On Easter Sunday, the final round of the Masters gave CBS all it could have wanted-a twosome of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson charging up the leader board in dramatic fashion. Birdie. Birdie. Eagle. Birdie. Mickelson birdied six of his first eight holes, and, at one point, the world's two best players were a combined 12 under par.
Without question, network producers had every incentive to spend the bulk of camera time on such theatrics. The statistics of golf viewership in tournaments featuring Woods are well known. He is the reason millions tune in. And in tandem with Mickelson on a Sunday comeback, he is ratings gold.
Indeed, the Masters final-round coverage yielded a rating of 8.3, drawing 35.2 million viewers for all or part of the telecast. Compare that to the 3.0 rating from the final round of the Woods-less PGA Championship last August, or the 3.5 rating from a Woods-free Sunday at the British Open last July.
Still, don't those at the controls of the Masters telecast have some obligation to devote coverage to other players vying for victory? Apparently not. Competitors like Shingo Katayama, Steve Stricker, John Merrick, and Steve Flesch received almost no air time for their brilliant final-round performances, even though each finished tied or ahead of Woods.
Even eventual tournament champion Angel Cabrera, who defeated Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in a playoff, earned far less coverage than Woods and Mickelson throughout the day. When the two top-ranked players made bogeys at the last to finish out of contention, the remainder of the tournament, thrilling playoff and all, seemed anti-climactic. Who were these three players? Where had they been all day?
Such is reality in the Tiger Woods era. Golf tournaments are less about golf than they are providing a stage for greatness. That shift is not dissimilar from the effect Michael Jordan had on basketball or Babe Ruth on baseball. They, too, transcended their respective games.
Perhaps telecasts like that of the Masters final round are unavoidable, needing to serve the viewing interests of a much broader demographic than the pure sports fan. Perhaps, but it's still hard to share.
Baseball in spring is a poem of beginnings. But for longtime Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, it provided a poetic conclusion. On April 13, Harry the K, as he was known to Phillies fans, collapsed in the press box prior to calling the team's first road game of the season in Washington, D.C. He died later that day from what doctors determined to be a massive heart attack. He was 73.
Just five days earlier, Kalas had thrown out the first pitch as part of a Phillies pre-game ceremony during which the team received its 2008 World Series Championship rings. Upon his death, team president David Montgomery remarked, "We lost our voice today." Kalas had provided play-by-play for Phillies games since 1971.
Much of the nation lost a familiar voice, too. Kalas served as narrator for NFL Films beginning in 1975.
In memoriam, Bill Lyon of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "Every time you heard that distinctive baritone, deepened by a million smokes and marinated like fine bourbon aging in oak casks, you felt something soothing and reassuring. God's in his heaven, Harry the K's in the booth, and all's right with the world. He was, for generations of Phillies fans, The Voice. If Harry said it, it must be so."