TV crew’s favorite stop is Tahoe
Neither fire nor rain can stop the show.
When the Gondola Fire at South Lake Tahoe broke out two weeks ago, the NBC Sports crew watched and wondered how it would impact the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.
But the largely New York-based team, a cross between storm chasers and “Broadcast News” characters, have learned how to adapt to changes, including the weather.
“We were very concerned because this is our favorite tournament,” NBC Graphics Manager Rebecca Chatman said Thursday morning, as rain pelted the control-room trailer at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
On Thursday, phones were momentarily knocked out, but service was resumed and the crew went about business as usual.
Ninety production staff in three control trailers and two office units that make up the $10 million compound at the far side of the course were scrambling to meet a 1 p.m. deadline today to televise Lake Tahoe’s little haven to the golf world.
“It’s amazing how quickly they can get set up,” said Gary Quinn, director of business development.
The task takes two 8-hour days to complete and several pieces of equipment to pull off. New this year, the production crew is tapping into two new computers to display graphics, which were used during NBC’s telecast of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
For celebrity golf, the crew laid about 100,000 feet of cable and brought out 37 cameras, 11 of which will be panned on greens.
Millions of viewers will get a glimpse of the event on an 1-minute NBC promotion that opens with a visual of Emerald Bay and the Everly Brothers’ song “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” The teaser continues with clips of the sports stars and a helicopter shot hovering through Stateline. The NBC crew in the production trailer gathered around to see it in submarine-type surroundings.
The compound has become a little home away from home for the crew, which negotiated Thursday who would go for pizza and who would work the longer shift.
“I think we have more fun with this event than other golf tournaments. If you’re doing the U.S. Open, it’s a little more intense,” Technical Director Jim “J.J.” Johnson said.
This year’s Open, which was held in June in Long Island, N.Y., created a challenge for the crew who laid two miles of cable on the golf course. A golf cart trip to the 18th hole took more than an hour.
Then, there was the lightning at the Senior Open at Owings Mills, Md., a few weeks ago.
“The producer told everybody to take their headsets off,” Johnson said of the safety concern. Even though Tahoe’s golf tournament is billed as a bit of a breeze after four major sporting events in five weeks, there are other considerations that challenge the button-pushing, adrenaline-junkie crew.
“With the pros, you know about where the ball is going to go,” Johnson said.