TBS inadvertently burned itself on Monday when it attempted to convey an apparent joke referencing a 1969 river fire in Cleveland during the post-game show following the Indians’ ALDS sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
In an apparent nod to the 1969 explosion of the Cuyahoga River, which used to be known as one of the most polluted in America, the station not only offended Cleveland residents, but got the facts wrong. The picture TBS posted showing its sports analysts in front of the inferno, was actually of an exploding, polluted river in Russia snapped last year, Cleveland’s Fox 8 reports.
Twitter, of course, sounded off with many referring to the gag as “classless.”
The strongest reaction, however, came from ABC 5 reporter Leon Bibb.
“I don’t like to get into fist fights, but sometimes you have no way out,” Bibb said on a Monday evening newscast. “You and I and all of Northeast Ohio got hit last night by a cable television network, which depicted us in an untrue and unethical way. … So I’m taking my coat off and rolling up my sleeves because sometimes you gotta be true to your own.”
Bibb went on to castigate the network for the “phonied up picture” and defend the river, which has since been cleaned up.
“In baseball terms, TBS tossed a brushed back beanball at our heads, so we are calling TBS out for that,” he said. “… And if you want to take issue with me about Cleveland or our river, meet me at the clean Cuyahoga, where it meets the broad-chested Lake Erie, and we can have a face-to-face talk on the river bank one night, if you catch my drift.”
TBS apparently did catch Bibb’s drift and wanted no part of it. On Tuesday, the network apologized, saying they “regret the use of the image.”
“Cleveland is a great city,” read the statement, emailed to Cleveland’s WKYC. “We look forward to putting the focus back on an exciting ALCS.”
Indians fans will hope the broadcast will also put more emphasis on their team gong forward. Along with the river picture blunder, some on Twitter pointed out what they saw as lopsided coverage during the post-game program.
In the meantime, an organization called Share the River decided to make their own promotional images featuring Cleveland and its river.
The Indians are set to face the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League title starting on Friday. The game is scheduled to begin at 8:08 p.m. ET.