The opening weekend of the 2018 NCAA tournament was high on drama. Fans across the country reveled in the chaos. There were upsets, buzzer-beaters, elation and heartbreak. There were, for those watching on TV, also several distraught kids bawling over their team’s misfortune.
Many fans have criticized CBS and Turner for their use of “crying kid” shots, calling them “lazy,” “cruel and exploitative,” and “the cheapest way to convey drama.” The clips from the TV broadcast spread across social media and the internet, turning the kids and their tears into the faces of a team’s anguish.
CBS executive producer Harold Bryant, however, defended the networks’ showing of crying kids in a conversation with Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “It’s part of the drama and the storytelling of the tournament,” he said, speaking on behalf of both CBS and Turner. “It’s part of the emotion. We try to capture the emotion and we try to strike that right balance.”
That was Bryant’s go-to line during a short, somewhat evasive interview – “we try to strike the right balance.” He used it, or some form of it, as part of his response to every on-the-record question.
When asked about the specific criticism that showing kids is a cheap or lazy way to convey drama, Bryant said, “Again, we try to strike a balance. We show happy kids, we show sad kids, we show happy adults, we show players that are happy, we show players that are sad, crying on the benches or on the floor. We do our best, throughout all of these games, throughout the tournament, to strike that proper balance.”
Criticism intensified last week as, in the eyes of many fans, CBS and Turner went to shots of crying kids with increasing frequency. The shots seemed far more prevalent than they are during broadcasts of any other sporting event. One year after a young Northwestern fan – the son of athletic director Jim Phillips – went viral on the tournament’s first weekend, images of young fans of Arizona State, Tennessee and Cincinnati, among others, made the rounds on the internet.
When asked if social media and the circulation of “crying kid” videos and photos factored into the networks’ decision-making at all, Bryant responded, “We can’t control what people are doing on the internet. We’ve gotta strike a balance. We’ve gotta be journalistic and cover the story.”
When asked if there is a line cameramen and producers wouldn’t cross when it comes to presenting emotional reactions to viewers, Bryant responded simply, “Again, we try to strike the balance.”
Yahoo Sports contacted other major sports television networks to see if any had specific policies on showing crying kids. Only ESPN responded, and said it didn’t.
“We discuss the display of emotion as being important pieces of our broadcasts, so there aren’t necessarily rules or do’s and don’ts when it comes to this,” David Ceisler, an ESPN college basketball producer, told Yahoo Sports by email via a spokeswoman. “How we display the winners and losers are important and there are specific ways we can deliver emotion to the fan viewing at home. … It all helps tell the story.”
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