A mix for the eclectic
When you have OCD as I do, it’s tough to ever get off the Directv mix channel during a golf or tennis major event. What happens to me is that I have this hang-up about knowing something is happening live and not wanting to wait even a few moments later to see it.
That’s how the mix channels enter the mix, though, as I’ve lamented before, feature screens that are just large enough (even on a big screen TV) that you can barely see the result of the golf shot, i.e., where the ball landed and finished. In particular, once I noticed that the “Featured Group” and “8th and 18th” feeds were a full 5 seconds (yes, I timed it) ahead of the national feed, I stuck with those channels. In addition, watching the mix channel makes you the director (hence the Directv slogan, “Don’t just watch TV, Direct TV.”).
From one screen you can move the featured audio to each of the four channels to hear the commentary. Often, I would watch the live shot on the Featured Group channel and immediately flip to the national feed audio to hear what those commentators had to say. Also, when you watch the mix channel you get a true sense of how many of the shots you see on the national feed are recorded - a high percentage of those are presented by the broadcast team as if they are live.
Plus, after this weekend’s experience, I have to rethink my prior notion that the presence of the leaderboard as part of the mix channel (see image above) is superfluous and detracts from the size of the four video screens. In reality, my eyes consistently glanced over to see the live movement among the top 10 players. Again, this was another way to demonstrate how many of the shots shown on the national telecast weren’t live. If the national feed went to commercial and with a player on a non-featured mix channel hole with a short putt remaining, you could check the live leaderboard to see if that player (if in the Top 10) converted the putt. If out of the Top 10, you push the red button on the remote to get the full leaderboard (though it covers the entire screen).
So, I did it. Both Saturday and Sunday, I squinted my eyes and watched the entire coverage on the mix channel – up until the very end on Sunday when the Featured Group reached the 18th tee and were the only two players remaining in the mix.
One of the two Featured Groups on Sunday’s mix was Tiger Woods and Casey Wittenburg. The coverage began long before the two teed off at 1:50 PM PDT. We saw Woods warming up but not Wittenburg. It is because of coverage like this that I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if Wittenburg outplayed Woods?”
He did, by 3 shots.
I also enjoyed the 3-person team covering the primary Featured Group of Furyk and McDowell, from the ESPN crew, it was Terry Gannon (ex NC St. shooting guard), Phil Blackmar and Jane Crafter. They did a nice job over the 4 days. I can’t help but wonder when ESPN shows highlights in the future whether they’ll use commentary from this feed instead of the Dan Hicks-Johnny Miller feed from NBC.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty livid during the postgame coverage on the Golf Channel due to the manner in which they are diminishing the accomplishment of joint second place finisher Michael Thompson. What a story he was. He was the outright leader by 3 shots after Thursday – yet he was hardly discussed that night. Other stories took center: Woods is back, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald played poorly among them.
Then, as you’d expect, Thompson fell back to Earth on Friday and again on Saturday. Then a great thing happened: he finished today with a 67 and wound up 1 shot out of the lead. He had a short birdie putt on 17 that, had he converted and if everything else occurred the same way afterwards, we’d be talking about a two-way playoff tomorrow.
Yet all the talk is about Furyk and McDowell and how they finished. I haven’t heard them mention Thompson yet. Of course, they list McDowell’s name before Thompson’s on the Golf Channel postgame show leaderboard, even though the official leaderboard correctly displays Thompson’s name first (he finished his round before McDowell; but I covered this phenomenon yesterday – TV coverage now goes with the “bigger” name first instead of who finished earliest among tied players).
Finally, you shouldn’t be surprised to be hearing the prototypical, “The sky’s the limit now for (winner) Webb Simpson” commentary.
I would caution you, however, that they said that about basically every first-time major winner since I’ve been watching golf. It doesn’t always turn out that way. For example, since Lucas Glover’s US Open win in 2009, he has practically disappeared from the face of the Earth. So who knows what will happen with Simpson. Pro golf is so competitive now that you can’t assume a Simpson, even though he won this one at the young age of 26, will ever win another one.
Well, I can’t wait for the British Open. It has been my favorite sporting event (bigger than the Super Bowl) for me since the early 80s when Tom Watson was winning his final few of his 5 Opens. I enjoy the links courses and the International flavor of the event.
Fittingly then, is that the Open Championship also features the best of the Directv mix editions. This is because they give you the BBC feed throughout the event. That feed includes Jim Nantz for an hour each day. It also featured Peter Alyss (who does an hour or so each day on the ESPN US feed as well) and British senior player Mark James. The commentary is very enjoyable from the Brits. They don’t worry too much about being politically correct and the colorful expressions are also a fun insight into their culture.
In ’09 on Friday, after Tom Watson had given back all 5 shots to par he had scored the day before on the front nine of Round 2, I watched him play the middle three holes at Turnberry on one of the mix channels and he proceeded to birdie 2 of the 3 (and par the other). It got him right back in the tournament.
In 2010, I sat back and watched the entire BBC feed as Louis Oostheizen coasted to victory on Sunday. There are a lot of great storylines heading into the Open – with Padraig Harrington’s resurgence being one of them.
Then Tom Watson, if he can overcome a nagging wrist injury he suffered while riding the lawn mower, returns to Turnberry for the Senior Open Championship the following week. No mix channel but at least ESPN is covering has been covering it live the last couple years.
To quote Jimmy Conway (played by DeNiro) in Good Fellas: “It’s gonna be a great summer!”