It was a typical Saturday morning for the CBS Sports golf crew. Hectic.
Frank Chirkinian, the man considered the best producer-director in television golf, was fussing. Rick Barry, the basketball star who was scheduled to describe action on the 14th hole of the Kemper Open, missed rehearsal Friday afternoon.
That, to Chirkinian, was a sin about equal to making his telecasts too show biz. He works for the network that bases its golf reputation on repertorial skills and the flow of the tournament.
So Chirkinian demands precision and likes his talent at rehearsal. "When he gets here," he said of Barry, "I'm not going to say hello to him. I'm going to kick him in the butt."
Later, barry said he'd been given permission to miss the session because he was in the West Indies. Chirkinian, he added, was not really angry. But he was rather hassled. Televising golf can do that to a man.
Golf is the most difficult and costly sports event to televise, other than the Olympics. It takes almost as many people (155) to put the tournament on the air as teed off (156) in the opening round Thursday at Congressional Country Club.
All that manpower and production cost -- about $500,000, including fights fee, according to Chirkinian -- will result in three hours on the air. CBS carried one hour yesterday and plans two-hour coverage of the final round today (WDVM-TV-9, from 4-6 p.m.).
To get the results he wants, Chirkinian uses 125 CBS people, adds 30 PGA Tour caddies who work as scorers and spotters so announcers know club selection and tough lies; strings out 70,000 feet of cable over five holes and deploys 13 cameras, including two held by hand.
Although he always is seeking the "human interest story" -- CBS will reenact the 18th hole of analyst Ken Venturi's 1964 U.S. Open victory here -- Chirkinian's credo is "report what happens and get out."
"You report the event as it's taking place," he said from his command post, nestled behind the mature pine trees along the right side of the 18th fairway.
"We don't support tournament egos," he added. "We're not here to jerk around the minds of the viewer."
True to Chirkinian's word, CBS commentators stuck mainly to the facts and did it nicely, with Chirkinian's direction in the truck giving viewers -- and many in the press tent -- most of the key shots.
The only negative factor was that, due to a 42-minute rain delay, CBS was unable to get the finish in by 5 p.m., leaving fans to wonder if Lee Trevino made a five-foot birdie putt at No. 17 and unaware that John Mahaffey birdied the final hole.
There is no "miking" of the players this week, the practice of putting live microphones on the players. It caused a couple of faux pas earlier this year. m
"There's a moratorium on that the remainder of the year," Chirkinian said. "It's a matter of educating the players and letting them know the ramifications of wearing live microphones."
Chirkinian said CBS will try to provide more sophisticated gadgetry, as he put it, in order to make the miking less cumbersome.
"It has tremendous possibility," Chirkinian said. "The Schroeder-Kite thing got a lot of attention, and I haven't heard anybody say they don't like it."
For those people walking Congressional, they may notice the television cable strung alongside the gallery ropes on the final five holes. It is a newer, easier-to-handle version, much thinner than the old cable.
In five years, Chirkinian predicted, the networks will have no need for cable at all, thus reducing one of his biggest costs, the manpower for stringing out and then picking up the 13-plus miles of cable used.
"The advancement of electronics in our industry is staggering," Chirkinian said.
And why does Chirkinian think he is recognized as the best in the business?
"Maybe," he said, "because I know my craft better. Maybe I know television better. I used to be a studio director . . . I'm a television animal."