CBS: We won’t pull punches covering Woods
Monday, April 5, 2010
NEW YORK – As Tiger Woods gave his first news conference since his life unraveled, CBS’ sports chief promised not to pull any punches in talking about the golfer’s sex scandal on the air during Masters coverage this weekend.
“Our job is to cover what happens in the golf tournament,” Sean McManus, CBS News and Sports President, said Monday. “This year Tiger’s story is a major factor in the golf tournament and we are going to cover it fully.”
CBS anticipates some extraordinary ratings from curiosity seekers if Woods is still in contention during the weekend, particularly for the final round. The network televises the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, while ESPN has the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday.
McManus said he’s given no instructions to his announcers on what they can or cannot say about Woods. Similarly, the Masters – which has a contract with CBS to televise the annual tournament – hasn’t said anything to him about how it wants the issue to be addressed, he said.
Jeff Babineau reacts to Tiger Woods’ Monday press conference at the Masters and says he expects Woods to be in the mix on Sunday.
“I don’t think there is a whole lot of reporting that needs to be done on what has happened to Tiger since Thanksgiving evening,” McManus said. “What the story is now is how he plays and how he reacts.”
Similarly, CBS is interested in how the fans and other golfers react to Woods.
“We’re also cognizant of the fact that right now the major story of the Masters this year is how Tiger performs,” he said. “We don’t know what the major story is going to be Saturday and Sunday.”
That raises the point of what secretly must be CBS’ worst nightmare: that Woods, who hasn’t played competitively in five months, misses the cut.
Despite McManus’ statement that the tabloid fodder Woods’ life has become would be addressed, some comments by his colleagues raised questions about how much it would come up.
CBS golf producer Lance Barrow said: “I don’t anticipate doing anything differently than we did last year or at any other golf tournament that we do.”
The networks’ lead announcer, Jim Nantz, was asked about whether he had given thought to what and how much he would say regarding Woods and the scandal.
“I’m not there to do ‘Face the Nation,’” Nantz said. “I’m there to cover a golf tournament.”
Woods’ news conference at the Masters was televised live on some sports networks.
The road to his presentation was gradual. The golfer first apologized for carrying on a double life with multiple mistresses by reading a prepared statement on Feb. 19. He gave interviews last month to ESPN and The Golf Channel, but limited them to five minutes each, a restriction that led CBS to turn down Woods’ offer to speak to one of its reporters.
It was a civilized affair, with a green-jacketed Masters official selecting the questioners and Woods addressing several of the sports reporters he knew by name. Woods, wearing a white cap with his initials and the wisp of a goatee, answered methodically.
He was specific about some issues – drug use and his contact with a controversial Canadian doctor – while continuing to be guarded about his personal life.
The nearly three dozen questions careened between his life and golf game.
“How did you fool so many people for so long?” one reporter asked.
“I fooled myself,” Woods replied.