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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The Golf Channel Mourns Itself

Posted by sdrury on December 4, 2009

The tone at The Golf Channel lately is one of despondence. The channel is, nominally anyway, supposed to report the news of the golf world. Now, they need not chronicle every detail of the top players’ lives, but surely they had to hear whispers of what kind of guy Tiger Woods was off the course. Having worked with and in the media I can safely say that plenty of information is exchanged that never makes it to print or the airwaves. Most of it’s trivial yet potentially embarrassing, and despite the howls of right-to-know-ness, who Tiger Woods spends his evenings with probably fits nicely into that description–at least The Golf Channel thought so.

The on-air talent seems absolutely confounded by word of Tiger’s proclivity for “escorts” and waitresses. How could they be surprised? This was news, in the literal sense, to them? Have their anchors taken after ESPN’s and left the business of dirt-digging to the underlings. Think about it. When was the last time say, Stuart Scott or Scott Van Pelt (a Golf Channel alum) asked anyone some tough questions? There’s a reason for that. The greater the popularity of the people they talk about, the greater their own popularity. They owe their fame quite literally to other famous people and have zero journalistic credential. It’s a truly parasitic relationship. This relationship is amplified with The Golf Channel and Tiger Woods. It could be argued, pretty convincingly that the channel owes its existence to Tiger Woods. It was founded in 1995. Tiger turned pro the following year, although he was such an outstanding amateur he was already well-known in the sports landscape. Without his exploits, the studios Kelly Tilghman, Rich Lerner, Vince Cellini et al sit in could very well be occupied by housewives hawking quilts and cubic zirconia. The Golf Channel is a brand. It has name recognition. Many casual sports fans undoubtedly have come across The Golf Channel only to move on after a brief visit, because it dawned on them: It’s a…channel about golf. But Tiger made golf exciting and he probably will again. If anything, this episode will fan his already substantial competitive flames. This is a man who won the US Open on a broken leg. He doesn’t wilt in the face of a challenge.

While it’s an open question as to how much actual nose-to-the-grindstone reporting The Golf Channel does, anyone arguing that the network is little more than a mouthpiece for the PGA (do they even cover the LPGA?) need not protest again. Not that many people were doing that anyway. The Golf Channel and Tiger Woods–or at least the image Tiger had until before Thanksgiving–helped each other out immensely. Deep down, the executives, the on-air talent, everyone who works for The Golf Channel, must fear that Tiger’s fall from grace might be a precursor to their own.

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