February 18, 2010
Shaun White's gold-medal coronation in the halfpipe finals at the Winter Olympics was marred Wednesday by vulgar statements made by coach Bud Keene and aired on NBC live to the East Coast before White's final run. White was the last to go, but since nobody had beat his score from the first round, he was the automatic winner. There was much joy and celebration atop the run, as there should have been. Unfortunately, a few of those words were picked up by NBC cameras.
At first there were whoops of celebration. But then things got a little R-rated.
Keene: What do you want to do?
White: I don't know, man. Ride down the middle?
(Chorus of noes.)
Keene: No, have some fun.
White: Drop a double mick?
Keene: Yeah, drop a double mick at the end. Do whatever you want and [expletive] send that thing. Make sure you stomp the [expletive] out of that thing.
It went downhill from there if you can read lips, at which point NBC announcers Pat Parnell and Todd Richards apologized for the language and defended it by saying that a lot of energy was running through White and his coaches. The apology was necessary (even if it did draw more attention to the curses – they were tough to hear without rewinding), but NBC was apologizing for the wrong people. They shouldn't be apologizing for Bud Keene; they should be apologizing for the network showing it in the first place.
Don't blame Bud Keene for speaking as he does. He's a grown man talking to another grown man before a gold-medal victory lap. Those two have been working for this very moment for four years. All the training runs, all the practice moves, and all the jumps into the block pit were done for those few minutes when Shaun White would win Olympic gold. And, having reached that lofty goal, we're supposed to expect Keene to be cognizant of a camera and boom mike in his face? To censor his words? That's ridiculous.
Keene is under no obligation or responsibility to clean up his language at any point unless he's specifically giving an interview to a network. He's talking to his athlete, not to Bob Costas or the 25 million people watching at home. He shouldn't have to clean up his language because a family of four in Boyertown, Pa., was settling in to watch Shaun White make his final run. The only obligation Keene has is to himself and his athlete. He understands as much. He told Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan after the race that he realized he'd been caught swearing, but "usually there's not a camera in my face."
For you conspiracy theorists out there, when the same segment aired on the West Coast later in the night, the potty words were more difficult to make out. Did NBC muddle the audio instead of bleeping the offending words, or did it edit the exchange out of the show altogether?