By Jim Weber
It’s only fitting that Brent Musburger has found himself embroiled in two controversies in the span of one week. He’s been the most divisive sportscaster on television for as long as I can remember.
It all revolves around the fact that unlike others play-by-play men of his generation such as Keith Jackson and Al Michaels, Musburger has made a career out of injecting himself into his broadcasts.
Whether it’s pushing one of his clichéd catch-phrases (i.e. “You are looking LIVE at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio!”), using hokey words (folks, partner, big fella, etc.), prematurely calling touchdowns, discussing the Las Vegas spread on air or needlessly over-hyping plays (i.e. saying “FIRES!” instead of “throws” on a pass) and situations (I remember him once proclaiming Ohio State was “Dreeeeeeaming of a BCS bid” in an October game vs. Wisconsin that OSU went on to lose), Musburger is more showman than journalist.
And that has led to a huge fracture among viewers based on what they want from a sportscaster.
His critics say they mute their televisions when Musburger is broadcasting a game and lob every verbal assault imaginable in his direction. Obnoxious idiot. Self-serving schmuck. Overdramatic “hyperbolizer.” Corporate shill. Attention whore. This is, after all, the the same man CBS fired in 1990 after he reportedly refused to take a lesser role at the network.
Meanwhile, Musburger’s fans consider him a living legend. They say his unbridled enthusiasm makes Musburger the anti-Joe Buck and Jim Nantz, point out his long line of iconic calls (i.e. introducing the phrase “March Madness,” “I don’t believe it!”, “Holy Buckeye!”) and note that Musburger’s antics make him worth listening to during even the most boring of games. Just check out the the litany of “Brent Musburger Drinking Games” that populate the internet for proof.
One thing we can all agree on? Musburger has a gift for stealing the spotlight from the actual sporting events.
This started 45 years ago when Musburger was a Chicago columnist who infamously and ignorantly ripped the legendary Black Power Salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand of the 1968 Summer Olympics by calling them “a couple of black-skinned storm troopers.”
In recent years, Musburger has turned making himself the story of college football telecasts (and subsequently feeding the 24-hour news cycle) into an art form. There was the 2005 Florida State-Miami game when he “discovered” then-Florida State coed Jenn Sterger by proclaiming, “Fifteen hundred red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State next semester” while she was shown in the stands wearing a bikini. No one remember the actual game, but everyone remembers this moment that launched Sterger to fame.
A year later, Musburger tipped off a national audience to USC’s hand-signal for audibles, which upset the Trojans’ athletic department for what they perceived to be publicly sharing confidential information. While it certainly had zero outcome on the game, it was quintessential Musburger – making himself look like a CIA spy for something a casual football fan could have deciphered just by watching the broadcast.
And who can forget the 2011 BCS title game in which Musburger proclaimed the game-winning kick by Auburn was “For all the Tostitos”? Hailed as genius by some and blasted by others for fitting a sponsor into a broadcast, the call was reportedly worth $2.5 million in advertising value. Either way, that call and not the game was the topic of water-cooler talk the next day.
Last week, there was Musburger ogling AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, during the BCS title game. A media whirlwind ensued in which Musburger’s comments and possible objectification of women were debated ad nauseam, magically generating a week-long conversation from a terrible game.
And now comes Monday’s night’s “non-troversy” in which people believed Musburger said “who was smokin’ hot tonight” in reference to sideline reporter Holly Rowe, even though the video pretty clearly shows he said “it was smokin’ hot tonight” in reference to the basketball game between Baylor and Kansas.
Why he would refer to a 17-point blowout as “smokin’ hot” doesn’t make a lot of sense either but I’ve noticed that the people who still insist Musburger said “who” are the same people who have hated him for years. I chuckle at the idea that Musburger intentionally made the odd and ambiguous statement to coax the media into another overblown controversy just for kicks.
Because whether you love him or hate him, Brent Musburger always finds a way to be the center of attention – and that’s just the way he likes it.
Top photo: Matthew Emmons/US Presswire