In a US Open without Tiger Woods, NBC was blessed with anything but your average, Tigerless major championship. Rory McIlroy rebounded from his Masters meltdown and won his first major in record setting fashion at Congressional, shooting a tournament best 268 (-16) and besting the field by 8 shots. It was an incomparable performance that captivated a large audience and had golf fans, tv execs, and sports watchers salivating over the next big thing in golf. NBC should have been reveling in their good fortune of having golf’s newest superstar come to life on their network.
Instead, the major story coming out of NBC’s coverage of the US Open is their inexplicable decision to cut out the words “under God” from a patriotic opening montage that included the Pledge of Allegiance. Dan Hicks was then forced to sheepishly apologize later during the broadcast. Before we break it down, here’s the video…
With that little omission, the internet was thrown up in arms and NBC was caught in the middle of political, social, and religious crossfire, and all of it totally unnecessary…
The words “under God” are in the pledge, so NBC clearly had to make an active decision to take the words out. As an observer from my couch watching the US Open, it was a downright brainless decision. In fact, it’s one of the most peculiar and unnecessary mistakes that I’ve seen in a sports telecast. Whoever put that video together had to know that omitting those specific words would cause a massive controversy and start a firestorm on many different levels. So the question to NBC is… why do it in the first place?
Did they want to win some extra points with their politically leaning cable network and/or its viewers? Did they really believe that the words “under God” are so offensive that they had to remove them to be politically correct? Did they feel like Rory McIlroy’s runaway victory wasn’t exciting enough so they had to manufacture a controversy? Did they really believe that the US Open golf tournament was the proper venue to make a political and cultural stand by editorializing and changing the Pledge of Allegiance?
Now, regardless of whether or not you agree with what NBC did, or think that the words “under God’ should or should not be in the pledge is beside the point. NBC made a serious error with their video package and admitted to as much with their awkward on-air apology in the middle of the telecast. Here’s the transcript of Hicks’ apology from Yahoo Sports:
“It was our intent to begin our coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being here in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the pledge of allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
One has to ask this question – would NBC apologize on-air in the middle of their US Open telecast if they had left the words “under God” in the pledge? No rational person would say yes. If NBC was concerned with having the pledge read in its current form, then why include it at all? What does having the Pledge of Allegiance read by children add to your golf coverage??? Watch the video again – just play the pictures and the music, heck, have the kids recite the Gettysburg Address or Star Spangled Banner if you absolutely need to celebrate patriotism with your golf montage. Then again, does the US Open really need jimmied up with grandstanding patriotism in the first place… it is just a golf tournament after all.
Some of you might not care about this story at all, but let me add this… NBC cared enough to make that decision in the first place, hundreds and probably thousands cared enough to complain, NBC cared enough to interrupt the final round of the US Open to offer an apology, and then thousands more cared enough to take a side in the manufactured controversy. Imagine ESPN having Sarah Palin introduce us to the Great Alaskan Shootout or CBS starting their coverage of the Final Four with a message about immigration, abortion, gay marriage, or any other issue that divides viewers along social, political, religious, or cultural lines. That’s basically what NBC willingly chose to do with this video during their premier golf event of the year – divide and anger viewers with no rhyme or reason.
This is NBC’s senseless mistake – instead of talking about their golf coverage, we’re talking about some stupid and unnecessary decision made in a minute long intro package. Worst of all, they placed the attention on themselves and took it away from what people tuned in to watch in the first place – Rory McIlroy and the US Open.