All of The Masters Coverage Today Makes Me Happy and a Little Sad.

As exciting as The Masters Tournament has been lately, or the 2015 edition might end up being, I can’t shake this feeling that something is missing. Maybe better said, something has been lost. I am an avid golf fan, with a 60th birthday easily in sight, and I remember The Masters as the one sports event shrouded in mystery, fueled by anticipation and defined by discovery.

It wasn’t that long ago television times were purposely set for later in the day and shortened, sometimes by more than half, of what the other major championships offered. The first six holes were enigmatic to anyone who hadn’t stepped foot on the hallowed grounds and the Par Three Contest was reserved for stories passed down from friends, relatives and eloquent scribes. Now no less than six different coverage options are available to view, starting bright and early in the morning, on devices that can fit in your back pocket. The Par Three is just another ESPN television event.

We weren’t allowed to actually see what happened during morning play for the first 36 holes. One was expected to occupy oneself with something else during a large portion of the day on the weekend. “You’ll get nothing and like it” was the mantra from the behind the gates on Washington Avenue and believe it or not we did! We liked it a lot. Then it changed.

Some dictionaries define change this way, “to make the form of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.” I’ve heard again and again, from people young and old, that “change is good” but despite the fact that real progress has been made in regard to the amount of information we can now get and how it’s delivered I, for one, am not convinced this particular change is ALL for the best.

Now before you write me off as a dinosaur, a curmudgeon, or worse, a crazy person, consider this; it was just more than 30 years ago that there was NO early round coverage from Augusta. In 1982 the USA Network aired a Thursday round at The Masters for the first time and some of us remember that CBS carved out a half hour of programming time, “after your late local news” (11:30 PM ET), for a Jim Nantz/ David Feherty half hour highlights show. It took until the turn of this century for Augusta National to allow CBS the ability to televise the leaders on Sunday from the first tee forward. For you “Millenials” that’s less than 15 years ago, just a drop in Father Time’s bucket of seconds, minutes and millennia.

To further clarify, I am NOT saying, or trying to imply, any of this progress and change is bad, it’s just different. From these “looking back on the good old days” eyes it’s just a little lamentable. In some weird nostalgia-filled way it’s akin to Christmas mornings past for me. I remember the excitement of knowing some of my presents were not so secretly hidden in the corner of a closet in the house. I know my parents, may they rest in peace, would be disappointed, yet probably not surprised, to hear that, unable to contain my curiosity, I peeked under the wrapping paper of the biggest box. Suddenly I was thrilled to know what one of my gifts would be in a week’s time but all of the sudden what I would describe now as melancholy enveloped me. A small part of the magic of Christmas morning was gone.

Today I can look at a Masters leaderboard, follow a featured group, or watch action from the most famous corner in golf starting Thursday morning. I can even, not only know what’s going on but, be told how to feel about it thanks to Jason Sobel, Steve Elling, Shane Ryan and a hundred others on Twitter. It’s great you say but, again in some small fashion, doesn’t it all make it a little less special and a lot less spiritual?

The United States Open is different. The television coverage is, and has been, a beautifully orchestrated all day affair from the announcement on the first tee Thursday until the kissing of the trophy ahead of a Sunday sunset. The British Open has its own stateside tradition of bagels, birdies, and being done with more than enough hours in the day to enjoy an afternoon round of your own. But The Masters, Thanks to technology, and in my opinion, has lost that one unique thing it owned alone… Its mystery. Once upon a time the event’s iconic tag line, “a tradition unlike any other”, also referred to the way we could, and did, watch it. I don’t know about you but part of me misses that.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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