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Big Break NFL Producer Blog: You Can't Do That

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Occasionally, we Big Break producers will get feedback from viewers about the level of play on a particular series or episode.  Okay, it happens all the time.

The most common critique of the show is some variation of how “the golf is really not very good this season”.  How could five pros miss the green from 120 yards?  All they had to do was hit the green?!?

But my favorite assessment is “I could get myself and eleven regulars from my local course and we would beat this cast.”

No, you wouldn’t.

Sure, we have tons of viewers who can flat out play.  (Maybe we’ll see you at an audition soon?  Have you sent in your application?)  But I’m not buying it until I see you hit a tee shot into the fairway with nine cameras in your face and your job on the line if you miss.

There are tons of viewers out there who “get it”.  Taping an entire series over the course of a couple weeks is a massive undertaking, for the players and crew alike.  The crew is the best in the business and most of us have been doing this for many years and/or seasons.  But any way you slice it (no pun intended), it takes time to move our traveling circus around a golf course.

Generally, players will start warming up on the range at about 7am, and once we move out to the location of the day’s first challenge, we have to go over the rules of engagement.  Order of play is almost always chosen randomly, and that’s usually accomplished by drawing numbered golf balls from a bag under the watchful eye of our esteemed rules official, Kent Kahre.  Once the cameras are set and rolling, players are allowed to check out the relevant portions of the hole, and plan their strategy.  By the time we’re ready to hit golf shots, it’s not uncommon for an hour to have passed since the players warmed up.  If a player should happen to draw a number at the end of the order, they’ll be waiting even longer.  

Considering all of that—not to mention the fact that a poor performance can send you packing and seriously derail your chances of achieving your dream—it’s not so hard to see why players consistently say that Big Break pressure is greater than any they’ve felt, even when compared to playing in a major championship.

Want to try it yourself?  Go to a course you’ve never seen before and try to hit a green from 120 yards.  Remember, you get one shot at it.  Before your attempt, call everyone you know and tell them you’re going to do it—but wait!  Now get the national news to come out and record your one and only shot.  Don’t take any practice swings for at least 60 minutes before your big moment, and for good measure, get your boss to agree that if you miss the green, you’re fired.

Okay GO!

In episode 10, the players finally got a chance to hit it, chase it, and hit it again – and the results were inspiring.

Far removed from their true areas of expertise on the gridiron, or even their usual, spirited, 18-hole battles on the links for “The Cup”, Jerry and Tim stepped up with big-time pars.

Emily and Will followed with level-par aggregates on the second and third holes.  Emily, still harboring the demons of a balky putter, rose to the occasion with her solid par conversion on their first hole.  On the next, a par-5, Will showed true grit and guts in taking one for the team (laying up) and then draining one for the team (“Buckets!”).

And what can you say about Mallory and Isaac that wasn’t already said during the show?

One thing I can tell you is that the crew was engulfed in this match.  For the most part, the Big Break crew is incredibly golf savvy.  It’s not uncommon to catch a camera man sneaking in a quick nine at the end of a shoot day.  Yet during a taping, it’s all business.  Everyone has one eye on the action, and the other on whatever it is they’re responsible for not screwing up.

By the time Mallory and Isaac reached the final hole of regulation, the chatter between shots grew quieter.  The hired help became one part tv production crew and one part golf gallery.  When shots were hit, you could almost hear people holding their breath over the radio.

Given the chance to golf their ball, Big Break contestants can excel.  But the majority of the series is an array of skills challenges, and sometimes that can make great players look rather pedestrian.  Give them two holes, three holes, and amazing things can happen.  Even with all those cameras, and with all that pressure.

Maybe you and eleven of your best golf buddies can do it, too.  But I doubt it.