Drawing inspiration from adversity

It was a disturbing and horrifying sight: Louisville’s Kevin Ware suffering a broken leg during the NCAA Midwest Regional Final.

It happened in front of tens-of-thousands of fans in the arena, and millions more watching the live broadcast on CBS. Ware’s leg visibly shattered, broken in two places, his teammates in tears, and fans clearly upset at the unfortunate scene they were witnessing.

Watching the broadcast, a fan’s immediate reaction may be sadness and concern for the player, while in the broadcast truck, the question becomes – “how do we cover this?”

Such injuries create ethical dilemmas for sports broadcasters, whose job it is to bring the action to you in your living room in an immediate, entertaining fashion.

That often includes several replays, up close and at various speeds. So, the same technology that provides multiple angles of a possible fumble on the football field can also capture gruesome injuries in graphically slow motion on the basketball court.

With a national media now at the mercy of the 24-hour news cycle, where breaking news is repeated ad nauseam, it would be easy to fall into the common practice of playing and re-playing a major story, which in this case, was a defining moment in the NCAA tournament.

It brought to mind the famously-awful Joe Theisman leg injury on Monday Night Football in 1985. That situation is somewhat different in that it happened in professional athletics during a sporting event that is inherently physical and even violent.

During Sunday’s broadcast, CBS wisely and compassionately chose not to broadcast the fluke basketball injury over and over.

While medical personnel attended to Ware, the story on the floor quickly became the star guard’s motivating message to his teammates, encouraging them to win the game, even has he was being carted off the floor.

Of course, the Cardinals did win, defeating Duke, 85-63, to earn a spot in the Final Four which coincidentally will take place in Ware’s hometown of Atlanta.

During that Final Four homecoming, we can expect more emotional coverage of the Ware injury, and its impact on the Louisville program, but hopefully that coverage won’t include the video of the actual fracture.

Beyond its graphic nature, it’s an injury that will mean a great deal in the life of a young student athlete, impacting not only his immediate health, but also his career, his family, his team and his future.

But in that one shining moment, Kevin Ware turned the attention from his personal situation to his team. He spurred his comrades to a dramatic win, encouraging and inspiring them in spite of his own disappointment.

What CBS captured was the agony of injury, the inspiration of unselfish leadership and the thrill of victory, all in a family-friendly format.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.