Real Sports 10th Anniversary & The Masters

This weekend, the sports viewing consisted of The Masters and HBO’s 10th Anniversary of the sports magazine show, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”.

CBS is handcuffed by antiquted rules put forth by the Augusta National Golf Club. Under the parameters imposed Hootie Johnson and the members of August National, CBS cannot expand coverage from its 3:30 – 7 p.m. hours on Saturday and 2:30-7 p.m. Sunday. The same goes for cable partner USA which goes from 4:00 – 7 p.m. While other major tournaments such as the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship allow for 18 hole coverage for an entire afternoon, the Masters still has the least amount of television coverage for a a major.

It shortchanges the viewer especially when the 2nd or 3rd rounds are postponed until the following morning. CBS was forced to show highlights at the beginning of its coverage on both Saturday and Sunday. USA could not show special live coverage in the morning. There is no legitimate explanation for this slight. The Masters and Hootie, its tournament chairman continue to force CBS to follow its rules rather than the other way around. CBS has to provide the tournament with its own special graphics and adhere to every whim. For instance, when Gary McCord made a comment about “body bags” near the green and the green being “bikini waxed”, the Masters subsequently banned McCord and CBS could do nothing about it.

I like watching the Masters because it’s a rite of spring, but these pompous rules help no one. The Masters takes itself way too seriously and it goes down to the announcers. Jim Nantz sounded like the “Voice of God” or the keeper of Augusta National. Lanny Wadkins did a good job in his analysis. Some of the other announcers made sure they mentioned how beautiful the course was. While this was true, I didn’t need to be told every 15 minutes.

When the drama came down to Chris DiMarco and Tiger Woods, CBS was all over it. The live shot of Tiger Woods’ chip on 16 and the close up of the ball as it hung on the lip, finally going into the hole was classic. The reactions were caught at the right time and the replays were done correctly. But time and time again, Peter Oosterhuis, Verne Lundquist, Peter Kostis, Bobby Clampett, Bill Macatee and Dick Enberg were a bit over the top describing the course’s beauty and the lovely azeleas.

USA Today’s Rudy Martzke who’s on his last week at the paper, has his last column on the Masters.

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand says Nantz did a poor job on the mike at the 18th green. I totally agree.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times writes what I touched upon earlier when the Masters resumed early Sunday without any TV coverage.

In the Houston Chronicle, David Barron has praise for old pro Verne Lundquist’s call of Tiger’s miracle shot on the 16th green yesterday.

The Rocky Mountain News of Denver takes a look at the Masters and ESPN’s coverage of the Frozen Four which went to the University of Denver. Dusty Saunders is the writer.

Sunday also had the 10th anniversary special of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”. Over the last 10 years, the HBO sports magazine has delved into subjects that the networks refuse to even mention. Some of the more memorable stories such as former Minnesota Vikings player Esa Tuolo who came out as a gay man, racism in sports, features on people overcoming disabilities and other obstacles. It is one of the best programs on TV today and with reporters Bernard Goldberg, Frank Deford, James Brown, Armen Keteyian and Mary Carillo, the show has won several Emmy Awards for Sports Journalism. All well deserved. The program will air again tonight at 9 p.m. ET on HBO 2. It is worth watching and a regular version will air later this month. And I wish people would stop picking on Bryant Gumbel. He may be aloof and humorless, but the man is a good journalist and keeps the show on time.

I’ll have links if the national ratings come out later today.