WHEN TRAGEDY STRIKES DURING A SPORTS TELECAST

In Sunday’s NCAA men’s basketball regional final game in Indianapolis between Duke University and the University of Louisville, a freak accident caught the nation’s attention, even being reported on conventional news reports as well as sports reports. In the first half, UL point guard Kevin Ware came down wrong while trying to block a Duke player’s jump shot. Ware broke his leg and his bone protruded.

The sight was so ghastly that some players were throwing up, coaches, fans, and players were weeping, and partisans on both UL and Duke were in a general state of anguish. I am sure many in the radio and television audience were greatly affected as well.

The Ware incident was reminiscent of when NFL quarterback Joe Theismann had his career ended in a game after suffering a similar injury. Theismann apparently was watching the Sunday basketball telecast and was quick to commiserate with Ware and offer advice on recovering, both mentally and physically.

The horrible scene in Indianapolis reminded me of the haunting breakdown of Eight Belles immediately after the wire in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and of Ruffian’s sickening breakdown in her 1975 match race with Foolish Pleasure. Go For Wand in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup was the worst of all, as she fell near the finish line.

A topic that was widely debated on sports talk radio on Sunday and Monday was whether CBS Sports was correct in not continually replaying the sequence in which Ware’s injury occurred, either during the game or in the post-game show. (ESPN made the same decision.)

Anyone who wanted to view the sequence for themselves could, of course, see it on YouTube or on a digital video recording.

My perspective on to show or not to show is no sounder than anyone else’s, but I agree completely with the CBS decision. As CBS did, I would get reporters’ updates and show the crowd’s responses, but would not replay the episode and certainly would not have the cameras zero in with close ups.

In the Eight Belles’ heartbreak, for example, it would have been better not to have the television cameras focusing on the barrier surrounding the filly while she was being euthanized. However, mandating this approach requires that skilled announcers and camera personnel keep the audience fully informed of what is transpiring.

The NFL apparently has a rule that the network telecasting the game is to cut to a commercial whenever a player is down on the field. In my mind, that is not the right answer because it almost implies a certain callousness and screens out the audience. But, on the other hand, having TV cameras intruding on a player’s suffering or a horse’s final moments on earth is not the right way to go either.

Despite Kevin Ware’s shock and pain, he exhorted his team to not dwell on him and win the game. Bless this gallant young man, who has shown his character.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

Comments

  1. BasketballFan says

    Your words about Kevin are touching and so much appreciated. He’s a role model.

  2. Athletic events can provide exhilirating highs and the worst of the blues. Race horses are beautiful in motion but oh so fragile. It is the low of lows when a breakdown occurs…and the similarity to Ware’s injury is apt. The announcers said they were speedless…and that the injury was the worst they had ever seen on a basketball court.

  3. Doubtingtom says

    As unfortunate as it was, Ware breaking his leg was not a tragedy. He has received excellent medical care and will live to play another day. He was not euthanized on the court. Let’s keep things in perspective. The three fillies cited in your story are not rare and unique cases … Horse breakdowns occur virtually every race day in America and the industry accepts this as just the breaks of the game. That is a tragedy.

  4. To Doubtingtom,

    If you were Kevin’s mother or father it was a tregedy.

    Dictionary gives as a definition for tragedy misfortune or a disastrous event. One of the worst sports injuries ever on a basketball court qualifies.

    We don’t euthanize people in this country.

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