As a former sports television producer, I pay close attention to the talent who provide play-by-play and commentary on the airwaves. In my opinion, the smoothest voice belongs to Jim Nantz of CBS – who in the last nine weeks hosted the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Championship and The Masters… all from the best seat in the house. He’s rock-solid, friendly and knows exactly when to raise his calm voice to a crescendo of excitement. My wife and I met him a couple of years ago and he was kind and engaging, with his ego solidly in check.
Which is why I am disappointed he chose to weigh in, after the fact, on Tiger Wood’s slips of the tongue at Augusta last weekend:
“If I said what he said on the air, I would be fired. I read in the USA Today and it was called ‘mild language.’ Someone on my broadcast team dismissed it as him having a camera in his face. Well, guess what? Phil Mickelson had a camera in his face all week and did you ever hear him come close to approaching that? He didn’t hit every shot the way he wanted. Have you ever heard Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus use that kind of language? What are the parameters between what’s right and wrong?”
My disappointment is Nantz went beyond the role CBS pays him millions to fulfill. He’s supposed to be Switzerland and remain neutral on and off the air so his journalistic credentials remain solid. Yes, television is entertainment; however, in my perhaps antiquated viewpoint, the role of the play-by-play person is to set the stage, call the action and ask hard questions of the commentators.
Think about the next time CBS airs a golf tournament and Nantz asks Nick Faldo about Phil Mickelson. Will you think, “You know, he’s a Phil fan; doesn’t like Tiger.” By inserting himself into the story, Nantz lost an important piece of what makes him outstanding: objectivity.
By the way, I’m no Tiger apologist. Yes, I think he’s the greatest golfer. Off the course, Tiger messed up big time with his family. His public persona, which made him wealthy, was far from his personal actions. That said, as all business leaders know, change is a work in progress… two steps up and one step back. Hopefully, Tiger corrected his sexual misconduct. He’s clearly still struggling with salty language. Let’s see how he adapts over the next few tournaments before piling on again.