Brent Musburger’s actual birthday — May 26, 1939 — puts him on the cusp of septuagenarian citizenship this year. Which, by all standards in today’s world, 70 is really the new … 45?
Hard to say, even in Musburger’s expansive vocabulary.
And if we’re doing the math right, Musburger is starting his 20th season at ESPN/ABC, having joined them after CBS let him go following the 1990 NCAA basketball tournament.
Spinning off our interview with him this week and published today (linked here), as he did the call for the third year in a row on the Rose Bowl, watching USC pull off its third win in a row on New Year’s Day, Musburger mused about a few other things we put in front of him:
== As a former Chicago sportswriter, local TV sports and newscaster, play-by-play on both radio and TV and a run as a studio host, it gives you some grounded perspective on where the direction of the media is going these days. Care to speculate?
Musburger: “I wish i had the answers to those kind of big questions. The thing that has stuck with me was from a course I had at Northwestern, taught by the great English professor Bergen Evans (a link to his Wikipedia bio here). He continued to make the point that our lives will not be changed by politics, but by technology. At the time it didn’t register with me. I didn’t quite understand. But how he was able to see the future and how it was going to change … I suspect computers played a big part in how our economy has melted down recently, in the way money can move so quickly. But in our media business, there’s no question that technology has redone the landscape.
“You go back to when there was three main outlets for sports when I was doing the NFL, no ESPN. No one thought about those kind of things. We had so many people available as viewers and so much or a percentage and newspapers had all the in-depth news. Now someone like myself can now prepare to do a Rose Bowl, fire up a computer, sit in Pasadena and read all the newspapers in Pennsylvania. It’s absolutely altered the landscape.”
== For the good, or the not so good, or does it need time to sort itself out?
Musburger: “I don’t think it will ever sort out. The Internet and computers and all the chatter are here to stay. Sometimes, people pay too much attention to it. I think they watch it all the time. I guess I don’t view it as a danger because it’s been such a resource for me. Obviously, it’s costing jobs in the newspaper industry and there’s no question newspapers can’t figure out how to make the traffic is has pay off.
“In my experiences, I stay more with newspaper reports, reliable newspapers, and don’t venture off into other parts of the Internet, the blogs. But even newspapers have to be careful in this rush to be first and all of that. They have to accept the Internet as a resource and be careful about passing on rumors.”
== So you’re impression of the Internet, where some bloggers don’t treat you so well, is to keep it in perspective as to how you use it?
Musburger: “It’s much like talk radio where it’s a lot of opinion. I do pay attention to it and can find it interesting, but I can tell the difference. Here’s an example: I’m getting a flury of emails one day because people have heard that Joe Paterno may announce his retirement prior to, or at halftime, or a game against Michigan State. I didn’t have to call him to know the answer to that. That’s just not his style. He’s not going to say, ‘Win one for JoePa.’ If it happens, it’ll be in the middle of winter and he and his wife Sue will decide that it’s it, and he’ll call the university president and that’s it. To me, that story was an example of how the Internet rumor gets passed along the long chain. I think reasonable people should understand that is’ just what I’d call Internet gossip. There are far too many rumors out there to track down. As an individual, I don’t see a danger in it. But when it comes to us, a lot of other people have an interest in it. But it’s really just a lot of opinion.”