People sometimes ask veteran television director Steve Beim to name the “fastest” sport he has to follow from the production truck.
“They think: could be football, could be [auto] racing, could be basketball, could be hockey,” Beim said Wednesday in the Fox production truck at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. “I say, ‘golf,’ and they look at me like I’m speaking Latin. They’re going, ‘What do you mean?’
“I say, ‘Well, if you think it’s slow, then we’re doing our job. If it’s coming at you at a frenetic pace, I’m not doing my job. Then we haven’t slowed the game down. There’s no flow.’”
So it goes for those charged with directing golf on television. Slow for viewers is fast for them, especially on the first two days of the event.
That is because the director is in charge of identifying and calling up camera shots over 18 holes and many acres.
“I think golf and auto racing are the two biggest challenges, because there are no timeouts and there are multiple things happening at one time,” Beim said. “The advantage of auto racing is that you have yellow flags. Here you have no yellows.
“You can have 18 balls in the air at one time, so you have to prioritize and you have to go with the flow and you have to tell a story, three things at the same time. You’re not on a court, so your field of play is different every week.”
The key to surviving is being organized and staying focused – and flexible.
“You go with the flow and you have a plan going in, and you have to have Plan B and Plan C, like everything we do in life,” Beim said. “For instance, we know we’re going to follow Phil [Mickelson] on Thursday morning, and there are a few groups around Phil we’re going to follow.
“But what happens if a guy has 13 birdies on the first 14 holes who we’ve never heard of? We just have to adapt, and you have to go with your plan and hopefully with as much equipment as we have, we’ll always be covered.”
The biggest challenge is Thursday, when not only are all of the golfers playing, but unlike Friday there is no shape to the field. “At least on Friday you have scores,” Beim said.
He laughed when asked whether directors from various networks share golf stories over adult beverages when they see one another.
“I have to tell you, it’s great,” he said. “It’s such a unique event to cover. Every canvas is different. When you’re at Pebble Beach [next year] you’re showing off the beauty and showing off the scenic as much as you’re covering golf. And [Shinnecock] is a cathedral of golf.”
The chaos will begin first thing Thursday morning.
“You have to go in with your plan,” he said, “but it deviates all the time.”