After two initial replays, CBS stopped showing footage Sunday of Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware breaking his leg during the first half of his team’s NCAA men’s tournament game against Duke.
The injury during the nationally televised game, and the shocked reaction of Ware’s fellow players, called to mind the gruesome broken leg suffered by Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in a Monday Night football game in 1985. During Sunday’s game, Theismann tweeted his best wishes to Ware.
Ware had leaped to try and block a shot by Duke’s Tyler Thornton. His leg landed awkwardly, buckled and flopped as he fell to the ground. The first hint that the injury was out of the ordinary came from Thornton, who put his hands to his face and had an anguished look as he ran back on defense.
CBS commentator Clark Kellogg described the injury was “gruesome.”
“If you can bear to watch it, take a look but it’s a gruesome-looking injury,” Kellogg said.
CBS showed the replay twice in slow motion, although not with a close-up of Ware landing. The network also never showed a close-up of the injury.
CBS then concentrated on reaction shots. Three of Ware’s teammates were on the ground near the basket. Wayne Blackshear cried, Chane Behanan knelt on his hands and knees and Peyton Silva sat, a hand covering his mouth.
The network aired a close-up of medical officials working on Ware, showing the player only from the face up.
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said that because of the graphic nature of the injury, the network decided not to show it after the original replays. People could quickly find replays on YouTube, anyway.
“We did not zoom in on the injury when he was taken off,” McManus said. “We did not try to highlight it. I think we did the right thing.”
At halftime, Greg Gumbel noted that CBS would not show the injury. Its highlight package again focused on the reactions, including Louisville coach Rick Pitino wiping away tears. Pitino answered questions from CBS during the game about Ware, noting the injured player was exhorting his teammates to win the regional final. A Louisville spokesman said Ware was “resting comfortably” at Indianapolis’ Methodist Hospital.
Louisville went on to defeat Duke 85-63 in the tournament.
As is often the case, the coverage quickly became a hot topic on Twitter. Sports writer Jason Whitlock tweeted that “CBS handled this curveball (Ware injury) masterfully.”
The network’s decision to stop showing the replay only goes so far. Right after the game ended, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix aired the footage of Ware being injured in a local sports report.
Coverage of the injury represented the second difficult call of the day for CBS. Earlier, the network cut away from the dramatic conclusion of the Sony Open men’s final, switching to the tipoff of the NCAA tournament game between Michigan and Florida. The network did alert viewers that if the third set between Andy Murray and David Ferrer went to a tiebreaker, it would switch coverage of the Tennis Channel.