I was having a conversation this week about why the Masters has become my favorite sporting event to watch on television. In going through the litany of items that make the Masters broadcasts so unique, I realized that it's not the spectacular setting (made even better by HDTV) or the drama on the back nine on Sunday that I like so much--it's that the Masters is the only broadcast that treats it's viewers like mature, intelligent adults.
The credit for that has to go to the membership of Augusta National Golf Club--which keeps very tight control on the broadcast content. They wisely provide CBS and ESPN with the rights on a year-to-year basis. That's means if they see or hear something on the air that they don't like--they can immediately begin to shop the rights around to NBC, ABC, or FOX--all of whom would knock over their own grandmothers to be the first in line to sign that new contract.
The club also limits how many commercials can be shown an hour--and they bring their own sponsors to the table. IBM, Exxon/Mobil and AT&T will be the only commercials you will see during the four minutes of ads allowed per hour. That means no ads with hamsters and French girls trying to sell "Framily" plans, there's no "Mayhem" blowing up cars and houses, and there are no ads featuring the father, husband or boyfriend being the butt of every joke.
The production of the broadcast is muted as well. That means no fighting robots, no Killers song to take us to every break (just the iconic Dave Loggins piano piece "Augusta"), no Gus Johnson screaming at the top of his lungs about a routine shot, no Konica Minolta BizHub Swing Vision Camera breakdown of everyone's swing and no Fidelity Investments Putting Line superimposed over the perfect greens. Players aren't interviewed about their front nine performance while the rest of the group waits to tee off on 10. Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist don't even have to sound excited about the new episode of "Two Broke Girls" or "Mike and Molly". And the cast of the "Big Bang Theory" isn't shown sitting behind the 18th green--all on their cell phones and not even paying attention to what is going on in front of them. The course is the star of this show--and it will be shown just the way it is.
I'm not saying that Masters coverage is perfect. There is still a bit too much "reverence" paid to the tournament. But it is the closest thing we have left to the origin of sports broadcasting: here is the game, here's who's playing and here's the score. You don't really need a lot more than that. But even if you aren't all that interested in who wins or loses. It's at least nice to have the TV on for four or five hours and not have your intelligence insulted....constantly.