Or, take this year’s Masters tournament, which marked the return of Tiger Woods in the aftermath of his well-publicized sex scandal. More than a few sports insiders were struck at the way CBS Sports, which had paid a hefty sum to the Masters for the broadcast rights for the tournament, soft-pedaled its coverage of Woods. Bryant Gumbel, host of HBO’s Real Sports, was blunt. A recent AP story had him noting that CBS and the Masters were profit-seeking partners. “Do you really think when we watch the Masters that Jim Nantz is going to harp on Tiger Woods’s troubles? I think not,” he said.
In hindsight, the Comcast firing is less about two warring TV personalities than about the corrosive influence of over-concentrated corporate power. It was never a fair fight. Think Nolan at 5-foot-9 inches up against O’Reilly at 6-foot-4—with two giant media conglomerates behind him. Think Dustin Pedroia, the little Red Sox second baseman, up against the whole New York Yankee lineup.
Nolan has landed a communications job with the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and commutes weekly from Washington to his Newton home. His show Backstage on CN8 is no more; plagued by low ratings, Comcast discontinued the CN8 brand last year. To date, Nolan says he has incurred $100,000 in legal fees.
But he is still in a fighting mood. “I don’t think they had the F-ing right to tell me what I’m allowed to say. In the end, I think they were trying to suck up to Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch and Bill O’Reilly in a way that’s spineless and appalling for a company [Comcast] that aspires to run a major network news operation [NBC]. What happens when Keith Olbermann goes after O’Reilly? I think that’s scary.”