I’m watching the Transitions Championship golf tournament. I can’t tell you who’s winning because I can’t remember his name, or the guys who are close behind. Sergio Garcia is putting, and I have watched him for many years, but he’s not in the lead. In the past 6 months, I have seen more of a variety of players in the final round, rather than a few really good ones.
I remember the weekends of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk – they seemed to regulars on the leaderboard at big tournaments. Today, the commentators just reminded us that Justin Rose is ahead, and they are talking about him, about his past record, and a little more about who he is. When Tiger was so dominant at number one, the networks had a lot of short, two or three minute mini-bios about Tiger, with dramatic music and interesting tidbits about his training, his father, his work ethic. The networks also covered other players, especially coming in to weekends of majors when there was an interesting player chasing Tiger into the final rounds.
I remember a smily, humble golfer, an older guy (that’s late 40′s in PGA golf), who was on a winning streak and took Tiger to a playoff in a major championship. Sadly, although I can picture his face and his smile, i can’t remember his name. But I do remember that during a Saturday and Sunday final round with Tiger in the lead, the guy got a lot of air time. Tiger was followed with his own camera crew and not only was every shot broadcast, the network also took the time to keep the camera in the group and show clips from caddys talking to the players, and in low voices, the commentators would talk about what the player is probably thinking and their probable strategy for hitting the shot.
I just looked up the nice guy’s name who played against Tiger that day: Rocco Mediate. Rocco – of course! I wanted the injured, grimacing, but still-fighting Tiger Woods to win another US Open, but I also cheered for Rocco to win because he was the underdog, the veteran we had barely heard of, a guy who’s dream would come true by winning the US Open and beating Tiger Woods doing it. But alas, for Rocco, it wasn’t to be.
It is so very interesting to follow a major championship through the weekend, especially when NBC does such a good job covering the top players and letting the viewers learn from watching the footage, some of which the title sponsor will pay to keep airing with no commercials. It is an amazing learning experience to hear those conversations and watch the best golfers in the world as they analyze the situation, play out the options in their head, and have a caddy to turn to for advice when the situation is tricky. While I have been watching the Transitions Championship that I DVR’d today, I haven’t noticed nearly as much of the in-depth conversations as I remember watching a few years ago, even during weekends of non-major events.
The reason seems to be because the cameras are following so many differerent players that they don’t have time to focus on only a few. I don’t know much more about the guys in the lead today as I did when I started watching. And even if NBC did cover a few players more and the others less, they might not be the same leaders I see tomorrow, on Sunday, and then I’d learn about two more whose names I probably wouldn’t remember anyway.
What Tiger’s absence from the top spot has done for me, it seems, is allow more players into the same amount of air time. At first thought, that seems pretty cool – more players to watch should mean more things to see and learn, right?
But, what I’ve found is that I’m seeing less of the background conversations that come from following a star, even an emerging one. Maybe it would be nice to have NBC focus on a few players each season, almost like a reality series if the player is willing. Tiger was followed season after season because he was in the number one spot. But it would be interesting to watch the progress of even a player who isn’t number one and to follow his progress through a season, whether he wins or not. It’s the behind-the-scenes conversations, strategies, and psychology of their game that would interest me.
I wonder if would interest others also?
I know that when I play golf, I just like to play. And from all of the interviews and mini-documentaires I’ve seen about PGA players, it looks like they are in it for the game also. They LOVE to play, in fact, and seeing the intensity of a player when he makes a good shot, or a bad shot, is really fun to watch. But I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in front of a camera for several days nearly every other weekend. I can’t imagine how much the game would change for me if someone was following me from hole to hole, critiquing me, admiring me, talking about me, and broadcasting it to millions of people. Would I get used to it?
And as I think about it, it is most often NBC who has the most memorable and highly-polished golf moments sprinkled in during a weekend tournament. It is NBC that I am watching today, and if anyone from NBC reads this, know that this one golf fan in Pagosa Springs, Colorado would love to see more of the personalities featured on the weekend and that I do pay attention to the sponsors who foot the bill to make it happen.