Press Coverage: A Tale of Two Masters Pressers, NY Tabloids & Reneging on Promises

↵I joked last week that after Tiger Woods' press conference on Monday, Phil Mickelson should walk into his media availability session and announce that he'd like to remind the media that his wife and mother have cancer, in case some of the national writers in attendance didn't know that the second best golfer in the world was dealing with his own family crises. ↵

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↵Phil didn't need an early-week press conference. He had Sunday. ↵

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↵The post-round press conference with the media covered a lot of golf – from Phil's birdie on 12 and miraculous shot from behind a tree on 13 to that blip of dried pollen that landed in his line on the second hole, and everything in between. But, unlike Woods' presser to start the week, the post-tournament session with Mickelson covered some family moments that the golfer was actually happy to discuss. ↵

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↵When asked about the embrace with his wife, Amy, following the round, Phil was a bit emotional, explaining: ↵

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↵⇥"I don’t normally shed tears over wins and when Amy and I hugged off of 18, that was a very emotional moment for us and that's something I'll look back on and just cherish. I'll cherish every moment of this week. This was a very special week." ↵
↵It was a very special moment as well. Kudos to the CBS crew for capturing the moment so perfectly, as the slow motion tear that streamed down Phil's face while hugging his wife was the polar opposite one could possibly envision from the way the week started. Seriously, with a week that was all about Tiger Woods, there was only one outcome that could overshadow whatever Tiger said and did. Phil Mickelson hugging his wife after winning another green jacket…and crying. It was the prefect ending for golf, and CBS. ↵

↵When asked what he and his wife said to each other during the embrace, Phil replied, "not much was said" as he shook his head in agreement with the words he just uttered. Not much needed to be said, between the two, or to the media. I'll totally admit getting caught up in the moment like millions of others, but didn’t it seem like golf's first pure moment in quite sometime? Phil's "not much was said" could not be more different than the "that's between me and my wife" that were given earlier in the week in the same room, in front of the same media, by a very different champion. ↵

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↵CBS Wins The Week, Again ↵
↵The symbiosis between CBS and ESPN was, once again, well designed on Thursday and Friday. Mike Tirico anchored coverage for ESPN, but many of the CBS regulars were handling their traditional locations around the course. When play turned to the weekend, CBS shined yet again. I've long said that there's nothing CBS does better than golf, and nobody does golf as well as CBS. Now, in their favor is clearly the fact that the course for the Masters is the same every year, so the production crews know where to put everything from the towers to the moving camera over Hogan's Bridge to, heck, the wires to get the feed back to the truck. NBC always does a solid job with the U.S. Open, and that's surely compounded by the fact that the set up is different every year. Regardless of the home-course advantage, CBS just provides amazing coverage, from the vistas of Augusta to the action on the course to the interviews following each round. Sure there are some annoyances (we'll get to them in a second), but watching this weekend on TV makes you wish the sport, and the coverage, could be that perfect every week. ↵

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↵This year, CBS was also handed the most compelling leaderboard they could imagine with the likes of Woods, Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Fred Couples, Anthony Kim and the others. CBS even turned K.J. Choi into the calm surrounded by a series of storms, and had at least one person (me) convinced after 10 holes that he was going to win the darn thing. ↵

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↵As stated above, there were some hiccups. It took far too long for CBS to explain why Tiger Woods was wearing sunglasses after each shot. The look really did make him resemble an aloof villain, and despite Mickelson wearing all black, contrasted the smiling face of Phil as a hero. Maybe that was their intention, as it wasn't until Amen Corner where Jim Nantz explained – without absolute certainty – that Woods was wearing the glasses because of all the pollen. ↵

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↵In fact, per many reports, the pollen was an incredible issue during the weekend. One has to wonder if it wasn't the Masters – where everything is perfect all the time and don't you dare say otherwise on TV – if the TV crew would have made a bigger deal of the elements for players. ↵

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↵But that's part of the weekend … the vistas and the majesty of golf's great cathedral in the United States. In fact, when play began on Saturday, Tiger Woods had already bogeyed the fourth hole when the telecast began. CBS showed a leaderboard with Woods still one back – better for ratings – and spent five minutes showing us serene images of azaleas and famous bridges traversing reflective waters before getting to the action, including the bogey by Woods. Five minutes is a long time for vistas when America has been waiting for golf and Tiger and Phil are both on the course. ↵

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↵As for the crew itself, Nantz is perfectly suited for the tone of Augusta – the absolute pinnacle of the sport, with just enough reminders of that throughout the weekend without seeming braggadocios. The same can't be said for Nantz's partner, Nick Faldo. He's wonderful on the telecast and will always give his immediate opinion on a shot, but he needs to allow the moment to be the moment without constantly comparing success on the course to his own success 20 years ago. We know you were a great player and a three-time champion, so please stop reminding us every second you can. ↵

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↵Faldo told a story of Mickelson's preparation and how Phil did a full practice in the morning followed by some TV watching while in a bathrobe before getting dressed for his round and doing another light workout in advance of the first tee shot. It was a great inside look at the way Mickelson prepared for the day, and would have been a wonderful report if Faldo didn't make the point to remind us three times that it took place in the Champions locker room. Ah, the benefits of being so great. ↵

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↵In fact, when Faldo had the opportunity to give his first official comments on Mickelson after the round – with video showing Phil signing his scorecard – Faldo made it about himself, yet again: ↵

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↵⇥"My heartiest congratulations to Phil and, uh, we enjoy having little needle at each other so I'd just like to say to Phil: you're now as good as me at Augusta, Phil. So, what an incredible, incredible week. I think he brought, today, that strategy that was needed...the courage...and I congratulate him. An absolutely fantastic week, Phil. Congratulations." ↵
↵If you didn't know, Faldo has three green jackets. Then again, after this weekend, how could you not? ↵

↵NY Tabloids In Tiger Business ↵
↵Here's a recap of the two New York tabloids cover stories during the Masters. ↵

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↵New York Post: April 8, Tiger on front cover, Yankees on back. April 9, Tiger on front and back. April 10, Tiger on front and back, with tiny inset of the leaders on the back cover as well with no mention of Mickelson. April 11, Tiger on back, the terrible Polish plane crash on the front. The back cover was about Tiger cursing, one line (no photo) of Mickelson. April 12, Half sheet of Phil on the front, Santonio Holmes trade (with small inset of Phil) on the back. ↵

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↵New York Daily News: April 8, Tiger on the front, Yankees on the back. April 9, Tiger on the front and back. April 10, Tiger on the front and back. April 11, Tiger on the front (split with Polish plane crash and Oprah's affair), Phil on the back. April 12, Small text box above the fold on the front on Phil (with reference to "taming" Tiger, shared with Holmes trade and a subway bomb plot, Phil on the back. ↵

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↵Media Feuding
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I'm not going to recap the entire situation, but let's just say that last week I got into a Twitter tete-a-tete with Philadelphia's friendly-neighborhood general sports columnist and Fox Sports Radio host Stephen A. Smith. Smith is a different writer when talking about the NBA than, well, any other topic. He's informed and well reasoned when talking NBA matters, and his columns echo those traits. When he's talking about something else – like, say, Donovan McNabb's situation – he comes off as uninformed, loud (if you can sound loud in print) and perpetrating an agenda. I've told him as such on Twitter several times. It seems on Thursday, Smith had enough, chiding me and other bloggers for challenging the quality of his work for the Philadelphia Inquirer and suggesting that we were just hurling personal attacks at him because of who he is. ↵

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↵The story should have ended there – agreeing to disagree on the quality of his work – but like most stories, there's more to it. Part of the back and forth has always been a long-standing request for an interview with Smith (I have requested interviews for both On the DL and SportingNews.com in the past). This time around, when I reminded Smith that he had agreed in the past to talk with me, he challenged that statement and replied to others that I was a liar, that he had never spoken to me and that he never agreed to be interviewed on our show. In fact, this was his Tweet: ↵

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↵⇥And by the way, he's lying. I've never had a conversation with him on the phone and I don't make promises and renege. ↵
↵In fact, we did have a conversation, on May 1, 2008, in which Smith agreed to do an interview for my show that was, at the time, in conjunction with Philadelphia Weekly. In fact, he gave me his assistant's phone number to set something up. I called his assistant that day and she asked me to email her some dates from which to choose. This email exchange went back and forth the entire month of May, including: ↵
↵⇥Hello Dan, yes I did receive it and I am just trying to figure when would be best for him to do the interview. ↵⇥

↵⇥I'll get back to you in a few hours with an answer. ↵⇥

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↵That email was sent on May 5, 2008 (at 12:21 p.m. for those counting at home). Almost two years – and several requests later – and I guess she's still trying to figure out the best time for Stephen A. to do the interview. Because he doesn't make promises and renege.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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