Thursday, September 17, 2015

NBC Mediocrity no more

 In the circles of golf, there's only one name that  can crossover non golf fans into passionate observers when it comes to the standard golfing telecast. That man is David Feherty. Feherty combines a knack of producing dry, witty humor with the ability to articulate the thoughts that go through the golfer's mind as he was once a professional golfer himself.  Feherty had been the lead roaming commentator for the CBS golfing coverage for the last eighteen years because I grew up     watching the game on T.V and enjoying the work of the Irishman turned naturalized U.S citizen, I can wholeheartedly say that it was the works of sir Feherty that kept me genuinely captivated in this great game. The CBS golfing crew was always first class, from the work of art that was Feherty, to the greatest moustache on T.V in Gary McCord to the recently retired Peter Oosterhuis with the dream team rounded off with the iconic, monotone voice of Verne Lundquist. When electing to write a piece on what Feherty has meant for golf, I wanted to explore the full gamut, on the course, off the course on what his presence has meant for Irish golf, ie did he influence Rory McIlroy to dedicate himself fully to the game, and finally what does the loss mean for CBS and who can they bring and what they can do to alleviate this ginormous loss and what impact the signing will have on NBC sports who have now inked Feherty.

To truly appreciate David's greatness, we must first reminisce on a highlight that he thwarted us with. The list of iconic Feherty moments are practically endless, but this one stands out to me particularly. My most favourite moment happened just a couple years back in early 2014 at the WGC- Match Play Championships, the last true bracket format event as in 2015 the match play format was altered into a non fan friendly set-up, something I could vent a entire novel on but we'll maybe save that for another day. Anyways the call I was referring to was in the final match featuring Jason Day against the infamous Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. This was an event that was ultimately won by the Australian day but it was some shots hit by Dubuisson in some unthinkable lies that led to memorable calls. To describe the play by play to the best of my abilities although I am no Feherty, their was back to back holes in the match that Dubuisson was dead in the water with Day comfortably set up to make a par on the hole. On the first of two miraculous shots, his ball landed in literally a cactus as the event was being held in Arizona and somehow Dubuisson navigated through the cactus, through the rough to approximately ten feet to which Feherty implored after the miraculous shot, "If I saw Arnold Palmer riding down the walk way, I'd believe it". The shot itself was world class and for that Victor deserves all the credit  but having somebody on the network describe the shot in a comical and yet captivating manner makes the shot go down in golfing lore. Now although that will go down as his memorable call in my humble opinion but their is a plethora of other calls but like I mentioned earlier this goes down as his very best.

Off the course, David Feherty is a pioneer. During his playing days, although he was able to qualify for a Ryder Cup in his day he was very much a golfer in the background unlike the way he's in the spotlight now. Feherty is someone that can draw parallels through superstars in other professional sports through his new(newer) show showcased on the Golf Channel aptly named 'Feherty'. For us Canadians, we've been indulged for the last eighteen or so years in a talk show called  Off the Record hosted  by Michael Landsberg which essentially the premise of the show was to bring on sport celebrities from all walks of life with the idea of discussing hot topic sporting items. This show has sustained moderate success in Canada and throughout the years many American networks have tried to implement a similar guideline, some to success ie Pardon the Interruption, some not so successful such as Around the Horn etc etc. With the show David Feherty pitched to the Golf Channel's attention, and if he wasn't the one who pitched it I apologize for not having my facts straight has differed from a lot of concepts in that it's Feherty with a celebrity not necessarily discussing the world of sports, but just going in detail clamoring to personal life details. I personally find this refreshing because to get extreme opinions on any show, I can tune into my local afternoon sports radio talk show but not often will you have someone sit down with Lee Trevino and get into what he really enjoys about fishing. Refreshing might be an understatement as the level of depthness that he delves into is unprecedented and makes this Golf Channel classic truly iconic. The best way to describe it is listening to someone that has expertise in one particular subject matter, in this case golf, it's a beautiful thing allowing these individuals to ride on completely out of the box tangents.

Commending Feherty as a pioneer to the golfing audience is one thing, but is an impact being made to grow golf in his native land of Ireland. First of all, from what I've been told golfing in Ireland is absolutely tremendous with it being host to some of the world's best courses but aside from that, the "Irish explosion" on the professional golf tours is a fascinating one, and I'd like to hail Feherty as being the presipus for what has happened in that regard. In the last fifteen years, four Irish golfers have predominantly had a great deal of success on the PGA Tour. Padraig Harrington, Graem McDowell, Shane Lowry and of course we can't forget Rory McIlroy! The success of Harrington and McDowell can't be all tied to the presence of Feherty because they were already developmental golfers by the time Feherty became an international phenomenon but in reference to the younger generation in Lowry and McIlroy one can speculate what seeing Feherty on a television screen every Sunday did for their confidence and willingness to take golf up as a past time. I doubt they would ever admit the importance of what he means to Irish golf as they are on the surface very confident individuals but I don't discount for a second what he's meant for these two.

CBS golf losing  David Feherty is comparable to if ABC and ESPN ever lost Jon Gruden for there Monday Night football coverage. Irreplaceable would be the accurate descriptor. As aforementioned in the opening paragraph, the CBS golf team is top notch and was, was being the operative terminology the best in the business. The main competitors of CBS surely had their strong suits as for example Mike Tirico is an excellent play by play man for the ESPN/ABC British Open coverage, the great Roger Maltbie was clearly a knowledgeable commentator for NBC, and FOX....well what we can say about FOX, Joe" I dip my feet into too many sports" Buck doesn't have the golfing background to be successful in this industry thus the golfing coverage which will reportedly be increasing in content will continue to suffer. With Feherty jumping ship over to NBC, the new "dream team" has formed with himself, Roger Maltbie, though we're not certain how many kicks at the can he has left and Johnny Miller will create an eloquent broadcast. Sure, with the opportunity of broadcasting the Olympics too much of an incentive for David to pass up on, but I find it odd that CBS, being the conglomerate they are couldn't of made it financially beneficial for Feherty to stay. NBC's gain is CBS' loss. Who is the next chosen one that CBS will choose as the new leading roaming commentator? I'm going to throw a name out there that will split the golfing community on agreeance, and that's Brandel Chamblee. Chamblee is known for his over the top opinions and constant sometimes unfair criticism to certain player, his consistent outcry towards Tiger Woods swing changes come to the forefront, so due to the boldness that he brings with him on air, I find it appealing and would be a great coup for the CBS golfing coverage. The Jim Nantz/Nick Faldo tower combination is intriguing because first of all Nantz can make anybody look more superior than they really are but also because Nick Faldo has a story telling skill that not many have had before him. Peter Kostis has that unspoken ability to dissect a golf swing while making it interesting for the viewer. Unfortunately, for all they have that's adherable, losing that comedic presence on air will be tough to overcome as it may draw away some of the casual fans that tuned in to listen to the Irishman. Chamblee, the choice I just theorized with doesn't bring the humor element but he will raise the stakes on the controversial game which may draw a different type of audience, because, hey...who didn't like  a little bit of controversy now and again?

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