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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sportztyme!: Public Displays Of Stupidity

Sports and TV are a match made in heaven. But the tube often brings about the worst in athletes. Will there ever be a middle ground? Uncle Buster examines the issue in this week's Sportztyme.

How much responsibility should network television take for the gratuitous celebrations that seemingly permeate professional sports?

Because it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, let's consider Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss and his fake mooning incident in Green Bay two weeks ago. After scoring a late touchdown in their playoff game, Moss pantomimed dropping his pants and mooning the Green Bay crowd.

It calls to mind the old riddle about the falling tree in the woods making noise. If the TV cameras aren’t there to capture it, does it really happen?

We’ll never know, because TV cameras are everywhere, documenting each moment of a live event. At least that’s the argument you are likely to get from network executives justifying their playing and replaying of such a display. They will tell you they have something of a journalistic obligation to show the event as it happens, sometimes warts and all. They are not concerned with the morality, only the controversy because that gets ratings and it gets people talking.

On the other side, you have sportscasters like Fox’s Joe Buck, who callled that particular game. Buck immediately editorialized the move, calling it “disgusting” and apologizing for its airing. It’s not Buck’s place to tell us whether or not to be offended at what we see. His job is to call the action and provide information. Had he ignored Moss' actions, they may not have gotten the attention they did. Some viewers might not have seen it or had an opinion, but because he immediately chastised the player, the viewer naturally draws the same conclusion.

Either way, it draw attention to the player and the action, and that’s all the player is looking for in the first place. These displays seem to be more prevalent in football, which baffles me. Football is one of the ultimate team sports. No one player can make things happen alone. Yet folks like Randy Moss, Joe Horn (he of the cell phone in the goal post) and Terrell Owens (Mr. Sharpie) are hell bent on making sure fans know their names and cameras see their faces.

And too often, television is only too happy to oblige.

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