While we can argue about whether we should be fascinated by horrific sports injuries, we are. We can recall some of the most significant injuries we’ve seen pretty quickly. When Joe Theismann’s name comes up, the first thing you think about probably isn’t Super Bowl XVII or his 1983 MVP season.
That puts television networks in an interesting place. When Alex Smith suffered what has to be one of the most horrific injuries in NFL history, suffering a compound fracture as he broke his tibia and fibula against the Houston Texans on Sunday, it was newsworthy. He’s the quarterback of the NFC East-leading Washington Redskins, a player the Redskins traded for and gave $71 million guaranteed to this past offseason.
CBS had a decision to make. How often would they show the replay of what was a season-ending injury to Smith? They showed it just once, and explained that decision to the Washington Post.
CBS producer: ‘We felt that was enough’
Howard Bryant, senior vice president of production at CBS, explained to the Post why the network didn’t show any more replays of the injury after a commercial break.
“It’s a philosophy thing,” Bryant told the Post. “It’s a horrific injury, and we described it in-depth and documented it, and as a group we felt that was enough. We made a judgment call and felt it was documented properly. You could see the anguish on his face and on the players’ faces.”
Bryant was the executive producer of the game in New York, and the Post said he and the producers on site in Landover, Maryland, discussed what to do. They decided once was enough. That one replay isn’t hard to find online.
Bryant was also the producer of a 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament game in which Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a bad broken leg. CBS showed two quick replays of that injury, the Post wrote.
“It’s something we have discussions about,” Bryant told the Post. “How we’re going to cover these moments, and on Sunday, the preparation kicked into action — unfortunately.”
Joe Theismann’s injury got multiple replays
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times sat down with Theismann in 2005, 20 years after he broke his leg on a sack by Lawrence Taylor, to watch video of the game. Theismann hadn’t seen the replay for 20 years. One of the interesting parts of revisiting that story was Sandomir recounting how ABC handled the replays that night.
While the live shot didn’t show Theismann’s leg, the reverse angle did. ABC showed it three times, including once after halftime. Theismann’s injury came early in the second quarter. ABC also showed a shot of blood on Theismann’s jersey pants.
“That was not something people wanted to see, especially if kids were watching,” Bob Goodrich, who was producing that game, told the Times.
Gruesome injuries are part of sports, and there’s no use denying many fans are curious about them. There are at least three YouTube clips of Ware’s injury with more than a million views (one has 2.29 million) and a couple more with more than 500,000 views. But that doesn’t mean television producers want to keep showing those replays.
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