comScore Tiger’s Masters: The Grandiose Comparisons Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Tiger’s Masters: The Grandiose Comparisons Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The understatement for the first quarter of 2010 is that CBS Sports has had an okay start to 2010. First, its broadcast of Super Bowl XLV became the most watched television program in history. Then, it got to recharge the batteries through the month of February while the media world converged upon Vancouver – before setting up its annual domination of March through its broadcast of the NCAA tournament.

Most people are dreaming about brackets this week and the least-productive Thursday and Friday in the American work calendar. But there’s another spring event in the CBS Sports catalog that is going to be a spectacle: this April’s Masters. Forget about all the normal stories about Augusta and what its history means to the sport. This year’s event has the tease of Tiger Woods return as its big draw.

Tiger Woods, 1997 Masters Champion. Photo from CNN SI.

Late last week the AP reported that this April’s Masters at Augusta National could be the place for Tiger’s first tournament since the incidents of the last few months. It’s perfect for the imagery, as I’d argue that its one of two venues in the sport  with which Tiger is probably most associated (to me, the other is Pebble Beach, which coincidentally happens to host June’s U.S. Open). The downside? We’re about to get a landslide of ridiculous, hyperbolic narratives as to what it means to the sport of Golf, sports media, the world at large, etc.

It started earlier this month when Bill Simmons talked about the return of Woods and put it in terms of Muhammad Ali’s return to boxing from Vietnam War-era exile. That didn’t sit too well with most, ranging from the normal snark minds at Deadspin all the way to former ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann. The latter’s comments started a short-lived firefight between the two personalities, but, as seen in a  response to Mediaite’s Steve Krakauer, the ESPN brass seemingly tried to wash their hands of the back-and-forth.

Dan Levy gave a great wrap up on the whole situation, and maybe the Tiger-Woods-as-Muhammed-Ali column was  Simmons just trying to not back down from a comment he made during one of his weekly chats. The Olbermann interjection was entertaining, but he’s as explosive a personality as Simmons and has as many (more?) haters as fans. All of that was blown bigger than usual because of who it was, and it was basically just one author taking a shot at the first “Tiger’s Return” column when you strip it down.

It’s about to get worse, folks. “Tiger’s Return is going to be the biggest media event since X” is about to be the story that fills in the gaps between early round play of the NCAA tournament.The statement just got released: Tiger’s return at the Masters is confirmed. Also breaking: Rick Reilly’s head just exploded as he figures out how to depict this as the most cinematic blockbuster sporting event since the Chariot scene in Ben Hur.

Don’t believe me? The tipping point is about to close, and in the newest addition to the genre of Tiger’s return, the comparison comes from CBS Sports president, Sean McManus, as documented by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch:

“I think the first tournament Tiger Woods plays again, wherever it is, will be the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years,” McManus said.

The reporter — taken aback by that claim — asked if he had heard correctly.

“It is hard to overestimate how much interest there will be,” McManus continued. “Tiger Woods is the most famous, most recognized, most accomplished athlete in the world, and his celebrity and prominence is even larger than it was. When you look at the fact that he gave a very simple press statement with no questions and every broadcast and cable news network in America carried it with great interest, I think that is an indication that whatever he does has enormous interest. And whatever he does on the golf course for the first time since Thanksgiving will be of interest to almost every man and women in this country.”

This is my one appeal: let’s try and keep the excitement in check. I’m asking a lot, I know, of the sports media to not overplay a story. Don’t bill this as the return of the Prodigal Son – let’s not forget for a minute *why* Tiger has been missing from Golf since November and it wasn’t an excuse to avoid the 16th Hole at the Phoenix Open. We’ll watch – Tiger or No Tiger – mostly because it’s a major tournament that is one of the first signs that Spring is actually coming and golf season is upon us. I know most believe that Golf media lives and dies by the Swooshed-One, but let’s try and behave with some dignity.

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Dave Levy spends most of his day working on Edelman’s Digital Public Affairs team in Washington, DC. A media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek, he blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing social media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references.