Woody: Beware The Open Microphone
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
It’s surprising that there aren’t more on-the-air-bloopers like the one ESPN commentator Rusty Wallace let slip awhile back when he called Kyle Busch a “dumb a..” following a Nationwide victory at Chicagoland Speedway.
Rusty apologized in a statement: “I made an unfortunate remark regarding Kyle Busch. There’s no excuse and I certainly know better.”
Wallace’s shot has been heard ‘round the world, thanks to YouTube, and reaction has been mixed among race fans. Some are outraged and others want to nominate Rusty for an Emmy.
The reason why it’s surprising that there aren’t more such slip-ups is because more and more broadcast booths are staffed by ex-racers with zero broadcasting or journalism experience.
They know motors but not microphones and sometimes – as happened with Wallace – they forget that their every utterance may be on the air.
We ink-stained newspaper wretches used to resent the radio and TV guys because their mistakes immediately dissipated in the air, while our goofs were etched forever on newsprint.
That’s no longer the case. With the advent of replays, rewinds and the internet, verbal blunders can go viral and be replayed ad infinitum.
In the old days if a listener had overheard Wallace’s muffled remark he might think, “Did he just say what I thought he said? Naaaa, surely not.” And that would have been the end of it.
Now the listener can click “re-wind” and there it is – again, and again and again …
Some believe ESPN should have suspended Wallace but I think that would be too harsh. It was an accident. He didn’t intend for his comment to go out on the airwaves.
Should he have said it at all, even in a private off-the-air conversation? Sure, why not? If that’s his opinion of Busch, Wallace has a right to express it as long he doesn’t do it on ESPN’s airtime. Who among us has never expressed a personal opinion in the workplace?
Trust me, reporters constantly express their opinions of drivers when they’re sitting in a press box. Rusty didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said plenty of times before. His only mistake was inadvertently saying it on the air.
While neophyte broadcasters often make boo-boos, they aren’t alone. Even the top professionals sometimes blunder.
Larry Munson, retired University Georgia announcer, is the all-time best as far as I’m concerned. But even the venerable Munson once was a victim of an open mike. (I refuse to call it a “mic.”)
Before going to Georgia, Munson spent many years in Nashville calling minor league baseball and Vanderbilt basketball games. It was during of one those games that a timeout was called. A weary Munson swatted the “Off” switch on his mike, leaned back in his seat, and sighed to his booth-mate: “What a (bleeping) way to make a living!”
But the “Off” switch wasn’t completely off. Munson’s comment was beamed out to shocked listeners.
There was a big stink, with some calls for Munson’s firing. He survived the uproar and continued one of the greatest broadcasting careers in history. But from then on Munson always double-checked to make sure his mike was off before he did any muttering.
You can bet that Rusty will do likewise.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments