Masters coverage (too) controlled
What do you do if you have compelling content that would be of interest to millions of sports fans?
If you’re the folks at Augusta National, you keep firm control on what and when you share it. Specifically, last week’s TV coverage of the season’s first major golf tournament was, as always, provided only in a limited manner.
That meant no live coverage until 3 p.m. each day and strict requirements on its broadcast partners. If you listen closely, you know the Masters enforces a silly approach where fans are referred to only as “patrons.”
Seriously, if one of the broadcast partners slips up on that, or in some way belittles the course, its tradition or the weekend, it could lose its chance to broadcast the event.
CBS and the tournament have a long, productive relationship but it’s been built on year-to-year contracts. The Masters insists on that approach because it can.
Both CBS and ESPN comply. Also complicit are other members of the media. It’s no coincidence that Augusta National unveiled a luxurious, state-of-the art media center for last week’s tournament, and many media types provided obligatory updates about their digs when they first arrived on site.
So, a little bit of pampering and a lot of control seem to keep Masters officials in charge of how the tournament plays out on TV and in the media overall.
Absence apparently makes the heart grow fonder, or maybe just forgetful. That’s the only way to explain the slight surge of support (most notably by colleagues) for longtime CBS Sports NFL analyst Phil Simms.
He was demoted last week when the network announced the hiring of just-retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
For the 2017 season, Romo will work on the network’s No. 1 team with Jim Nantz.
That leaves Simms under contract but underemployed. The network and his agent will work out a landing spot, and there’s no need to feel sorry for him. Simms enjoyed a good run — especially because he has generally been unhelpful to viewers for a while. Criticism of his work was fair and fairly regular.
There’s also no reason to feel sorry for any broadcaster because Romo went right from the playing field to a top-tier job.
While some in the on-air fraternity, among them former CBS sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein, complained about the Romo move because it prevented an opportunity from someone more qualified, that’s just pure silliness.
Romo will struggle next season. That’s a given. He’ll be an on-air rookie. But if he’s simply competent it will be a success because sharing insights while a game is moving with directors and producers are talking in your ear is just not an easy thing to do.
It should be fun to watch, as long as it does not distract from the games. Even then, count me as someone willing to take that chance. After years of games, Simms’ faults were a given. Learning Romo’s could provide an interesting change.
n Games 3 and 4 of the Penguins first-round playoff series against Columbus air at 6 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, respectively.
n For pro wrestling fans who were surprised at the return of announcer Jim Ross during Wrestlemania 33 and missed the rest of the story, the 65-year-old has agreed to a two-year deal to work a partial schedule for the troupe. He will be a welcome voice for some fans and likely serve as a mentor for younger talents like Tom Phillips, the Penn State alumnus who started his college career at Penn State Altoona. Ross’s wife of 24 years died in late March and working again also probably provides a welcome opportunity for him.
n While the future of “Mike and Mike” on ESPN Radio remains in doubt, both Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic remain under contract with the all-sports network. Golic recently signed a contract extension and hopes to have a role on morning radio going forward. So, Greenberg, who earlier signed a $6.5 million annual deal, seems to be the driving force for change. Still, he might eventually regret getting what he wants. Perhaps not in his bank account, but Greenberg certainly benefits in terms of perception because of his on-air partnership.
Sampsell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.