Editor’s note: Stephen is a life-long Houstonian and avid weather-geek. He grew up fascinated with the wild Houston weather and loves writing about the processes that create it and its impacts on the area. You can find him on twitter @stephenuzick He will be providing occasional weather coverage for the site.
By STEPHEN UZICK
The end of the North Carolina – Kentucky Elite Eight game on Sunday was absolutely terrific. I had arrived home from a weekend at the casino (which I drove through a hailstorm in Beaumont to get to) just in time to catch about the last three minutes, it would have sucked to miss it. However, yesterday a number of news outlets had a story about how the good people of Columbus, Ohio missed the final few minutes of that game due to the local CBS station breaking in due to a tornado warning for the area. Almost immediately the station and meteorologists became the target of with vicious tweets, which unfortunately probably should have been expected. Like I said, it would have sucked to miss the end of the game – but it would have sucked a whole lot more to get hit by a tornado you didn’t know was coming.
The storm versus sports situation has actually arisen quite a number of times in the past. Usually it involves the NBA Playoffs as they happen during prime severe weather season. When warnings are issued during must-see-TV events, especially sporting events due to their time sensitive nature, news stations have a tough decision to make about breaking in to programming. On one hand as part of FCC licensing procedure local news stations have an obligation to serve the public, but on the other hand they would be making a large number of their viewers very upset, and would likely lose out on some ad revenue.
On Sunday the CBS affiliate in Columbus probably made the right decision to break into game coverage as the tornado warned storm was actually producing damage – including blowing off roofs, downing trees, and flipping trailers – and it was tracking toward a fairly populated area. However, their execution of the news break was poor. Instead of cutting to the meteorologist showing what was going on they went to a black screen with only a text crawl and audio of the meteorologist. People were already going to be mad that they couldn’t watch the game, but having to watch a black screen with only audio undoubtedly only intensified that anger. As soon as they cut in the twitter rage began. One of the most common, and frankly kind of disturbing things that was tweeted was that no one cares about the weather or tornado warning, just show me the game.
I get that sports are a huge part of many people’s lives, I am one of those people. I probably wouldn’t be writing this for Houston Sports and Stuff if I wasn’t – but sometimes sports have to take a back seat to real life problems. Would I have had a moment of frustration if a close game I was watching was suddenly turned off? Yeah I absolutely would, but I also think I have the common sense to get over that and realize receiving information regarding the safety of myself and my family is more important than whatever game I am watching, which frankly I, nor most people, will probably even remember in a few weeks. News stations are the last ones who want to interrupt a highly rated live event and they don’t take the decision to do so lightly. They really are in a no-win situation when these issues arise. Either they cut into programming, piss off viewers and potentially lose ad revenue but give important information, or they don’t and receive a backlash for not providing any warning if people get hurt or property gets damaged. If a situation is deemed dangerous enough for a station to break into a high viewership event it is probably worth your attention. Don’t be a troll and bitch on social media; take a second to come back to reality and realize that your safety is probably more important than the game you are watching.