Masters and CBS: Simplay mah-velous

RADIO-TV

April 10, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

The tradition. The champions. Amen Corner. Sarazen Bridge. Azalea blossoms. The Masters.

The tournament is the kind of event. that makes a guy want. to write sentences. in frag-. ments.

Even if you're the sort of viewer who can't sit still for five minutes of the Mega-Global Rain Forest Destroying Dolphin Netting Spotted Owl Extincting Corp. Greater Texarkana Open, the Masters might hold a certain charm. Though it isn't more than a golf tournament, it is more of a golf tournament as far as television is concerned.

Augusta National sets stringent rules for telecasts, the most noticeable being to limit commercial breaks to four per hour and forbid network promos during the action. Fred Couples doesn't have to share the fairway with Murphy Brown.

"The uniqueness of it is the pris- tineness," said Frank Chirkinian, coordinating producer of golf for CBS Sports. "Only four interruptions per hour, no cross-pollination [promos] -- it gives us more of a live feel.

"In most tournaments -- even those on our network -- many of the shots are seen on tape."

CBS' coverage of the Masters can claim a uniqueness, too. The network recently was given a Peabody Award for last year's Masters telecasts. The Peabody, one of broadcasting's highest honors, rarely goes to sports programming.

"I'm not certain that the mere fact we have fewer commercials was the reason we won the Peabody," Chirkinian said.

"So much of television is frenzied," Chirkinian said. "We don't have that here. There's this wonderful history that's perpetuated, and we try to present that."

CBS won't be able to rest on its Peabody, though. Augusta National awards network rights on a year-to-year basis. And serving as a warning for 20-some years has been the case of Jack Whitaker, who used "mob" to describe the crowd around one of Augusta's greens and was banned from Masters telecasts.

The masters of Augusta haven't weighed in with a ruling on uttering "choke" to describe a golfer's play, but it is a word that is popping out of the closet every now and then. During last year's Ryder Cup telecasts, for example, viewers heard about choking nearly as much as they did about purchasing large cars.

Still, it is not a favored term for CBS announcer Ben Wright.

"I think it's an ugly word," Wright said. "I think everybody chokes. It's the one who chokes the least who wins."

Wright helps CBS fulfill Section 592, Paragraph D of the Rules of Golf, which decrees that all major golf telecasts shall feature a British voice. Remember Henry Longhurst? After a particularly good shot, he would introduce the replay by saying something like: "A simply marvelous shot. We must afford ourselves another look."

That might be better than: "Hoo-ee, he creamed that sucker. Run it on back, fellas."

Which one do you think the folks at Augusta would prefer?

*

The old hidden-ball trick: Even before Channel 2 -- oops, make that Newschannel 2 -- missed the Orioles' squeeze play on its Opening Day telecast, the pre-game show had been struck by a few cases of microphone laryngitis. As Bob Dylan might have said, people were talking, but no one was listening. And what did Tony Pagnotti say, my blue-eyed son? I can't hear Scott Garceau, my darling young one. (Why do I have this sudden urge to put on a fringed leather vest?)

To the list of firsts at the new stadium -- remember, we're calling it OPACY, the name that's as soft as a baby's bottom -- add one: First Telecast Ruined by a Guest in the Booth, Game 1, Larry King.

But no matter the problems on Opening Day, one person stood out for a consistently fine performance: news anchor Stan Stovall. And I really was going to write that before you took off your jacket and showed those bulging biceps, Mr. Stovall, sir. Just, please, don't hurt me.

*

Funk No. 49: The boss was down. I could tell. I have a certain sensitivity to these things. Plus, he told me, "I feel down."

I knew what it was. There was a malaise sweeping the office. (And we'd specifically requested on our order that they hold the malaise.)

"What you have, boss," I said, "is post-stadium depression. We've just given birth to a new ballpark, and, after a big buildup, it's over. But, hey, I can cheer you up. Just think of the other big events on the horizon.

"There's the Preakness." No response.

"The NBA Finals." Again, nothing.

"The Summer Olympics." A yawn.

This was tough. What could I say? I pondered, then it hit me.

"It's National Cable Month."

That was it. The boss broke out in a grin, packed up his things and told

me he was headed home to watch "Green Acres" on Nickelodeon.

*

Things My Boss Wants To Know: Is it true that Home Team Sports is filling the programming gaps left by the NHL strike with "The New Dance Fever" featuring dynamic "Washington Post Sports Talk" host George Solomon in the Deney Terrio role? . . . When adding new weekend sports programming, did WBAL Radio really pass on "The Week in Curling" and "Bocce Roundup"? . . . Did Brady Anderson grow those sideburns because he was up for a part on "Beverly Hills 90210"?

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