Mark Davis

Before examining the ridiculous controversy stemming from Monday night’s college football championship broadcast, let us stipulate that there are more urgent and scary ways to describe the current changes in America.

We are becoming a culture of dependency. We are becoming a neo-socialist experiment. We are becoming a dumbed-down nation unappreciative of its founders. We are losing touch with the Constitution and the very concept of liberty.

I do not argue that today’s essay is our most pressing problem. But as scores of fine writers address the various angles of our republic’s dangle from a precarious thread, I thought I’d venture to the periphery to lament another type of change which accrues to our societal detriment.

We are becoming a nation that caves to humorless, scolding bullies on matters of little or no consequence.

Not exactly a fiscal cliff or an Islamist-friendly CIA director, but a problem nonetheless.

If you didn’t see it live, you surely have by now. The iconic Brent Musburger took a moment between plays to comment on the images from ESPN cameras dwelling on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend in the stands.

Turning to colleague Kirk Herbstreit, he playfully nudged: “You quarterbacks, you get all the good looking women. What a beautiful woman. Wow!”

Herbstreit, quarterback at Ohio State just over 20 years ago, added: “A.J.’s doing some things right down in Tuscaloosa.”

Musburger then filled the remaining seconds before the next play: “So if you’re a youngster at Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around with Pop.”

Somewhere, a shriek rang out.

This is the only theory that can possibly lead to the sheer idiocy of ESPN apologizing for a completely innocent 30 seconds of broadcaster banter.

Somewhere, a phone rang. Or a hundred phones. An email, or a hundred emails, were sent. The sliver of America that found those moments offensive was going to get its pound of flesh.

Surely ESPN did not buckle on its own. Surely a network that will show you cheerleaders twenty times a game did not suddenly recoil in the production truck. No one wearing headphones said at the time, “Oh, dang, that was terrible, we should apologize for that.”

But the pathetic thing is, someone at ESPN may well have tensed up at the time-- not because the event was truly bad, but because every TV and radio operation knows that countless humorless scolders with empty lives stand poised to pounce on any turn of a word or phrase that jostles their fragile sensibilities.