Warning: As the title suggests, the following video contains a word you cannot say on television. Viewer discretion, etc.
ESPN has allowed Lee Corso pretty free rein over its GameDay set for nearly two decades, up to and including firing off guns in a crowded setting (on more than one occasion). But an on-air F-bomb? Shame, shame, shame.
Hamming it up as usual to close this morning's show from Houston, Corso pulled a fairly standard fake-out: First, he brought out a megaphone emblazoned with the logo of visiting SMU, briefly extolled the virtues of the Mustangs, then quickly discarded it for a foam Cougar head belonging to Houston's mascot, Shasta, to the delight of the home crowd. Typical stuff — except that today's delivery got unexpectedly salty:
"How can you pick against SMU? Look at that one there — red, white and blue. [Picks up SMU megaphone] U-S-A! … Ah, f___ it! [Tosses megaphone offscreen, dons Shasta head]"
Duly scandalized, colleagues Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit react like tittering children who just snuck into the back row of an R-rated movie. Fowler literally doubles over onto the desk, face-down, before pretending to scold Corso beneath the mascot head: "Shasta, shame on you! Wash that mouth out!" Herbstreit wears a seized grin that says "We're going to be in so much trouble!" before launching into a nervous mock assault on the foam head. Only the guest picker, University of Houston alum and former Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, seems to appreciate the unscripted moment for chaos' sake, probably because he's used to live television going a little astray. Incredibly, the entire set did not burst into flames smelling of sulfur.
Of course, ESPN felt compelled to break into the first quarter of the Michigan-Nebraska game to air a brief apology from Corso in which he acknowledged the expletive ("I got a bit excited") and promised it would never happen again. The professional scolds at the Federal Communications Commission and various nanny organizations will make certain of that, and the network may help their cause with a tape delay. Because as long as some people still have standards in this country, mature shrugs will never replace feigned gasps and adolescent giggling .