8:52 PM EST, January 9, 2013
Fox held an NFL playoff conference call on Wednesday and the subject turned to Brent Musburger.
Musburger received some criticism for going maybe one "whoa" too many when ESPN's cameras focused on Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, during the Tide's blowout win over Notre Dame in Monday's BCS national title game.
For many, it was the highlight moment of a mismatch only the "Roll Tide" gang and Notre Dame haters could love.
ESPN, of course, had to respond to the criticism in a politically correct manner.
Mike Soltys, ESPN's vice president of communications, apologized on Twitter, saying: "We always try to capture interesting story lines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that."
On the teleconference, Eric Shanks, the co-president of Fox Sports, was asked about crossing the line when it comes to talking about the appearance of a person in the crowd.
"It's not something that's part of a sporting event," Shanks said. "I don't think we'd ever direct our guys to talk specifically about how good- or bad-looking somebody is in the stands. I don't think it's ever come up. I don't think there's a line because it's not part of a sporting event in my mind."
And then Troy Aikman chimed in with: "Well, I just found out what the line was."
Aikman chuckled as he said it because he had to be as shocked as anyone that Fox, which shows more people in the stands per event than anyone, doesn't consider that to be part of a sporting event.
The whole controversy, if that's what you call it, smacks of hypocrisy.
Look, there are plenty of ways that Musburger can annoy, and he has irritated fans across this country for five decades now.
I remember 76ers fans couldn't stand him when he was working NBA games for CBS in the late 1970s, and many Penn State fans hit the mute button when they see him doing a Big Ten game today.
But blasting him for saying what millions of American males were probably saying — or at least, thinking — in sports bars and living rooms across the country is a little ridiculous and smacks of hypocrisy for an industry that knows all too well that sex appeal not only sells, but is often a key to success.
If it is not, then why has the ABC/ESPN family made shots of the cheerleaders and the USC "Song Girls" a staple of its college football coverage long before Keith Jackson offered his first "Whoa Nellie!"?
Do you think it's just a coincidence that almost every college and NFL sideline reporter is a female, as if a balding, overweight 50-year-old male isn't capable of asking Nick Saban what adjustments he is going to make at halftime?
Do you think it's just a coincidence that Fox News, for example, features its female anchors and analysts on its nightly talk shows with much more regularity than Charles Krauthammer?
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys became "America's Team" because everybody liked those spiffy stars on the helmets and the charisma of Tom Landry, or do you think it was because the Cowboys cheerleaders were selling more posters than Roger Staubach and the entire team combined?
If sex isn't part of a sports broadcast, then the networks should clean their houses entirely and make sure not to accept any advertising for male-enhancement products and should make sure that virtually every punch line of every sitcom doesn't have a sexual innuendo attached.
Really, who's kidding who here?
Some considered it "creepy" that the 73-year-old Musburger would find a woman in her 20s attractive. Since when is there an age restriction of recognizing beauty? And also, why is it considered funny when 90-year-old Betty White or 79-year-old Joan Rivers can make comments with sexual overtones?
You can bet that ESPN went to great lengths to know exactly where Webb was going to be in the stands. It was in their pregame planning. And they also knew why they were going to show her, and it had absolutely nothing to do with her being an Auburn grad.
Remember, too, if the cameras aren't focused on her, Musburger isn't commenting about her. So where's the apology for the director who wanted a close-up of Webb?
Webb, to her credit, didn't fall in line with the PC police and defended Musburger.
"I don't think [the apology] was needed, honestly," she said. "Of course I appreciate it, but at the same time I don't think I needed an apology. I think the media has been really unfair to [Musburger] ... the fact that he said that we were beautiful and gorgeous, I don't see why any woman wouldn't be flattered."
She would have been the ultimate hypocrite had she ripped Musburger because if you Google her name, one of the first things you'll see is her in a skimpy swimsuit.
I don't believe Webb's mother when she said: "She didn't even know that they had the camera on her."
Of course she did, and that's why she attended a football game looking like she was headed to a picture shoot for Vogue.
The bottom line is that Webb came away as big a winner as 'Bama, and days later people are still talking about an ESPN broadcast that most left at halftime.
For more sports television and radio news, see the Groller's Corner blog at http://www.mcall.com/grollerscorner.
Keith's Can't Miss … It's the final full weekend of NFL football with doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday. Fox has the one prime-time attraction: Packers at 49ers on Saturday at 8 and its top team of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews on hand.