Sunday, April 10, 2005

Media Bias at The Masters

I should start by saying that this blog was not initially created to be a commentary on sports related issues, but The Masters Tournament has always been, and will always be, near and dear to my heart. This is probably why the commentary on the CBS telecast of the final round, especially that of Lanny Wadkins, got under my skin.

If you don't remember, Lanny is famous in Masters lore for a backhanded stab at a bogey putt on the 9th green after missing a 4 foot par put in 1991. He missed! He had been tied for the lead after Thursday's first round. He dropped two shots when a little concentration would have probably limited the damage to one. Lanny did things his own way when he was a touring professional, and believe me, I have no problem with that, but I think you need to consider the mistakes you have made before criticizing others.

What I did have a problem with was his constant criticism of Chris DiMarco during his brilliant final round today. On the 8th hole, he and other announcers, went on and on about what DiMarco was talking to a rules official about in the fairway, suggesting that maybe he was complaining about Tiger Woods knocking his tee into the ground with his driver on the tee or about mud on the ball. Would it not have been prudent to have found out what was going on before going on a 15-20 minute speculation session? In fairness to the others, it seemed to me that Lanny was the one that kept the speculation going with others mostly responding. It turns out that DiMarco's driver head had come loose and he needed a replacement. One was delivered to him in time to tee off on the 9th hole. What a waste of airtime!

It also seems to me that the announcers, Lanny included, were practically annointing Tiger Woods as the champion after he sunk a birdie putt on No. 1. I give Tiger Woods all the credit in the world for being arguably the best golfer in modern times, but Chris DiMarco is no slouch in his own right. He has played Augusta National consistently better than most in his time there, and with a few breaks here and there, could have been playing for his second consecutive green jacket today. The constant talk about Tiger and speculation, spoken and implied, that DiMarco may not have been up for the challenge were, quite frankly, nauseating to me.

On the 15th hole, DiMarco laid up his second shot to a spot to play his third into the green. Wadkins immediately began to imply that this was a stupid move. Only Chris DiMarco knew why he chose to do this, but as it turned out he flushed his third shot to within 5 feet of the pin and sunk the putt for birdie. That certainly worked better than a backhanded stab!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The sports media, Lanny Wadkins included, tend to slant towards Tiger when he is in or near the lead and while it is not exactly the same as the liberal bias evidenced in the mainstream media, it is still bias, and it is wrong. In the end, Tiger Woods did win his forth Masters, but he had to do it in a one hole playoff with a talented Chris DiMarco, who stared down the world's best until the bitter end. If not for Tiger's miracle chip-in on the 16th hole, we might be calling DiMarco the champion instead.

I conclude with a quote from Bobby Jones, President in Perpetuity of the Augusta National Golf Club, as printed in the Masters Spectator Guide. After all, what are announcers but paid spectators? It is as follows:

" In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play. It is appropriate for spectators to applaud successful strokes in proportion to difficulty but excessive demonstrations by a player or his partisans are not proper because of the possible effect on other competitors."- Bobby Jones April 1967

I, for one, believe this should also apply equally to the broadcast booth.

That's My View... What's Yours?

Technorati talk bubble
Locations of visitors to this page