First, meet the "players": the athlete, Tiger Woods; the league, the NFL; and an event that has had more impact on the U.S. sports landscape than any other in the past two decades, the NCAA Tournament.
Woods recorded his first PGA Tour victory in two-and-a-half years Sunday, capturing the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and pulling TV ratings to heights that matched his spot atop the leaderboard. Ratings were up 53 percent over coverage of last season's tournament, which went off without Woods.
If he's ready to again compete at a high level on a regular basis, golf broadcasters -- especially CBS Sports, which covers The Masters in two weeks, when Woods will return to action -- justifiably have reason for enthusiasm. Without Woods, golf ratings were OK, at best. With him, those numbers often double, because his presence and success give people a reason to watch the sport on TV.
When it comes to the NFL, almost everything translates to must-see TV. The combine and draft have become TV staples, and this week league meetings moved to that level, too.
With fallout from the league's punishment of the New Orleans Saints still unsettled, viewers got often unfiltered access to suspended Saints coach Sean Payton. Every possible sports TV show provided a hefty focus on the ongoing situation. And even that coverage was muted compared to the focus on Tim Timbow's arrival in New York as the Jets' backup quarterback.
Just as important, the league unleashed its usual approach to off-season news, building anticipation and creating discussion by parsing out information with its own coordinated, fits-and-starts approach. That means scheduling details, including that the defending champion New York Giants would open the season Wednesday, Sept. 5, vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
As we move into April, fans are just a couple weeks away from knowing the full NFL schedule -- which will merit its own live TV shows on NFL Network and ESPN. And, of course, another testament to the league's power.
Powerful brands with a plan can pretty much set the schedule when it comes to sports television, and the NCAA Tournament does that quite well, too. We're at end of the tournament, and that leads to its most important moments at the Final Four. As tournament tradition merits, things will end with "One Shining Moment" late Monday night, but the tournament's structure and terminology mean just as much to the sports landscape.
As a result of the tournament's presence as a cultural happening the past two decades, the men's basketball championship has made tournament action important in every other sport. Years ago, baseball had its postseason leading to the World Series, the NBA had playoffs and even the mighty NFL simply referred to its postseason as the playoffs.
In recent years, though, media members who cover those leagues have regularly referred to those respective postseasons as tournaments. Or even discussed how team have "made the field." When one sporting even impacts how others go about their business, that's true power.