x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sport much more than just a game

We need more drama and more storylines. The big sports networks in the US can only put on so many hours of live game coverage.

Monday is going to be a full day for US sports fans. It is the opening day of the baseball season. And that night the men's NCAA basketball title game will be played. What more could you ask for? Well, we have more, much more - whether we like it or not. On Monday, Tiger Woods will have his Masters press conference and this time he must take questions from the reporters.

We all know the saga of Woods these past few months. I do not need to rehash it. Even after his public statement last month and his two brief interviews with ESPN and The Golf Channel last week, the media and the fans are still seeking answers about his off-the-course lifestyle. On Monday, the huge contingent of reporters covering the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National will have their chance.

While it would seem that another Woods media session would not take precedence over baseball's true opening day (there is one game on Sunday night) and the NCAA title game, I am just not sure. The Woods story has continued to grip both sports fans and non-sports fans alike. His press conference last month was treated as if it were a Presidential address. All the television networks broke into their regular coverage to show Woods giving his well-rehearsed apology.

So the question is, why, after those two interviews and Woods's initial televised statement, does a press conference capture our attention more than great sporting events like baseball's opening day and the NCAA title game? I think it is because there are just never enough games to satisfy the hunger of the American sports fan. We need more drama and more storylines. The big sports networks in the US can only put on so many hours of live game coverage.

When ESPN was invented three decades ago, critics said there was no way a 24-hour sports network could survive for just that reason, not enough games. ESPN has debunked that by embracing the ideal that sports and sports talk is as much about the personalities, off-field issues and drama as it is about broadcasting games. Woods is the ultimate example of how a star athlete's life can be as compelling as any sporting event.

He is the best player in his sport. He is a household name worldwide. When you combine those two factors with the salaciousness of the scandal, you have must-see TV. My fascination on Monday will be to see how much tournament staff at the Masters control the Woods press conference. Will they open it up to any reporter to ask Woods whatever they please? I doubt it. The Masters is known for being a very controlling golf tournament and I think they will follow suit when Woods is at the podium.

The pressure is going to be on the reporters in attendance. Will they get into the details of Woods's marital infidelity or will the questions stay on the topic of golf and his golf career? I would not want to be the reporter who asks the first question. So unless Woods breaks down crying or explodes in anger, Monday should be about baseball and basketball, but those two sports will have to share the stage with scandal.

Like it or not, that is what sport has become, games and drama or drama and games - it all depends on what you prefer. @Email:sports@thenational.ae