"This is very jarring," Kerr told them. "A lot of people here are very sad." Many writers questioned the timing of the announcement, which Kerr called "unfortunate, but unavoidable."
While CBS presented Musburger's severance as essentially a matter of irreconcilable philosophical differences—"It's like a divorce," Kerr said—the Musburger camp speculated privately about whether Musburger's salary, his omnipresence and his unpopularity with some members of the media had combined to spur CBS to drop him. Interestingly, CBS gave the radio side of the company permission to negotiate a new contract with Musburger, a fact that suggests that Musburger, who will be 51 next month, has outworn his welcome in a young-face business.
Even those who didn't care for Musburger's aggressive, glib style were, at least, accustomed to him. Now the main question becomes, how quickly and how well will CBS Sports get its act together. The most pressing order of business is baseball. CBS's first two telecasts will be on April 14 and 21; after that it will do 10 more regular-season games beginning in June, followed by the playoffs and World Series. As SI went to press on Tuesday, ABC's Al Michaels, whose relationship with ABC president Dennis Swanson apparently has cooled, was being mentioned as the leading candidate to replace Musburger on baseball.
Once the baseball situation has been resolved, CBS will have to retool The NFL Today, of which Musburger has been the host since 1975. Other plum jobs also will be up for grabs. Who will host the 1992 and '94 Winter Olympics? Who will join with Packer at the NCAAs? The only certainty is that no one will come close to doing all the things Musburger did. The new CBS galaxy will have more stars of equal magnitude, not one supernova.
When CBS put its trademark eyeball next to his, Musburger didn't blink—a power play he could only have lost. He says that after an extended vacation, he'll work again, "somewhere, somehow." One possibility would be for him to replace Jim McKay and Frank Gifford as host and studio traffic cop at ABC. Said Tubbs, "There are lots of options out there."
Maybe so, but it's doubtful Musburger will ever again be the sort of presence he was at CBS.