Sports TV News
Scott Van Pelt: I Believe Golf Events Are More Important Than My Peers Do
“It’s really important to me. That’s what I try to bring to covering the event.”
ESPN will cover the Masters Tournament for the 15th year, bringing viewers live coverage of the first and second rounds next Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8. Through ESPN+, viewers will be able to follow featured groups and holes for the entirety of the four-day event, and enjoy the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday, April 6, the day before the Masters Tournament officially begins. ESPN will also bring viewers various preview shows prior to the honorary tee-off signifying the start of the first round, and SportsCenter at the Masters will keep viewers informed about the latest tournament happenings from the iconic Butler Cabin.
Throughout the tournament, ESPN on-air host Scott Van Pelt, along with golf analysts and two-time U.S. Open champions Andy North and Curtis Strange, will be on-hand at Augusta National to take in the action and provide fans with unique perspectives drawn from their knowledge and expertise of the tournament and the game of golf. While a goal of this year’s broadcast is to introduce viewers to the field of younger golfers emanating onto the scene, all of that may change if a recent arrival ends up partaking in the competition.
“I was texting with a player yesterday and joking, ‘If Tiger [Woods] plays, you guys could play nude and no one would know you were there,’” said Van Pelt. “And I’m kidding obviously, [but] he is the singular player in the sport. There’s people tracking his plane yesterday like it’s an SEC coaching search…. If he plays, that becomes its own lane of coverage.”
Woods, 46, is a five-time Masters Tournament champion, winning the tournament while battling back problems in 2019, but since he was involved in a February 2021 car accident in Los Angeles, Ca. where he suffered numerous leg injuries requiring hospitalization and surgery, he has yet to play in a major tournament.
While North and Strange were professional golfers in the 1970s and 1980s, it could take up to eight years for viewers to familiarize themselves with the golfers, according to North. Coverage of the Masters Tournament was much more stringent and limited based on the broadcast capabilities of the time, meaning that exposure to emerging talents was somewhat finite.
“I think when I started playing, you had two hours of TV on a Saturday and two hours of TV on a Sunday,” said North. “If you were in the last group and double bogeyed the first hole, you never got a shot on TV. The coverage was so limited.”
Fast-forward to the present day. While the style of coverage has not significantly aberrated from how it originally began, the magnitude and amount of the coverage has increased in scope. With the increased capabilities of ESPN to cover the event both linearly and digitally, it has become more accessible for professional golfers to grow their following.
Van Pelt’s role in covering the Masters Tournament is unique in that he currently serves as the host of the midnight edition of SportsCenter. He has been covering golf throughout his broadcast career, originally joining ESPN in 2001 as its lead professional golf reporter after working as an anchor and reporter on The Golf Channel for seven years. Rather than sticking to solely working in a studio-based role covering the world of sports as a whole, Van Pelt feels it is important to hone in the coverage of golf and its major tournaments to continue to expand its psychographic; that is, capturing the interest of those familiar with sports whether that interest be insouciant or absorbed.
“I think I look at these events perhaps differently than some of my peers in terms of how important I believe they are,” said Van Pelt. “Hopefully my respect for the events and leaning into the expertise of the people that I’m lucky to be sitting next to… shines through. It’s really important to me. That’s what I try to bring to covering the event.”
Amid the ethereal setting filled with green grass and natural foliage, a 160-year-old oak tree serves as the gathering place for attendees to reconnect, create new memories and ingratiate themselves in the competitive serenity of the Masters Tournament.
“As always, under the tree you talk early in the week about the storylines,” explained Strange, “and every year… there’s so many different storylines. Who can win; who can play well; who’s been playing well. You know, you look forward to the entire major championship season.”
The anticipation for the Masters, while it may seem jaded to viewers from afar, is genuine and hardly trite for regular attendees of the event. It is safe to say they are looking forward to being back on the course and in the quaint, vivacious setting of Augusta National next week.
“We’ve still got some snow on the ground up in our neck of the woods in Wisconsin,” said North. “People are fired up about getting up and hitting golf balls. Getting that first major [championship], it feels like the year is really going full tilt once you get to that point.”
“It’s the perfect event because it’s the first one, it’s the same place, it’s coming out of the winter,” added Van Pelt. “Just the sense of getting there, what [the] sun feels like on your face, the flowers, the people, the friends, the whole bit. The anticipation – I’m sure people get sick of it or you roll your eyes – but not the people who have been there…. They know what it feels like. That’s why we’re all just – we can’t wait to get back.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Sports TV News
Neil Everett Exits ESPN After 23 Years
“ESPN changed my life, but now it’s time for me to change my life.”
Neil Everett’s SportsCenter days are over. Front Office Sports reports that the anchor has chosen to say goodbye to ESPN after 23 years at the network.
“ESPN changed my life, but now it’s time for me to change my life,” Everett said. “Time to write a new chapter.”
The network reportedly offered Everett a new deal. Had he agreed to it, the anchor would have taken a salary reduction.
This is a significant moment for SportsCenter. Everett moving on means one of the show’s longest-tenured partnership comes to an end. He had worked with Stan Verrett since 2009.
Everett’s exit comes in the same week that it was revealed Chris Chelios would not return to the network’s NHL coverage next season. The Walt Disney Company is currently in the middle of trying to cut 7000 jobs to save $5.5 billion.
As for the future, Everett says he will seek to increase his TV role with the Portland Trail Blazers. He has been part of the team’s broadcast crew on NBC Sports Northwest for the last two years.
Sports TV News
Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica To Make FOX TV Debut on Belmont Coverage
“Everyone I’ve worked and interacted with at the company has been so helpful and open to someone who has spent his entire professional life elsewhere.”
As the college football season was winding down, fans found out one of the foundational members of the College Gameday staff would be leaving ESPN. Chris “The Bear” Fallica left the network and has been working for FOX since the new year. This weekend during the network’s coverage of The Belmont Stakes, he will finally make his TV debut for his employers.
“It’s been great. This will be my first TV appearance, so I’m excited,” Fallica said in an interview with FOXSports.com. “But we’ve been cranking out content on the digital side since January, and I’m very happy with how the USFL picks have been going (4-0 last week for those of you counting at home). Everyone I’ve worked and interacted with at the company has been so helpful and open to someone who has spent his entire professional life elsewhere.”
Fallica, who worked for ESPN for nearly three decades, is going to be a major presence in FOX’s gambling content both on air and online. Making picks is nothing new. He had been doing it on College GameDay for years prior to his exit.
In addition to making football picks, horse racing is going to be a major part of what The Bear does for FOX. While this will be his TV debut on FOX, Fallica put the spotlight on one of his colleagues.
“It was a great decision to bring Tom [Durkin] back for this call. His voice is synonymous with the sport for a generation of racing fans, so it will be a treat to hear him call a race again.”
Durbin is coming out of retirement to call the race. This is the first year that the Belmont is airing on FOX as part of a rights deal with the New York Racing Association.
Sports TV News
FOX Reportedly Considering Replacing Reggie Bush on Big Noon Kickoff
“Marchand writes that the favorite to replace the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner is the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Mark Ingram II is expected to retire from the NFL and join FOX.”
It looks like changes are coming to FOX’s college football coverage. Andrew Marchand reports that the network is considering replacing Reggie Bush on Big Noon Kickoff.
Bush and the network reportedly argued over money before the 2022 season. FOX kicked the tires on multiple options, including Desmond Howard and Robert Griffin III of ESPN. Eventually, it decided to bring Bush back on a one year deal. With that deal set to expire and the two sides again at an impasse, FOX is eyeing other options.
Marchand writes that the favorite to replace the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner is the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Mark Ingram II is expected to retire from the NFL and join FOX.
If Ingram does join the show, he would be the first analyst from outside of the conferences FOX carries. Ingram played his college football at Alabama. He has since amassed more than 8000 yards over 13 seasons in the NFL.
FOX declined to comment on the report. Marchand reports that with no deal finalized, there is an outside shot that Ingram returns to the NFL, Bush returns to FOX and there is no change at all. That, however, is considered a long shot.