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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.”

Derek Futterman

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Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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.”

Sports TV News

FanDuel TV Strikes Deal With ONE Championship Martial Arts

“We’ve long respected the content the ONE Championship team is producing and are looking forward to bringing their action to our audience through FanDuel TV and FanDuel+.”

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FanDuel TV and ONE Championship Martial Arts have struck a deal that will see the MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and submission grappling series air weekly events on the newly launched channel.

“We’re eager to continue expanding the variety of content we’re offering at FanDuel TV to introduce our audience to emerging sports,” said FanDuel Chief Commercial Officer Mike Raffensperger. “We’ve long respected the content the ONE Championship team is producing and are looking forward to bringing their action to our audience through FanDuel TV and FanDuel+.”

ONE Championship is a top-five global sports property for digital viewership and engagement according to Nielsen measurements.

“We are thrilled to join the FanDuel TV lineup and give our passionate U.S. audience yet another way to engage with ONE Championship,” said ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. “Having a quality partner in FanDuel will help raise the profile of our company in the region and provide their viewers with action-packed martial arts events like they have never seen before.”

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Sports TV News

Bob Costas Re-Lives First Announcing Assignment For NBC

“My biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979.”

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Legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas appeared on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes Thursday to discuss the death of Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. But before the conversation turned to the recently departed pitcher, the show asked Costas about what he has announced that would surprise someone. He reminisced about his first time on the air for NBC.

“My very first assignment for NBC, my biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979,” Costas recounted. “There was a program on NBC then called Sports World. It was an anthology series that was their answer to the gold standard, ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

“So they traveled the globe, like Wide World of Sports did. So they sent me, wearing a red NBC jacket, to Tokyo to cover a sumo wrestling tournament with seven-time world power-lifting champion Larry Pacifico as my color man. Now, this is all the Japanese I learned as we came on the air: ‘Minasan kon’nichwa watashinoamaeha Bob Costas’, which means ‘Hello everyone, my name is Bob Costas’. If ever there was typecasting, when they sat and looked at their roster of announcers and went ‘Who should we send to the sumo wrestling? It’s gotta be Costas, who’s entire body weight would constitute one meal for the sumo wrestling champion.”

Costas departed NBC Sports in 2019 after 40 years with the network, announcing MLB, NBA, and the Olympics, in addition to his work with the network’s sumo wrestling coverage.

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Matt Leinart, Alex Smith Make Wager Over Pac-12 Championship Game

“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous. I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.”

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FOX Sports analyst Matt Leinart and ESPN analyst Alex Smith have made a friendly wager over the upcoming Pac-12 Championship Game.

USC, Leinart’s alma mater, is slated to play Utah, where Smith attended, in the game Friday evening on FOX from Las Vegas.

The two agreed to don the other player’s jersey. “At least it will be 11,” Smith said, noting he and Leinart both wore the number during their playing days.

“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous,” Leinart said when presented with the offer. “I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.” Smith jokingly responded by calling USC “Free Agent University”. He added he would overnight Leinart a jersey to ensure he had one if the Utes were victorious.

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