Sports fans loved the inside look at CBS announcers calling Furman’s shocking comeback to upset Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. But Kevin Harlan was embarrassed by it.
Furman’s first-round stunner of Virginia will be remembered as one of the best moments from this year’s NCAA Tournament. Legendary play-by-play voice Harlan was on the call as Virginia’s Kihei Clark threw the ball up for grabs, leading to a turnover and a game-winning three by Furman’s JP Pegues.
The electric call was so perfect that CBS later released video of Harlan, Dan Bonner and Stan Van Gundy to give fans a behind the broadcast booth view of the game-winning play. Fans loved it. But Harlan joined Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast, and stated he would have preferred if the video was kept under wraps.
“I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air,” Harlan said, prompting Deitsch to ask if the announcer played up the call knowing there was a camera on him.
“It is 110 percent organic,” Harlan answered. “The last thing you’re thinking about is that a camera’s on you… I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera. When it was first brought to our attention…in the NFL, I begged our producer, ‘Please, please, please never show this.’ And because they never used any footage, I forgot about it. And I do think it is kind of peeking in back of the curtain, and I just think there are some things you just don’t want to see.”
“You don’t want to see how hot dogs are made,” Harlan continued. “It’s like if we put a camera on you if you’re writing one of your stories for The Athletic. This is kind of a personal space ,and I have voiced my concern to both CBS and Turner. It’s one reason why Westwood doesn’t have anything in our booth. It didn’t even cross my mind.”
Harlan said he didn’t know CBS even had the clip until it was showed to him during their production meeting ahead of Saturday’s games. With respect to the “great camera people at CBS,” Harlan said he attempted to stop the video from going out, noting “I’m very uncomfortable with this.”
The play-by-play voice feared the clip would take away from the student athletes that deserve to have the spotlight on them during the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, CBS decided to release the clip, which has since gone viral on social media.
Harlan told Deitsch he was informed by CBS before they posted it on social media and he immediately began receiving texts with links to the video, which he still has not watched since Saturday’s production meeting.
“Kind of embarrassed by it,” Harlan admitted. “I’m not comfortable with it. I understand why CBS would want to use that, and I guess I trust my bosses more than I trust myself in this situation. …At the same time, if they asked me my preference, I would have said, ‘Please don’t put that up there.’ And I still feel the same way.”
Comparing it to hot dogs being made or Deitsch writing an article is totally underestimating what Harlan means to sports fans. He might not be the star of the broadcast: that label still belongs to the athletes. But Harlan is a performer, and a really good one.
I get why Harlan might be uncomfortable with it. It’s not unlike announcers or radio hosts who cringe at the sound of their own voice, despite making a living off broadcasting their voice. Harlan signed up to narrate the story, not become the story. That said, the video is epic, and it’s fun to watch announcers like Harlan deliver that raw emotion.