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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.”

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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.”

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Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”

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Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.

Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.

King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.

“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”

Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.

King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”

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Nick Wright Critical Of ABC Crew As Giannis Antetokounmpo Struggles In Game 7

“He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo started hot in Game 7 on Sunday. By the time the game ended though, the Boston Celtics were on their way to Miami for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the defending champions were headed back to Milwaukee.

The Celtics’ defense gave the Milwaukee Bucks fits in the second half. The ABC broadcast put a special spotlight on Antetokounmpo, who got multiple drives to the basket that he could not finish.

“The best has got to show up when the best is needed, and Giannis has been disappointing,” said Mark Jackson over a package of highlights of Giannis missing shots. “As great of a player as he is, given credit to the Celtics’ defense, but he has struggled offensively time and time again.”

Nick Wright of FS1 noticed and he didn’t appreciate it. He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.

Mike Been, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy were not particularly hard on Giannis. The trio made the typical comments we hear when things aren’t going a great player’s way.

Wright did not harp on the issue beyond the single tweet. The outcome was not in doubt as the clock winded down. He gave credit to the Celtics rather than tweet about the Bucks or Giannis.

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Stephanie McMahon: WWE Is A Better Advertising Investment Than Sports

“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys.”

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Everyone knows that professional wrestling is scripted. The storylines, the outcomes of matches, all of it is predetermined. But in the eyes of WWE, that’s what makes their product so different, and better than traditional sports.

WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Deadline that when it comes to pitching advertisers, sports entertainment allows room for a range of different approaches to make something work.

“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys,” she said. “We have a leg up on sports. … You may object to what we do, but you’re never going to be bored.”

McMahon added that WWE has a much easier process in dealing with sponsors. Everything is handled in-house.

“We own all of the IP,” she said. “When brands deal with us, they just deal with us. We create something together.”

WWE is coming off a positive Q1 earnings report, which had the company up 27% in total revenue. Its two weekly primetime shows, Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown, continue to do well in ratings, and all special and pay-per-view events, in addition to its streaming platform WWE Network, are all housed on Peacock.

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