SvoNotes: Nicklaus, George In TV Spotlight

March is one of the best months for sports TV, and the Big Ten Network has chipped in with two shows featuring former Buckeye athletes. Tonight's interview with Jack Nicklaus should be a must-see to most Buckeye fans, while the upcoming discussion show starring Eddie George might spark some curiosity.

Ohio State fans who are enjoying the smorgasbord of televised sports this week – a list that includes conference basketball tournaments, the World Baseball Classic and the stretch runs of the NBA and NHL seasons – have even more reason to plop themselves on the couch because of the Big Ten Network.

Tonight at 7:30, the BTN televises the Big Ten men's golf match play championship, an event that already occurred and that I know the results of (I won't ruin it for you).

And while I'm interested to see some of the Buckeye men's golfers in action, I'm really going to be tuning in for the exclusive interview the channel did with Buckeye alumnus Jack Nicklaus.

The network bills the interview as such: "Iconic sports legend Jack Nicklaus recently visited with the Big Ten Network to reflect on growing up in Columbus and attending Ohio State. … In the interview, Nicklaus talks with (broadcaster Jim) Kelly about the difficult adjustment to college life, recalls his playing days as a Buckeye and shares his experience of dotting the ‘I' at the Horseshoe."

Even though I wasn't alive for much of his incomparable career, the Golden Bear is perhaps my favorite athlete of all time, and over the years I've found he's the favorite athlete of numerous other Ohio State fans I've come across. Considering his age, Nicklaus' feat of winning the 1986 Masters has to be one of the greatest sporting achievements of the 20th century.

I'm convinced that if Nicklaus' tee shot on the par-3 16th had spun back into the cup that sports would have just ended. Had it happened, that moment never would have been topped, so everyone else just would have given up. My favorite part of the video is how Nicklaus bends down to pick up his tee while the ball is in flight. The shot was so good that Jack didn't even have to watch.

Another great quote from that video comes from another Buckeye, Tom Weiskopf, who if you'll notices intones, "If I knew the way he thought I would have won this tournament."

That line reminded me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, one Weiskopf gave while being interviewed for Golf Digest's My Shot series. I hope they don't mind me stealing it:

"Going head-to-head against Jack Nicklaus in a major was like trying to drain the Pacific Ocean with a teacup. You stand on the first tee knowing that your very best golf might not be good enough. You experience a sagging sort of pressure that just gets worse as the day wears on. The last four holes are always murder – the crowds, the difficulty of the golf course, the fatigue, the realization that Jack is not going to make a mistake – all of it hits you at once. Jack would get this look on his face that expressed deep suspicion in your ability to handle this, and in the end I rarely could."

The last sentence, for my money, is one of the finest ever written about sports. No other words that I've ever come across quite encapsulate what Jack represented in his career than those.

To me, only Babe Ruth was able to dominate a major American sport the way Nicklaus was able to. Tiger Woods is well on his way and will be equal when – and by all appearances, not if – he ties Jack's record for major championships.

I know some Ohio State fans who root against Tiger's quest, but that seems fairly unsporting. I've never cheered for Woods the golfer but I do recognize that he appears to be a fantastic person, and on the course he is simply amazing as a player and competitor. It's time to sit back and enjoy history as far as that goes.

But that doesn't mean I'll think any less of Jack. Listening to him talk about growing up around a university I'm quite familiar with sounds like a good way to spend a night to me.

Another show on the Big Ten Network to keep in mind this week featuring a former Buckeye is "The Big Ten Quad," a weekly discussion show starring Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George discussing the topics of the day with a number of league icons.

Michael Redd, the former Buckeye basketball star, is slated for an appearance on the show, which debuts Friday night after the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament. Regular episodes will continue on Monday nights starting March 23.

Here's how BTN vice president Mike Feller bills the show: "The exciting part of ‘The Big Ten Quad' is its unpredictability. The show will capture natural conversations that would take place even if the cameras weren't rolling."

One can only hope that turns out to be true. This show, which is taped in front of a live studio audience at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, has great potential to be an engrossing, enlightening and entertaining program if the conversations among the Big Ten coaches and former athletes really are free-flowing. If the network tends to stay away from certain subjects or gets the wrong combination of guests, it could be quite painful. Either way, it's probably worth checking out.

This is the third original series produced by the Big Ten Network, though the first two went by the tagline "The Journey" and followed around the Minnesota men's basketball and Illinois football teams for a season.

I have been of the opinion that the network needs to branch out and add some of its own original programming to the schedule, so this is a good step in that direction.

Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman outlined a number of possibilities for future shows to me in Chicago last July when the BSB staff was there for the football media days.

One of the things he mentioned was using the network's library of classic Big Ten games to create more shows, such a series about the top 100 icons in league history complete with fan voting. He also discussed getting students involved, maybe with a trivia-based show.

Time will tell if these ideas will see the light of day. I'd be one person more willing to see the league dedicate itself to showing more live sports – there are plenty on there but its selection of events in sports that aren't football and basketball, both in quality and scheduling, is hit or miss.

But adding shows such as the ones Silverman discussed would be a big step for the channel if it wants to be taken seriously simply because more original programming is better. Adding Eddie George and Jack Nicklaus to the roster is a good start.

Two Future Bucks Nab State Titles
Congratulations to future Buckeyes Collin Palmer and Nick Heflin for earning Division I state titles this weekend at the Ohio high school wrestling championships. The 140-pound Palmer of Lakewood St. Edward joined his brother, OSU junior Lance, as a four-time state champion, while Heflin of Massillon Perry won his bracket at 171 pounds.

Another Buckeye commit, Jake Vaughan of Columbus DeSales, took third place at 130 pounds in Division II after losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Felipe Martinez of power St. Paris Graham.

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