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NBC’s Coverage Of Kubiak Collapse Should Cause SEC Broadcasters To Ask, “What If?”

gfx - honest opinionLast night, Houston head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field as his team’s game with Indianapolis hit halftime.  Those close to Kubiak have said he is “feeling good” as he recovers in a Houston hospital.  Tests are being run today to make sure the 52-year-old did not have a stroke.

Here’s hoping for the best when it comes to the coach’s health.  Unfortunately, NBC didn’t show us its best as the story first unfolded.

After going to it’s halftime commercial break, NBC returned to Houston rather than to New York as usual.  Bob Costas informed viewers of Kubiak’s collapse while live pictures showed medical personnel crowding around him.  So far so good.  But rather than stay with Costas and crew in Houston, NBC decided to go ahead and punt the ball back to Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison for highlights and ha-has.

Bad decision.

An NFL coach was laying on the turf in pain.  Michelle Tafoya — the best sideline reporter in the business — was on the field trying to gather information.  Al Michaels — a veteran and pro who handled the earthquake before Game Three of the 1989 World Series and became a newsman during ABC’s post-quake coverage — was in the booth.  And Costas — whether you agree with his opinion pieces or not — boasts 40 years of sports/news experience.

Kubiak’s situation was more important than a highlights package.  Tafoya, Michaels and Costas are certianly sharp enough to have vamped about what they were seeing and how the crowd was reacting.  The decision to put football first was the wrong one and that fact was beaten home further as Michaels and Collinsworth had to call the second half of a game while Kubiak was receiving treatment at a nearby hospital.  Yes, the game must go on, but every remark about last night’s second half seemed ridiculously unimportant.

Kubiak’s collapse and NBC’s reaction to it should have every other sports network in the country asking today, “What would we do?”  That includes CBS and ESPN, the SEC’s broadcast partners.

If — heaven forbid — an SEC coach or player were to collapse during a contest, how would Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson handle it?  What could Tracy Wolfson bring to the table?  Do they have the gravitas to cover a potential life-and-death situation?

What of ESPN’s myriad of broadcast teams?

Personally, I like the work of Lundquist, Danielson and Wolfson.  I believe they do as good a job as any when it comes to coverage of a college football game.  Lundquist — with 50 years of experience — would be able to handle a serious situation, in my opinion.  But would CBS stick with on-site coverage of a news event or would network honchos toss back to Tim Brando and crew for highlights?

When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of serious news coverage and — if the on-site team is capable — remain with them.  For all we knew, Kubiak’s life was on the line last night as Patrick, Dungy and Harrison smiled and ranked the league’s best teams.  No knock on those three, but sorry, not interested.

NBC found itself in a helluva fix last night.  I don’t envy them.  But when a sports story becomes a news story, the goal should be to provide news-style coverage.  Costas, Michaels and Tafoya did that… but only after viewers sat through a meaningless halftime show.

Today, CBS and ESPN officials should be putting themselves in NBC’s shoes, trying to determine what their own plans of action would be if thrown into similar circumstances.

 


8 comments
John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Maybe I was wrong to think that people wanted news coverage.  Sad state of affairs.  A coach drops to the ground, no one knows if he's living or dead and some would rather see a highlight reel.  

Maybe when Reagan was shot in '81 the networks should have just said, "Look, we don't know what's going on.  We're kickin' ya back to The Jeffersons."  

And don't complain about the comparison because it's hyperbole used to make my point.  Life or death situations should -- SHOULD -- take precedence over a highlight reel.  Even if some of you out there don't care if a man is living or dead, the network should have.

John


bamaboyintn
bamaboyintn

possible that corperate advertising dollars might be influencing what we see and what order we see it.anyway ,as viewers,i agree with houstonvol.not real interested in watching sports reporters failing to get info.heck,when a medium value player sprains an ankle they can't get definitive info.they just forward the "non-info" to us.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

John, I don't fully share your opinion on this matter. I watched the game last night. I felt NBC did all that they could on the matter. The team was not releasing any information, and still hasn't. How many times do you expect them to replay the same videos of him collapsing and being carted off the field and then saying "we will pass along information when we have it". Even this morning, the local TV stations with much more information had the same basic information. "He did not have a heart attack, and is still under evaluation. We will let you know when we have more information". I can promise you that the local channels have much better contacts inside the hospitals and Texans than NBC corp does. If they were not able to expand the story with hours to work on it, then the on air staff could not have done any better. The San Fran earthquake is totally different. It was an ongoing news story with constant updated information coming into the studio, fires, collapsed bridges, after shocks, lives being effected, etc. This was one man, a coach, collapsing and after he was taken to the hospital NBC received nothing in terms of information from the Texans other than he is ok and under evaluation. 

bamaboyintn
bamaboyintn

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HoustonVol
HoustonVol

@John at MrSEC John, I would have loved more news coverage of the event. After he collapsed on the field and NBC reported it I wanted more information, as I am sure most viewers did. However I would not want to sit and watch three reporters with no medical back ground sit around and speculate without facts. Even you have called out reporters and websites for jumping on rumors and reporting them as facts. For most of the third  and fourth quarters I was left wondering if the NFL and/or the Texans were putting up a smoke screen about the severity of the situation to prevent disruption on the field. It is clear, in hindsight, that NBC did not have any facts to report and was not obtaining any new information to report from the NFL and the Texans. So instead of speculating and reporting on rumors, they stuck to the facts and reported the event correctly. We might not have liked the flow of information, but I will take slow factual reporting over fast speculation any day - especially when it is a life and death situation. Thank you for providing a great website that tries to stay above speculation and rumor. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@HoustonVol

I hoped I'd made it clear that my issue was with NBC's immediate reaction to Kubiak's collapse.  And my opinion is shared unanimously among my TV colleagues -- I emailed a number of them last night and this morning before writing this piece.  All agreed that you don't say, "A coach is down on the ground, but now we go to our smiling highlight guys."  You cover the story and stay with it as it's the very definition of breaking news.

Unfortunately, NBC's first reaction was to mention it and then quickly toss back to New York.  That's what I had a problem with and what I wrote about:


"But rather than stay with Costas and crew in Houston, NBC decided to go ahead and punt the ball back to Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison for highlights and ha-has."

"Kubiak’s situation was more important than a highlights package.  Tafoya, Michaels and Costas are certianly sharp enough to have vamped about what they were seeing and how the crowd was reacting."


You seem to be referencing the second-half updates NBC provided.

Now, I wrote that the football coverage in the second half seemed pointless in light of the Kubiak situation -- which made it more obvious that NBC should have devoted immediate halftime coverage to Kubiak -- BUT the game must go on.  Perhaps that line threw you or wasn't clear enough, but my issue was with NBC's knee-jerk reaction to leave a breaking news story to go to a highlights reel.

Thanks for visiting the site,

John

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

@John at MrSEC @HoustonVol I am a Texan fan. I will agree that I was frustrated with the lack of reporting that NBC devoted to the issue. I even questioned why they went to the New York studio. However as the event unfolded it was clear that the lack of coverage was due to the lack of information being provided by the Texans. There is only so many times you can report and replay a video. I don't know what else NBC could have done on this issue. Everyone in the organization was either devoting themselves to the game and halftime or Kubiak, either way they were not talking to the press. You are correct; Tafoya, Michaels and Costas are talented enough vamp on what is happening. However the last time I checked, they are not trained medical personnel. They would have only been able to speculate what they saw on the tape, which they did. Interview fans in the stadium?  Many of the fans at the game did not know what happened (that it was Kubiak) until well into the 3rd and 4th quarter as the news traveled around the stadium. One of my co-workers did not find out until she was on her way home after the game and heard it on the radio. What about heading to the hospital? Which hospital? The stadium is located in the Texas Medical Center, where there are more than 12 world class hospitals within two miles of the stadium. Because of the number of celebrities and world figures that utilize these facilities, you will not see a leak of information "off the record". That is the fastest way to get fired and black-balled in the TMC. In hindsight, I preferred hearing a scripted halftime show from New York instead of having to watch three talented reporters recycle the same information every minute. Or worse, interview fans that did not know what was going on. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@HoustonVol @John at MrSEC 

It's called reporting.  

"He's still on the ground.  Doctors are around him.  They're loading him onto an ambulance."  

"Al, do you think the NFL might extend halftime in this situation?  The Texans have just 12 minutes to prepare, how can they do that?"

"Bob, have you ever had to cover a health issue quite like this one during a game?"

"Michelle, what seems to be the mood of those around him?  Is it a calm scene or is there a rush to get him treatment?"

I've worked in television since 1991.  I've got friends across the country who are news directors, reporters, producers, even a White House correspondent.  I can tell you without a doubt that all of them would say (and some of them already have said), "They went to a highlights segment?"

Reporters report.  Three of the best sports reporters in the business were in that building.  There would be no guessing and no time to get leaks from the Houston organization.  But there would be time for the delivery of news and opinion -- What are you seeing?  What might be the next step for the game?  (And, no, that does not mean "Whaddya think's wrong with him.")

Instead of letting its reporters report, NBC chose to kick it back to three guys who happily went through highlights.  You might have enjoyed the halftime highlights from New York, but I -- and many, many others -- wanted to know what the heck was happening with Gary Kubiak back in Houston.

Thanks as always for reading,

John

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