Report: David Feherty is done with CBS
UPDATE: Ron Sirak of Golf Digest has some inside details on the split, which you can read here.
Sports broadcasting is a funny thing. People who get paid to talk about sports are generally talking to an audience that really doesn’t need much in the way of guidance when watching the broadcast, and if you listen to any broadcaster who has been around for a considerable amount of time, one of the things they’ll tell you is that knowing when to stop talking is a very difficult thing to learn.
Think about that for a second. The job that you’re doing actually requires you to stop doing it in order to do it better, and with how golf is broadcasted these days thanks to advancements in technology like better graphics, added microphones and pro tracer, you could argue that the role of the golf broadcaster has been diminished on some level. One guy who has seemed to avoid that diminishment though is David Feherty, who has managed to entertain and educate viewers over the past nineteen years as an on course commentator for CBS, however, that relationship has apparently come to an end. According to the Sports Business Journal, Feherty and CBS have not been able to come to terms on a new contract for the former player turned broadcaster and will now be parting ways. If the report is true, that means no more Feherty at iconic venues like Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach or at the PGA Championship, and yes, that also means we won’t be hearing him at the Masters.
Now, it’s important to point out that the apparent reason for the departure is a disagreement over Feherty’s role on the broadcast, which in the past has primarily been as an on course reporter. There’s no point in speculating further on what that means exactly, but the decision by CBS is curious in the sense that you’d probably find both Anthony Kim and Ty Tryon before talking to someone who didn’t like Feherty and by all accounts, he’s always been popular with the players as well. His commentary style, mixing analysis with a wicked sense of humour and childhood wonderment at quality play, has honestly been the best part of any broadcast element that I have watched in my time as a golf fan. Some examples:
And some choice quotes from the past 18 months:
Assuming that he wants to stay in golf broadcasting, he’ll have no shortage of suitors. Fox’s U.S. Open debut was a Tiger in 2015 level performance and could greatly use someone like Feherty, but you’d think that their lack of other events could be an issue, and really, the same is likely to be said of ESPN. What makes the most sense is probably NBC because even though they lost the U.S. Open to Fox, they still broadcast enough events, fourteen this year, including marquee ones like the PLAYERS, Doral, the Ryder Cup, and starting in 2017, the Open Championship. Losing Feherty at Augusta would be awful, but having him at Sawgrass, the Open and the Ryder Cup? Yes, please. On top of that, Feherty’s talk show on Golf Channel is presumably still going to be on the air, and considering Golf Channel is apart of NBC, it seems like this is a perfect fit.
A couple of months ago, I saw Feherty live on stage in Toronto (which you absolutely need to do if he’s near your area, by the way) and for two hours, his stories and jokes had the entire audience doubled over with laughter, but there were also moments of candor and despite how he can be viewed primarily through the lens of humour, there’s a genuine nature to him that has made him exceedingly popular. Go to any PGA Tour event that CBS has been broadcasting, and the fans in attendance shout out Feherty’s name and cheer for him like he’s the one making the charge up the leaderboard on Sunday. His battles with depression and alcoholism are well known and his willingness to talk about them, in both serious and comedic tones, is a huge part of his appeal. I’m having a hard time believing that CBS actually thinks their broadcasts will be better without him, as he works well with the other members of the team and really, there’s no one else like him in golf. He even stepped in for Jim Nantz last year at the Byron Nelson, doing play by play alongside Nick Faldo, and even though Nantz is a perfect fit for golf, the broadcast was refreshing and didn’t seem to miss a beat with him Feherty at the controls.
In a sport that so often seems to be concerned about being politically correct, Feherty has been a tidal wave of honesty and he’s had fun with it the entire way, balancing the idea of needing to treat this game with reverence while also realizing that he’s watching millionaires hit a ball around a field for four hours.
It’s a big loss for CBS, but someone is about to get a one of a kind talent.