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SPORTVIEW

Some showstopping moments to savor

Sunday at the Masters, yesterday at Fenway Park. Two events for the ages. In many ways so different, but with one thing in common: Both were must-see. You had to be there, either in person or in front of a TV, preferably with your video recorder running.

We've learned never to doubt a Dr. Charles Steinberg production. Often, Opening Night at the theater is the time to shake out the final bugs in the program. Not with Steinberg, the Red Sox' executive vice president/public affairs who is the mastermind behind the Opening Day ceremonies and the one-of-a-kind events such as the Ted Williams tribute and the rolling rally.

They make for compelling TV. Memorable scenes from yesterday's pregame ceremonies:

* Seeing the World Championship flags from 1918 and before unfurl from the top of the Green Monster to the music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. When the huge 2004 banner dropped to cover the entire wall, you knew this was going to be a special afternoon.

* Knowing there were tears in viewers' eyes as they watched wounded American military veterans deliver the championship rings from the left field wall to the first-base line.

* Cheering again for Terry Francona, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Dave Roberts, Curt Schilling, and Johnny Pesky -- among others -- as they came out for to receive those rings.

* Hearing Terry Cashman singing one of his original baseball ballads as Carl Yastrzemski and Pesky raised the banner.

* Witnessing the standing ovation for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who has blown his last four save opportunities against the Red Sox. To his credit, Rivera seemed to get a kick out of the cheering, doffing his cap.

* Wanting to be part of the 35,000-person greeting committee for Tedy Bruschi, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, and Richard Seymour, all of whom threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Masterful

CBS gave us the best seat in the house for Sunday's Masters -- that is, when the network was on the air. Serious golf fans missed viewing those vital, untelevised hours of makeup play Sunday morning that cast the die for the afternoon's final-round drama.

Traditions of all sorts, including TV, change slowly at Augusta National. While sports viewers are used to seeing early-morning events these days, including Wimbledon, Formula One, European soccer, the Olympics, and the British Open, there was no putting the Masters on CBS this Sunday morning.

To its credit, CBS rewarded those who tuned in at 2:30 p.m. with a recap of the morning's stunning turnaround that vaulted Tiger Woods from four shots back of Chris DiMarco to three shots ahead at the start of the final round.

But it would have been nice to have had the option of watching it live over breakfast.

The afternoon show produced terrific ratings. In Boston, Sunday's audience peaked at an 18.5 rating (33 share) at 7:30 p.m. during the one-hole playoff, with the telecast doing a 10.9 local rating (27 share) for the afternoon, an increase of 88 percent over 2004, when the telecast went head-to-head with a late-afternoon Sox-Blue Jays game on Easter Sunday. The local rating was the best for the Masters since Woods's 2001 victory did a 17.4 here.

Sunday's national rating was a 10.3 (21 share). That was a 41-percent increase over last year's final round and further illustration of the "Tiger Factor" boosting golf's ratings when Woods is in contention.

CBS host Jim Nantz gave Woods the silent treatment before he made what turned out to be the championship-winning putt. For 15 seconds, then 30, no one spoke on the air as the cameras focused on Woods as he surveyed his birdie putt on the 18th green -- the first hole of his sudden-death playoff with DiMarco.

Woods, who'd played deliberately all day, kept studying the putt. And the silence stretched, reaching 45 seconds, then a full minute, an unheard of length of time in a medium where a moment of silence can make viewers uncomfortable. Instead of dead air, however, it was a highly charged atmosphere. The silence -- and anticipation -- reached 75 seconds before Woods finally stroked the ball.

If someone had tuned in at that moment it was obvious that it was decisive. And with thousands of fans (sorry, patrons) surrounding the green, the viewers at home had a better vantage point.

The crowd noise built as the ball approached the hole, but Nantz waited until the ball started to drop dead-center in the cup before he finally spoke: "Look out! . . . What a finish! No. 4 for Tiger."

Silence came into play on another shot. Verne Lundquist didn't speak for 10 seconds to watch the drama as Woods's chip for the ages rolled downhill and into the cup on the 16th green. The CBS cameras caught the shot perfectly the first time, a clip we'll be seeing many times. For the record, CBS spokesman Jerry Caraccioli, watching at home, timed the ball resting on the lip for 2.2 seconds before it toppled in.

He was missed

NESN's Don Orsillo and WEEI's Joe Castiglione shared the MC duties during yesterday's festivities, a reminder that Sean McDonough would have been at one of the mikes in past years . . . NESN will air a one-hour special on last night's Red Sox Welcome Home dinner at 8 tonight . . . Today's 7 p.m. Celtics-76ers game will air on both FSN and ESPN2 . . . Tomorrow's "SportsPlus"(NESN, 5:30 and 11:30 p.m.) will feature baseball talk with Globe staffers Dan Shaughnessy and Gordon Edes joining host Bob Neumeier (seen watching yesterday's opener directly behind home plate).

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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