One of the more unusual things in the sports world over the past couple of decades has been the amount of public apologies for cursing. This made sense in an era where most sports were on broadcast television, which comes with a significant amount of Federal Communications Commission regulation. But, with so many key sports events moving to cable in the last two decades, that’s become much less of a factor.
Yes, there have been countless complaints to the FCC around various things on broadcast TV, including Super Bowl halftime shows (but only one in significant numbers to matter). But things on cable draw so few complaints that they don’t really matter, with the main FCC action on cable being over emergency alert tone misuse. However, there’s still been a significant percentage of cable sports coverage apologizing whenever a notable profanity is aired, including when ESPN did that to themselves in 2021 by airing a promo clip of their own Mets’ documentary that contained f-bombs. And that makes it quite refreshing when a streaming service show like Pro Football Talk Live drops a f-bomb and very much does not apologize for it. Here’s a clip of that from Thursday’s Pro Football Talk Live on Peacock, with co-host Chris Simms initially dropping the f-bomb and fellow host Mike Florio then saying they’re not going to offer a meaningless apology:
"'You told us to stop, so I don't know what the hell to do! What the fuck! Geez!'" These Chris Simms comments on Pro Football Talk Live did not receive an apology. pic.twitter.com/JYfX3Z1FIh
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) April 28, 2022
At 0:27 above, discussing players bothered by media reports, Simms says “They don’t get enough attention, and then they”re like ‘Why don’t more people pay attention to me?’ ‘You told us to stop, so I don’t know what the hell to do! What the fuck! Geez!'” Florio and Simms then have a bit of a discussion about that, but it does not include an apology. And Florio then later followed up on this on Twitter:
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 28, 2022
From this corner, there’s something to this. There are countless entertainment movies and shows that curse, and any sports broadcast with live mics carries a cursing warning (for good reason). It feels a little silly to demand that studio shows covering sports do not include the language that’s usually heard in the sports world. And the falling-all-over-themselves apologies we’ve often seen on cable television sports coverage feel like a bit much, considering that there’s a lot of proof that the FCC does not care. (Use an emergency alert tone and they’ll come for you, but an f-bomb? Not so much.)
And if there remain people strongly opposed to cursing being used at any time and any place, that’s fine. They can modify their media intakes accordingly, and stick to only shows explicitly classified as for children. But it’s somewhat remarkable that the significant portion of the world that is fine with cursing has been blocked out from hearing that on television thanks to a few complainants.
And the streaming revolution is a promising thing there. If the FCC doesn’t really care about cursing on cable, they really, really don’t care about it on streaming services. As Florio’s tweet notes, real life is rated R: those who wish to avoid that can try to build their own non-cursing bubble, but it’s a little annoying that they’ve extended this Puritanical prohibition on cursing over so much of society that something like Simms’ line here is seen as so unusual. And from this corner, it’s refreshing to see Simms say this and Florio defend it, rather than capitulating to the anti-cursing masses in the way we so often see in sports.