Unofficial Open coverage rankings: BBC 1, ESPN 2
As I’ve noted before, the British Open, since I was about 11 years old, has been my Super Bowl. I have also noted recently that when it comes to media coverage of this prestigious event, nobody does it better than BBC Sport.
Now, even though I’m about to condemn ESPN for how its coverage pales in comparison to that of BBC, I do have to give them proper respect for giving us the option on their Watch ESPN Internet App to watch BBC’s coverage.
Also, there’s probably a huge caveat in this comparison, which is that BBC’s coverage is commercial free. I imagine that’s probably because the Great Britain television model renders BBC to be like our PBS. I’m sure that’s how they get around not showing commercials. But right out of the gate that’s one reason alone you should opt for the BBC feed – you don’t miss anything due to commercials.
But here’s the thing, even if you take that out of the equation, you still get more golf on BBC than on ESPN during the windows in which ESPN isn’t on ad breaks.
On BBC, you see golf shot after golf shot, followed by more golf shots. It is “NBG” coverage: Nothing But Golf; as much as can be shown. Sure, you can question which players they choose to showcase during the first two rounds because no one can show them all. What you can’t argue is the fact that all you see are golf shots.
More striking is what you don’t see: the BBC commentators covering the event. Not once. (Granted, I’m never up quite early enough to see the kickoff of the BBC coverage; actually I don’t think we can see their kickoff because they start even before ESPN does and we are only privy to the BBC feed starting when ESPN’s coverage begins.)
ESPN, on the other hand, for prolonged stretches thinks we’d rather be watching them talk about golf than to see the golf itself. Not only do they cut away from live action entirely to show pre-recorded feature stories, but they also bring in their feature story report to tell us things on camera that he could just as easily tell us as we’re watching live golf action. But no, that’s not the ESPN way. They have something they want to tell you and, by God, they want your undivided attention. They won’t let live sports interfere with their mission. Their steadfast that way.
For good measure, ESPN also feels the need to try to distract us with an incessant bottom-of-the-screen crawl – at times it can even impede the view of the golf ball. As Mushnick often writes, it’s the “any stat, any time” phenomenon – as their ticker includes scores according to just about any order imaginable, i.e., scores in order of World Ranking, scores for past champions, etc.
BBC doesn’t see the need for such distractions.
The only way to draw these comparisons is to watch both networks simultaneously, which I have done each day. So, case-in-point. On Friday, Sergio Garcia was shown live as he hit his approach shot to the 2nd green. He holed that shot for an eagle. BBC was in the right place at the right time; at that point in the tournament, Garcia was two shots out of the lead. His approach should’ve been shown live.
Ah, but ESPN missed Sergio’s spectacular shot. Why? They were engulfed in “Tiger’s on the first tee” mode. That meant we saw Tiger’s walk to the first tee, followed by – at the exact moment Garcia struck his shot – a two-shot of commentators Mike Tirico and Paul Azinger gabbing about what we might expect from Tiger’s second round. Sheesh!
One last point – and I covered this at length last year – the other thing BBC gets right is its leaderboard. Yes, there is a right way to display players whose scores relative to par are tied while the round is in progress. That way is to list the player who has played the most holes first. Such positioning actually affects how tied players will be paired together the following round (something CBS’ Jim Nantz always covers at the end of 3rd rounds – who will be paired with whom the following day, and when it comes to ties it is determined by which player finished his round first), hence it is the proper way to display tied players on the leaderboard. You’d imagine the Brits are more sticklers for tradition than we Yanks, so they show leaderboards the way they should be shown.
But not ESPN. They instead contort themselves to list whomever they think is the biggest name first. Tiger always moves to the top – even at one point when he was tied with Adam Scott who is ahead of him (and every other player on the planet) in the Official World Rankings. Okay, we get it. Tiger always comes first in American coverage – but they have now taken it to a ridiculous extreme, whereby they decide to list, say, Charl Schwartzel before, I don’t know, Victor Dubuisson – even when Dubuisson has played more holes. Why when there is a simple formula that would solve that problem?
There is actually a reason to show the player who’s played more holes first. Case-in-point, at this moment on Sunday, Marc Leishman is in the clubhouse at -12. Hence, he’s the “clubhouse leader”. Hence, his name should be shown first among those at -12.
So, of course, ESPN is showing his name last, with Fowler then Furyk ahead of him. Bigger names, you see! That’s how not to do it!
Why, because if there’s anything worth doing wrong, ESPN will do it – which is why I recommend, no, I strenuously recommend you go with the BBC, aka “International” feed. Oh, and if you enjoy Peter Alliss’ guest commentary on the ESPN side, fear not; you get more of him on the BBC feed.
You’ve heard of “Breakfast at Wimbeldon”. Well, when it comes to the British Open, the BBC is what’s for breakfast.
Oh but there is one nice thing about ESPN’s Open coverage, which is that they left Chris Berman back-back-back-back in the States.