Ryder Cup coverage was winner, too


The TV Repairman:

NBC sportscaster Jim Lampley, given to flights of rapturous overstatement all weekend, finally got it right in the waning moments of the Ryder Cup coverage.

"Few events in all of sports can match this," he said. And, for once, he wasn't making the Grand Canyon out of a pothole on Monument Street (take your pick).

As sport, as theater, as a test of the toughness and mettle of two dozen competitors in a polite and refined athletic endeavor (sniff), the 15-13 victory by the United States over Europe was a match for any championship contested anywhere.

Pressure, people who take part in fun and games are fond of telling us, is self-induced. Most of the time they're right, but not when ol' Sam Ryder's cup is up for grabs.

Recall, two years ago when the United States wrested the Cup at Kiawah Island, S.C., many American spectators put success on the same plane as winning a war. Repeatedly during the past three days, crowds at the Belfry course outside Birmingham, England, were as emotional as those attending European soccer matches.

Still, as Paul Azinger said after halving Nick Faldo on the last hole of the last singles match of the day, "There was great sportsmanship throughout; the crowds here were terrific." Even though many cheered as ardently for U.S. flubs or misses as for good shots by the home boys, there's nothing wrong with wanting to win.

Both NBC and USA Network, which went dawn to dusk with Friday's opening 36 holes of dog-eat-dog competition, did yeoman work introducing the audience to the enormity of the showdown in the minds of golf fans as well as the players.

When you think about it, chances are most of these shot-makers have had little experience playing on a team, and it's always a huge kick to see them reacting to success much like a bunch of school kids would after winning the big football game against arch-rival East Overshoe.

The situation as the 11 singles matches went off was a 9-8 lead for the Europeans, a godsend for early Sunday morning viewers because, traditionally, the Americans always enjoy an edge when it comes to the concluding singles matches. It's called depth.

Both Friday and Saturday, some of the commentators couldn't hide their hurt and disappointment at a U.S. twosome being tied or beaten. Slowly but surely, though, they seemed to come to the realization that it's in the best interest of the competition itself for each side to have its share of success.

"The 2 1/2 -hour fog delay [Friday morning] really hurt the American team of Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart," USA host Bill Macatee alibied for the 7-and-5 drill job Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer laid on the American stars. Bull.

When Tom Kite and Davis Love III lost to the Spanish duo of Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal, Kite said with a shrug, "We were 6-under-par and lost, 4-and-3. We just caught a buzz saw." He had a much easier time accepting the outcome than the interviewer/cheerleader.

It was left for the best of golf's television commentators, Johnny Miller, to intone, "My word, this is something: Hollywood-type scripts," as the Europeans hit the midpoint of the action with a solid lead and the U.S. squad readied for its stretch run.

While Bob Trumpy, improving as a commentator but still mostly H HTC former tight end, was saying things like, "I talked to Fred Couples, and he's got the fire," Miller would deliver the real goods by pointing out, "That's the kind of putt you don't leave short in match play," as an American momentarily came up faint-hearted.

From a two-point deficit, the United States suddenly sprinted into the lead as Kite, Jim Gallagher Jr. and Raymond Floyd closed out the Spaniards and Langer. Fittingly, it was Floyd putting Olazabal in a dormie predicament that assured the United States would retain the cup.

Know how when you tune in to a baseball game it seems as if you can never get the score for about an hour? Incessantly, Lampley, who obviously gets paid not only by the word but the syllable, was there with "let me bring you up to date on the situation out on the course."

One saving grace to what became needless chatter was the fact Lampley's explanations were invariably flawless.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad