Tide Rolls, ESPN Folds and Twittersphere Beholds Katherine Webb
The big story from this year's college football national championship was not Alabama's demolition of Notre Dame. Instead, it was ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger's comments about Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb.
When the current Miss Alabama was spotted for the first time by the camera, Musburger and his color man, Kirk Herbstreit, both gushed over the beauty. And while it did go on a bit too long, nothing untoward or disrespectful was said. I would guess that most people (men for sure, and women) watching, including myself, probably had just about the same reaction. She is pretty stunning.
Reaction in the media and across social channels was swift. Ms. Webb's Twitter following exploded from 500 to over 100,000 overnight, and as of right now stands at more than 220,000.
Commentary ranged from the amused to the bewildered as to why this incident drew so much attention. There were a few negative stories, mostly based on the fact that they found it uncomfortable that a man of Brent's age would go a bit overboard in his reaction. For her part, Ms. Webb shrugged it off as no big deal, and certainly not insulting. But for some reason, ESPN felt compelled to issue an apology on behalf of Mr. Musburger.
"We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that."
It's interesting to note that Musburger himself did not apologize. So what are we to make of this kerfuffle?
- The shot of Ms. Webb was planned out well in advance by ESPN. The station was hoping to get some sort of reaction and it did.
- Even after the initial shot with Musburger's accompanying reaction the producers repeatedly went back to reaction shots of her. If they were so concerned about fallout from Musburger's reaction, why keep going back to the well? Why? Because they knew they had a sub-story in a game that was basically over in the first quarter that would help keep viewer interest.
- While she most certainly didn't campaign to be on camera, getting her 15 minutes of fame has done wonders for her career. Let's be clear. She knows she's beautiful, why else would she compete in beauty pageants. Her bio says she works for Chick-fil-a as a training director and model. My guess is the Chick-fil-a gig won't be much longer. She's already been asked by Donald Trump to be a judge for the Miss Universe Pageant. The Donald is not one to miss a publicity opportunity like this. Is the Apprentice still around? If so, look for Ms. Webb to be a future contestant.
- Everyone that matters in this story, Ms. Webb, her boyfriend and her family think this has been blown way out of proportion and there was no need for an apology.
- So, what is the motivation for ESPN to issue the apology? Did their PR team overreact? Did legal counsel suggest they do it to cover their butts? Or, is it a way to keep the story going? Now we are seeing stories about the apology. As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.
- Social media once again shows how much it is changing communications reach and influence. Without these channels to further fuel the story via YouTube, Twitter and the blogosphere would this story have reached national news status? I think not.
So tell me what you think about all of this? Will this incident be one of those cultural moments that lives on through time like Joe Namath's "I wanna kiss you" incident on Monday Night Football? Or will it become just another blip that quickly fades away?