Coming up: more of the Masters. And more of the masters.
CBS enters golf's major-tournament television season this weekend (WDVM-TV-9, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday) with lengthier, and probably more close-in and selective, coverage of the Masters than ever before.
Besides beginning coverage of this year's Augusta National classic at the sixth hole instead of the ninth, the only change you may see in CBS' perennially conservative treatment of the tournament is in closer, longer attention paid to the leaders. Last year and earlier this season, CBS golf producer-director Frank Chirkinian began to drift from his timeworn inclination to show every shot, and every player possible.
This weekend, though, everything else goes according to long-established rules. Augusta National, which first allowed CBS and its six cameras on the grounds in 1956 and renews that invitation by letter annually, does not allow roving reporters on the course, for instance. Nor can CBS air more than two commercials per half-hour (four is normal). You won't hear a peep about prize money from Pat Summerall, either.
Chirkinian, who not only lives for the Masters (this is his 24th) but lives nearby it year-round, has a few rules of his own. For example, blimps.
"I hate the blimp. I hate the noise," says Chirkinian, who admits that a blimp would nonetheless be an ideal way to shoot beyond some of Augusta's taller (200-foot) pines and deeper valleys, even if CBS does have 27 cameras there this year. "This is an outdoor cathedral as far as I'm concerned. Small dogs don't bark, babies don't cry . . . and the Goodyear blimp doesn't fly over Augusta National."
This would seem consistent with the tone of CBS' recent commercials promoting the Masters, in which Jack Nicklaus recites brief 18th-green liturgies over gentle music and highlights of earlier divine ascensions, most notably his 1975 victory. "The Masters," says an announcer in solemn finality. "On CBS Sports." It would be nice here if they showed angels carrying Nicklaus into the sky.
Follow the leaders is a game Chirkinian, with 15 tournaments a year on CBS and separate announcing teams at each of the holes, has traditionally shunned, until recently--due largely to the advent of minicams (Chirkinian says) and better golf ratings (others say) on the Follow-the-Leader, Up-Close-and-Personal Network itself, ABC. (Meanwhile, NBC is still without a major PGA tournament but has watched its golf ratings rise steadily since January, with much credit going to its new announcing team of ex-CBS veteran Vin Scully and Lee Trevino.)
Some of NBC's best work this year has showed up in its LPGA telecasts, including the women's Kemper Open and last weekend's Dinah Shore. Scully and analyst Carol Mann play well off each other; NBC's production, always ahead of its announcing, looked particularly slick in Palm Springs.
ABC, which telecasts only four tournaments a year, all major (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA and Women's Open) tends to give its announcers more time to set up situations, and does not clog the sensibilities of nonpurists with frequent cuts to the 14th or 17th greens to check, say, an approach shot by five-over-par Lanny Wadkins. ABC uses taped features to establish personalities; Chirkinian does not.
"We're not here to superimpose our egos on an event," he says. "We're reporters. And I try not to show guys walking the fairway, or lining up putts. If I know a player's going to go through certain machinations before he hits the ball, I can whip over to another hole . . . We do not dilly dally and have an announcer drone on about a player and his wife and children . . . "
Chirkinian thinks the story should be told by pictures--the close-up kind ABC always has sought more aggressively, and which he lately has come around to. "When was the last time," he says, "that any announcer said anything notable?"
Channel 20's score is even this week.
Plus 1: WDCA-TV-20 signed a three-year agreement with MetroSports, the Rockville-based national sports packager, to carry 25 Big East basketball games next season, plus six to 11 Georgetown University games in each of the three seasons.
Minus 1: Channel 20 put WTOP-AM's Frank Daly in the stands at Wednesday night's Capitals-Islanders playoff opener at Nassau Coliseum, ostensibly to seek out Washington fans. Nice idea, wrong arena. "There's a lot of intensity here," said Daly. "HAAAAUUUHHHHH!" said the crowd. The crowd won.