Hot Mic: Why Jim Nantz is preparing to call a tournament from a mystery location
Welcome to another edition of the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column dedicated to the people (and stories) behind the action you watch each week.
Jim Nantz knows what he’ll be doing next week. He knows when he’ll be doing it. But as to the matter of where? Even for sports television’s everywhere-man, that’s a bit of a mystery.
CBS Sports’ lead broadcaster has had his schedule ensconced for some time now, and the week of January 23-30, 2022 is a doozy. In just seven days, Nantz will anchor two sports split across three events and four telecasts. By the time the week is out, between the NFL playoffs and the PGA Tour, he will have spent more than 12 hours on national television. Naturally, Nantz will spend one of his off days working a second gig — shooting a March Madness advertisement for Capital One on Monday alongside legendary filmmaker Spike Lee.
And, if all that wasn’t enough for a 62-year-old with one of America’s most visible day jobs, he’ll begin the seven-day marathon without an earthly clue of where he’ll end it.
Is he terrified of what’s ahead? Worse. He’s ecstatic about it.
“It’s a new challenge, so I’m excited,” Nantz said on a media call outlining CBS’s 2022 golf season. “You know, there aren’t many things you do that are all that vastly different, year-to-year. I’m pretty much accustomed to the stretch from the Final Four to the Masters — I’ve done that 36 times. So this will be something that I’ll relish the chance to do.”
A “challenge” is Nantz’s parlance for what the rest of the waking world (and surely more than one CBS employee) is calling “a logistical nightmare.” But for sports television’s most recognized voice, this challenge is also a necessary evil. With CBS’s broadcast of next week’s Farmers Insurance Open sandwiched between its coverage of the AFC Divisional Round and Conference Championship, Nantz has reached an impasse. Forced to choose between the AFC Championship game and the Farmers Insurance Open, he will instead rely upon modern technology in an effort to choose both — calling the Farmers from the home stadium of the AFC Championship game.
Here, in his own words, is how he plans to navigate the week.
“Well, we have the Sunday night game in Kansas City — Buffalo and Kansas City — which is an amazing matchup and a repeat of last year’s AFC Championship Game,” Nantz said. “Monday I’m in New York shooting a Capital One commercial. Tuesday, I’ll be home in Nashville — I’m swinging between Tennessee and Pebble Beach these days — and will spend some family time here. I might even have a home game. If the Titans beat Cincinnati, the game would be here. Otherwise, I’m going to be in place on Wednesday wherever the AFC Championship Game is, because the tournament’s going to start that day. So I want to watch the coverage — every minute of it on Wednesday and Thursday — and be in constant touch with [CBS Golf coordinating producer Sellers Shy] and some folks on the ground there with what storylines are beginning to develop.
Somewhere in the middle of that, we’ll have production meetings with the two AFC finalists,” he continued. “I’m gonna have to work around those schedules — it’s not like they’re going to adapt their schedules to what I’m doing. So those will be player interviews, interviews with the head coaches and coordinators, and then we will have a production meeting to set up our biggest game of the year. We just had the Super Bowl last February 7. This year it’s an NBC Super Bowl year, but the AFC Championship will be the most-watched show on the CBS television network for the calendar year 2022 — by a lot — so it’s a hugely important broadcast. I’ll be ready for it. I’m not the least bit concerned about that.”
Once the production meetings are over, Nantz will switch into golf mode, where he’ll remain for the first portion of the weekend. He’ll call the tournament remotely, utilizing a setup of monitors and equipment to get a near-instantaneous flow of video and information — a setup not entirely unlike the one he currently utilizes in the 18th tower.
“On Friday and Saturday — our two CBS broadcast days — those are 5 p.m. ET starts,” he said. “So I’m just going to go with the one-seed at the moment and say we’re going to be in Nashville because they have home field. It may not be that way, but that will be a 4 p.m. CT broadcast beginning here. I’m sure we’re going to have a check-in with Sellers at some point — I would say around 2 p.m., two hours before the broadcast — to make sure the signal is clear and everything is on time and there’s not a lag and we’re coordinated.”
Nantz will have regular contact with Shy and the rest of the CBS production team from his location, which will be somewhere near the following day’s AFC Championship broadcast.
“I will be at the stadium,” Nantz said. “In all likelihood, I’m not going to be directly in the broadcast booth where we’ll call the game on Sunday, but we’ll probably be in a production truck right inside the stadium. And away we go…”
Away we go indeed, and not only on Nantz’s nomadic week. Monday’s call found the famed broadcaster in an introspective light, remarking upon the passage of time as he enters his 36th season at the helm of CBS’s golf coverage.
Whatever the misgivings, Nantz still loves his job, and at the core of that devotion is golf. It was the first sport that captured his heart, and, after an introduction to legendary CBS Golf producer Frank Chirkinian, the one that jumpstarted his career.
“I find after all these years that the anticipation of the next season is something that is part of your life,” Nantz said wistfully. “I think we can all relate to that — at the end of the school year, at the end of the fall semester, or whatever it might be in my world. I get to the end of certain seasons and I can’t wait for the next one to begin. But my longing for golf to come back into my life again is the one that I feel the most. I didn’t want to miss being a part of it with my teammates.”
It all helps to explain some of why Nantz is willing to endure the chaos of next week. Even four decades later, it’s still fun for him.
Wherever “it” is.