A tweet went viral the other day saying the Masters is like Coachella for dads.
With all due respect to the most famous music festival streamed live around the world, Coachella has nothing on the Masters. Neither does the Super Bowl, March Madness, World Cup or any other sporting event. Nothing holds a candle to the Masters, at least when it comes to coverage.
In scope, covering one Masters tournament is the equivalent of covering 18 Super Bowls with limited sideline boundaries for 12 hours a day over four straight days. That’s basically 215 Super Bowls in one week. The players aren’t moving as fast, but the cameramen better be.
Consider the 14th hole on Friday. When Tiger Woods hit his tee shot into the trees along the left side of the 14th hole at Augusta National, no television executive could have planned for what happened next. A magical shot from Tiger that went over the pine trees and landed on the green? Sure. But a security guard running through the pine straw and taking out Tiger’s ankle? No. No one plans for that.
And yet, the broadcast team was ready. The cameraman ran over to where Tiger was hitting, got in the perfect position for the shot and aftermath and caught every moment in an area of the course that up to that moment hadn’t been filmed much (Tiger had been in a similar place the previous day, so they got a little bit of practice).
That could have come on any other hole to any other player on any other day and CBS (weekend coverage) or ESPN (weekday coverage) would have had the same footage. How do I know this? Because you can watch every shot by every player from the entire tournament on Masters.com. Literally, you could watch Tiger’s entire tournament over from start to finish. Or you could watch a lesser-known player eagle the 13th hole. Name another broadcast that allows you to do that. You can’t because it doesn’t exist elsewhere.
Meanwhile, for the fans watching at home, you could have watched this moment (or any moment during the tournament) from several different mediums. There was the traditional live broadcast on ESPN. Then there was the broadcast being streamed for free on Masters.com. Then you had the featured groups also being streamed. Then you could have switched broadcasts and watched Amen Corner (11th-13th holes) or the 15th and 16th holes. Or, as I said, you could have watched any other shot from any other player on any other day. Nuts.
Meanwhile, the broadcast teams did an unreal job providing perspective and insight into the course and players while letting the play do the talking. After Tiger knocked in his final putt to win the Masters, Jim Nantz was quiet. He gave a “return to glory” call and then went silent, allowing the moment to wash over everyone.
And if you were looking for a great postgame interview, rising broadcast star Amanda Balionis gave the best one in recent memory with Tiger on Saturday night, getting the normally-tight lipped Tiger to reveal he would be up at 4 a.m. the next day to prepare.
It takes hundreds of people to broadcast any sporting event. It’s the hardest form of broadcast out there because the studios are 50,000-person stadiums and the actors are athletes battling not only for air time, but their jobs. In that setting, unexpected outcomes are the norm. And yet, because golf is played over hundreds of acres of land with players spread across those acres hitting shots in places no one expected, golf is the most complex to cover. Like the Masters, the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Open Championship and PGA Tour also have amazing coverage of this sport. But as it is in so many ways, the Masters is the standard bearer.
From the limited commercial breaks (I do miss Joe Ford reminding us of this), to the focus on the play and not the broadcasters in Butler Cabin (could maybe cut out one more segment there), to the multiple ways you can watch the action, to the way Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo mix insight with silence, no other sporting event can compare in coverage to the Masters. But they all could learn a thing or two from it. Even Coachella.