Let me first say that going into it, I knew that the FOX edition of the U.S. Open was going to be different. The network bought the rights to all of the USGA events last year and this was their initial foray into the world of golf broadcasting. Pooling from a vast sea of freelance technicians and production, the 4 days of television was, in my opinion, visionary, interesting, compelling, exhausting and exasperating, all at the same time. We did things that had never been done before and made it work on some levels and watched it fail on others. FOX is a unique network in that they are willing to try new things and be different. They’re the youngest sibling of the Big 3 networks and so they aren’t afraid to make changes in how they present sports. Remember the glowing hockey puck? Yeah…that was a FOX idea. It’s the way they do things. And for this event, they brought out their toys in full force!
As a collective group, we all tried to make the 115th U.S. Open the best it could be. And considering the course it was on, Chambers Bay just outside Olympia, Washington, that was a tough task. After walking a bit of the course on Tuesday prior to the event, the course is definitely unique from other golf courses. The fairways and the greens mesh together. You couldn’t tell where the greens started or ended. The fairways were brown and hard. The greens were brown and hard. It was hard to find the ball through a viewfinder, causing our camera guys to miss shots that they would normally NEVER miss on a regular course. The greens were literally like a putt putt course, with rolling hills and mounds and curves. It was MADDENING! AND…it was FOX’s first time trying to put it together!?!? Insane, is all I can say about it.
And we heard ALL about it. Overall, most of the articles I’ve read about our work and the way FOX covered the event have been less than positive. There was THIS article and THIS article in the USAToday. Plenty of people bitched and moaned about the graphics or the camera work or the directing style on social media. They REALLY moaned about the announcers and the reporting and the commentary. There wasn’t much to like if you watched and listened to what the media or the social networks were dishing out. But the truth of the matter is…we worked our asses off.
OUR schedule was insane and we are the graphics department! We sit in a tv truck and type for a living! I can’t imagine what the camera ops and the audio techs must have suffered through! It was as intense as you can imagine a major event to be and it was a huge undertaking. Needless to say…there were things that went wrong. In my little corner of the world, we lost our scoring system twice early in the day on Thursday when there were 156 golfers in the field. Normally, if it was a Saturday or Sunday when things get a little slower, I could’ve kept up without a computer scoring system telling me that Tiger Woods just scored a +7 on a par 3. But with our coverage bouncing all over the field and with people running all over the place screaming “IS IT FIXED YET?”, it was a little difficult to concentrate. If you’re wondering what my job was, here it is. See that little graphic in the lower right corner?
Yeah…that was me. And I was on your screen ALL…THE…TIME. My main man Tyler and I worked to try to keep things up to date but alas…that just isn’t possible when the leaderboard is changing constantly and our coverage is bouncing from one guy to the next as they are putting out and we have no idea if they just scored a par or a birdie or a bogey or whatever. It was a tough gig and I learned a lot. And so did Tyler. Together we figured it out and, despite making a few mistakes over the following days, I think we got it worked out. Now that I’m here in Sacramento for the U.S. Senior Open, it seem like last week is a million days away! Of course, you don’t hear anyone talking about us now but…whatever. You get my drift.
Anyway, following the event, I can now say I was a part of something that was trying to be different. We tried to bring the viewers something that wasn’t the same as what CBS or NBC does. I had nothing to do with the Ball Tracker or any of the other technology that went into last week however I thought most of it was pretty cool considering how stodgy golf can be sometimes. And the ending of this particular event will NEVER be forgotten! Dustin Johnson’s monumental missed putts on the 18th green giving the win to Jordan Spieth will go down in golf history! It was INSANE! One of the craziest endings to any golf event I have ever worked and I will always remember it.
So for those of you who were so critical of the coverage, I get it. It wasn’t the best it could’ve been. Maybe CBS or NBC or ABC could’ve done it the way you are used to. Maybe the announcers weren’t as good as you are used to. Maybe the graphics were more intrusive than you are used to. But I thought, watching every single shot of every golfer who made our air, that it was different to say the least. And in the end, for a major golf tournament that needed a breath of fresh air and a little kick in the butt, FOX definitely gave it that!