial television shot. This was a striking woman.
And he, broadcast partner Kirk Herbstreit and ESPN were trying to fill time in the midst of a game that was no longer competitive.
Whether or not ESPN objectified Webb — who’s stated she certainly didn’t mind — isn’t the point. The point is, this isn’t on Musburger. He wasn’t the producer in a truck choosing to repeatedly show Webb. He was simply reacting to the screen shot. What was he supposed to do, ignore it?
The attractive girlfriend cheering on a the star quarterback is a story as old as the forward pass. That there’s been hubbub about this is ridiculous.
Michigan State journalism professor Sue Carter didn’t think so. She was part of the reaction.
“Itâ€™s extraordinarily inappropriate to focus on an individualâ€™s looks,â€ť Carter told the New York Times. â€śIn this instance, the appearance of the quarterbackâ€™s girlfriend had no bearing on the outcome of the game. Itâ€™s a major personal violation, and itâ€™s so retrograde that itâ€™s embarrassing. I think thereâ€™s a generational issue, but itâ€™s incumbent on people practicing in these eras to keep up and this is not a norm.â€ť
I think this is an overreaction by Carter. Either way, her comments shouldn’t be directed at Musburger. ESPN’s production truck controls the view.
What do you think. Did ESPN go to far? How about Musburger? Worth an apology?