Fox has had NFL games for 28 years now, if you can believe that. Seems like only yesterday they killed Angela Lansbury with the news they had usurped CBS to grab the NFC package, which they haven’t let go of since (I was shocked to find out Lansbury, the renown actress of stage and screen is actually still alive, but it works for this joke). So you’d think in that time they have covered a serious injury or two. There’s a way to convey the graveness of the situation, while also showing even a modicum of respect. Doesn’t seem like that message has gotten through.
We went through this when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field this past summer, and the French TV-directed world feed took minutes to figure out it should stop showing angles of Eriksen receiving CPR or defibrillators on the field. Though it didn’t stop showing Eriksen’s girlfriend distraught as she came to the field to find out what was going on.
Fox outdid this. It was quite clear within a second or two that something was seriously wrong with Donald Parham Jr. after he fell to the turf and hit his head. We’ve all watched enough football to know “concussion arms” when we see them, correctly known as the “fencing response.” That didn’t stop the Fox cameraman from running to get an angle from directly on top of Parham, and get a close-up of his unconscious face. And for what? Shock value?
So let me ask, what do we think anyone in Parham’s family or close to him would think of that? This isn’t a debate about what we can and can’t show in the paper the next day after a tragedy like a school shooting, to really fill people in on the horror of something far too many dismiss too quickly. We all watch football, we know the toll it can take, we know what concussions look like and what they do. This was exploitative.
It certainly wasn’t helped by Joe Buck, who assuredly knows better, first saying that they wouldn’t speculate on Parham’s injury, and then guessing that the terrifying sight of Parham’s arms still shaking minutes after his initial injury was somehow due to it “being cold in L.A.” How stupid does Buck think we are?
One can understand the impulse, but Buck is supposed to be above that. The sight of a horrifying, possibly life-changing injury isn’t exactly an advertisement for the sport. And part of Buck’s job, and a big part of Fox’s, is to sell the game. They need us to watch the next one on Sunday (or Saturday this time of year), after all. Being reminded what these guys risk isn’t going to make anyone rush for the remote. Getting a close-up of the damage isn’t really a push for the game either.
But there are limits, and they’re based in respect for the players on the field. We don’t need closeups of a stricken player. We don’t need broadcasters trying to minimize what we all saw in the most clawing and farfetched way possible. At that point it’s Fox’s and Buck’s job to express the gravity of the situation without having to be ghoulish about it. They failed on every level.