Being a self-confessed sports nut, the past few months have been extremely trying. Rather than go complete cold turkey, I transitioned by watching some past Masters broadcasts on YouTube, and All-Ireland classics on TG4 and Eir Sport. But by the end of March, I’d completely lost my appetite for these little trips down memory lane.
Much like an addict in recovery, I began to discover exactly how more there was to life than sport. My garden has never been neater, there’s not a rickety chair or broken tile in the house, the gutters are gleaming, the dogs walked to exhaustion and my own waistline is receding back to a slightly more respectable measure. Even my wife is finding me difficult to chastise – words I never thought I’d write – though our definitions of a clean house still wildly differ.
Unfortunately, like most addicts, it’s always there at the back of my mind. As I’m emptying the grass clippings into the composter, I’ll find my mind drifting to whether Liverpool’s 30-year League famine will end this year or if fate’s cruel hand has intervened. While tightening screws on the kitchen table legs, I’ll be pondering what a knock-out Championship will do to the Dubs pursuit of a sixth successive Sam Maguire, and as I’m perched on the top of a ladder scraping moss from aluminium half-pipes, I’ll be weighing the pros and cons of spectator-less majors and a Ryder Cup.
I knew that my sobriety was only temporary. That once the crack dens of sport reopened, I’d be clawing at the door with a crumbled note in my hand, begging for my fix.
And so it was. The Bundesliga was the entrée for the main course getting served up at Seminole. A stripped down NBC production, four top players wired for sound, and a significant amount of cash being raised for charity.
The sight of McIlroy, DJ, Rickie and Wolff on the first tee with driver in hand was the hit I’ve been craving for two months. My adrenalin spiked, not even NBC could spoil the evening, but lord knows, they tried their best.
American television and sporting events have an uncanny knack of shooting themselves in the foot. Despite repeatedly apologising for the skeleton crew, NBC somehow managed to massively overproduce the event. There is little point in having players mic’d up only to be drowned out by the incessant rambling of a commentary team who have been taught that there is nothing less valuable than dead air.
Well, it turns out there is something a lot less valuable. Bill Murray. In some ways, I feel for Bill. He turns 70 this year, and is being asked to bring spontaneous levity to the masses when his entire career has been built on deadpan delivery of scripted lines. And very well, too, I might add, but it’s been 40 years since Caddyshack hit the big screen; it’s time to let it go.
Strangely, after the Murray misfire, even the incessant and narcissistic rambling of Donald Trump seemed more relevant, but again I’d ask the question of why? Was this the President deciding he wanted to be heard and putting the squeeze on old NBC golf buddy Mike Tirico? Either way, the Donald has had no shortage of air time in this pandemic and quite clearly, brought little to the broadcast here.
What it all comes back to is the fact that American media doesn’t trust the players to entertain. Yet, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past decade, it’s that Rory McIlroy and a microphone are a match made in heaven. You only have to hear his recent McKellar Magazine podcast with Lawrence Donegan and John Huggan – two journalists with enough sense to ask an interesting question and then get out of the way – to realise that.
As part of his GolfPass arrangement with NBC, Rory has his own Podcast with former MTV host Carson Daly. Daly was a keen golfer as a junior and apparently played with Tiger Woods – we know this because he told us in the first episode and in virtually every episode since – and is a former winner at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am – we know this because he told us in the first episode and in virtually every episode since.
The Podcast is now in its second season with 12 episodes in the bank, each ranging from 30 minutes to an hour long. Being the nerd I am, I’ve listened to them all, yet struggle to recall anything of substance from almost nine hours of conversation. And it’s not like NBC and Daly haven’t been told; the Podcast intro includes a snippet of a listener’s email basically telling them to let Rory speak because nobody cares about Daly’s MTV days. I didn’t write the email, but I very much share the author’s sentiments.
With this in mind, we really shouldn’t be surprised that Steve Sands – NBC’s man on the ground at Seminole – didn’t ask Rory a question until the four-ball were walking up the 18th fairway. Imagine how much better the viewing experience would’ve been with a 20 second conversation on each tee box about what shot they were trying to hit and why.
In GAA terms, NBC had an open goal and elected to take a point.
But at this stage, it’s a point I’ll gladly take because sport is back. Golf is back. And this coming weekend, Tiger Woods is back.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, the narcotic has a hold of me again.