Common sense, not excuses, needed to keep cursing off air

Media Watch

January 18, 1996|By MILTON KENT

So it seems that Pittsburgh linebacker Greg Lloyd didn't know that the NBC cameras were on and live Sunday when he dropped the F-bomb on a surprised Jim Gray, not to mention an unsuspecting viewing public, or at least that's his story.

Well, duh. That red light on the camera comes on for a reason, and the person with the microphone isn't just standing there for his/her health.

And Steelers coach Bill Cowher's excuse that the players had no way of knowing when they were on TV and when they were not is hollow at best.

Cowher would go justifiably ballistic if a cornerback let a receiver scoot down the field for a score because he thought the whistle had blown. It's no different in that setting. Players and coaches should always assume that a microphone -- or notebook, for that matter -- is live, and tailor their language accordingly.

Dallas receiver Michael Irvin yesterday refused to apologize for his uttering of the S-word, saying he intended its use to show the strength of his support for coach Barry Switzer, who has taken significant heat from the media.

"Cursing is not always bad," Irvin said. "It shows the depth of emotions. I could have said you all gave us mess, but you didn't give us mess. I could have said you all gave us a bunch of stuff, but you didn't give us a bunch of stuff. So if I said that, it doesn't seem right because you gave us a bunch of s."

It's nice to see an athlete show his conviction, but it's even better to see one display a command of common sense. Irvin's words were beamed not only to a national television audience but also to a shocked crowd of 65,000 at Texas Stadium, many of whom were children who didn't need to hear that kind of language.

But though Lloyd and Irvin are taking their deserved lumps for their lapses in taste and judgment, let's save a little blame for the networks as well.

It's not by accident that athletes like Irvin, Charles Barkley and Deion Sanders, to name a few, turn up on sound bytes. They have proved to be lively, colorful quotes who never disappoint a reporter looking for a good line.

But at the moment when they stray from the bounds of good taste, the networks drop them like bad habits, piously decrying their poor conduct for the public, but drinking in their bad behavior.

Does anyone doubt that NBC won't seek out Lloyd and Irvin for comments during Super Bowl programming? Of course not, because they make for good television. Not responsible television, mind you, just good television. And let's not kid ourselves. In the same position, ABC, Fox, CBS, ESPN or any other outlet would do the same thing.

To be sure, Lloyd and Irvin were wrong, but we would never have heard their obscenities if the cameras hadn't sought them out.

Staying put

Kurt O'Neill has chosen to stay with WWLG (1360 AM) and become a permanent fill-in host on "Sports Showdown," the station's late-night talk show with hosts Spiro Morekas and Mark Mussina, rather than rejoin Stan "The Fan" Charles when he goes back to WCBM (680 AM) one week from Monday.

O'Neill, a basketball recruiting whiz, had been one of Charles' regular contributors, but decided the opportunity to branch out and get more experience as a host was too big to pass up.

"I have a bigger role where I am," said O'Neill. "They [WWLG] wanted me to be part of the team rather than come in once a week and be a guest. Stan put me on the map, and I'll always be grateful for that. We are friends. We have been in the past, and I expect us to be friends after this."

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