Maybe you noticed that ESPN.com was lacking Jason Sobel’s Masters live blog this year. Today we have the official answer – Jason Sobel has left ESPN to become a senior writer for The Golf Channel. Sobel was good enough to chat with me last week about his new home at The Golf Channel and reflect on his time at ESPN.
My first run-in with Jason Sobel was during 2008 Masters when I live-blogged his ESPN live-blog. (Part 2) Since then he’s been nice enough to respond to e-mails and Tweets. When I asked him about this year’s live-blog – or lack thereof – he responded quite cryptically. With a little prodding, he agreed to talk about his big career move and I agreed not to step on The Golf Channel’s official announcement today. When I was talking to Sobel, he assured me no one besides his mother would care about his new job. Of course, that was before Obama killed Bin Laden. Now even Mrs. Sobel’s attention is elsewhere. Would you believe me if I told you there was no Masters live-blog this year because Sobel was on assignment in Pakistan?
SD: When did you start considering The Golf Channel? When did this come about?
Jason Sobel: We’ve been talking for a little while. They’re doing some really good things. Working with NBC is going to be a major boost to Golf Channel. I like the direction they’re moving in and there’s a lot of room for growth there. I really believe in the product and that came first before everything else. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be working for them. I had a great career at ESPN and have hundreds of friends that I’m leaving behind and I’m going to miss that. It’s sad, but I think that starting a new chapter, I’m ready for a new challenge.
SD: What is your new position at The Golf Channel and what does it entail?
JS: I’m going to be a Senior Writer for The Golf Channel and The Golf Channel.com. It’s going to entail anything and everything. We’re still trying to figure out all the ways that I can utilize them and they can utilize me I guess. Obviously, I’ll still write and blog and tweet and everything for the website. They’ll use me on air for Golf Central and other studio shows and on location at tournaments. It should be a good fit. It’s everything golf and it’s right up my alley. If I didn’t think this was the right move in any way I wouldn’t be there. I really, quite honestly, I thought leaving ESPN where I had so many friends and I had worked there for so long, I thought that, at least right away, I thought I would have more second thoughts. I’ve had no second thoughts. I look forward to it more every single day. I can’t wait for it to start.
SD: What’s the first thing you’re going to do? Will you be covering events right off?
JS: I’ll be at the Player’s Championship the second week on the job. Doing some Cover It Live and some live-blogging and however else they want to use me. We’re still trying to figure it out. We’ll go from there. I won’t be able to cover every PGA Tour event, but I’ll be at a decent amount of them.
SD: Looking back at your time at ESPN, what were some of the highlights?
JS: Man, I started at ESPN when I was 21. I was literally a week out of college. Started as a production assistant working on the TV side for seven years and then on the other side for seven covering golf. I split my time almost to the day – seven the TV side, seven on the internet side. I can go on and on about how many friends I met there, people that are lifelong friends.
2000, World Series, game 4 at Shea Stadium I was producing Chris Berman’s 2-Minute Drill at the time and we shot something at the stadium, on the field two hours before the game. Afterward we basically just stayed there. I didn’t have a ticket, didn’t have a credential or anything. We stayed on the field. We just stayed there talking to people, introducing me to people until about an hour before game time and I still have no idea what I’m going to do.
I’m just hanging out on the field and at some point Chris said let’s go get something to eat. I figured we were going to get a hot dog or something and we went into the Diamond Club at Shea Stadium and watched the first inning looking out over the field. And he said he said, hey let’s go watch the game. I figured we were just going to go watch on a TV in the truck somewhere. We walked down right behind homeplate, walked 10 rows up and found two seats and said, “Alright, looks good.” We sat there for 8 and a half innings and never had a ticket or a credential. It was a blast. That’s one of my favorite professional memories.
The 2000 US Open was the first major event I ever covered. That was amazing. A couple years ago Arnold Palmer came to ESPN and it was my job to follow him around and show him around ESPN. There’s nothing cooler than standing on the tarmac at a private airport and a plane flies in and lands and its Arnold Palmer. He walks down the stairs and shakes your hand. That’s literally one of the coolest things I’ll ever see in my life. I got to do and see a lot of really, really fun things at ESPN.
SD: What was your favorite event to cover?
JS: Favorite is always weird. I mean, you can’t go wrong with the Masters. Love covering the Masters, I love everything about Augusta National. I see tournaments from a different perspective than a fan would see them. The US Open is a really tough test of golf. It’s fun seeing people try to grind out pars. I see it as 15-16 hour days with full fields and lots of work, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly fun either. I had fun covering the former Mercedes Championship when I went to Kapalua for three years. You stay out in Maui and there are parties every night and then sleep in because there’s no tee times and that’s fun. Not that I’m against work, but covering some of those tournaments was really cool. I’ve never had a tournament where I leave on Monday and thought, “Man, I hated that thing.” I like them all. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t like it.
SD: When you’re on location covering tournaments, have you ever been out someplace and seen Tiger pick up a waitress?
JS: Never, ever, ever. It’s funny. When all this stuff came out, I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of e-mails of people saying, “How did you guys cover up for him and how did you not know what was going on?” At that point I had been on that beat for more than five years and I had thousands of conversations about Tiger Woods with people in golf. Whether its about his game or social life and not once has anyone said to me even the slightest rumor about anything going on as far as activities outside his marriage. We had no idea about it. I’ve seen him off the course a couple times, but certainly never hung out with him or anything like that. I had no idea.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonSobel.