Getting back on the horse after months away from the blog:
My favorite week of the sports year is finally here and I could not be more excited. You may think that I love the end of March Madness and the jubilation that comes during tournament time…you would be incorrect, although I do love NCAA Final Four. Then, you may think that it is because this is the beginning of my favorite “Big Four” sports season (Baseball)…you would be incorrect again.
Today is Round One of the greatest 4 day event ever devised, The Masters held at Augusta National. The Masters creates higher highs and lower lows than any other golf tournament on the calendar. The pristine, perfect golf course that is Augusta National is the greatest challenge that any golfer to undertake. The absolute best of the best players in the world flock to Georgia for their chance to play on the hallowed course. Competition is fierce from first to last on the leaderboard. A single shot wide of the fairway or a missed 5 footer can spell disaster and cost someone the Green Jacket as 3 of the past 5 champions have won via a multiple hole playoff. The winner must navigate the course with near perfection for four consecutive days to hold off the dozens of contenders battling for their own piece of history.
The Masters is the ultimate in golf and golf entertainment, and the sport can make a legitimate case as the best television sport. No sport has more consistent action and play than golf. Cameras throughout the course capture each and every shot taken by each and every player. This allows for a shot to be taken nearly 100% of the time on screen. Can any sport say that it has less downtime than golf coverage? The answer is no. Football has plenty of downtime, we all know baseball has its breaks, basketball is notorious for this issue. Hockey could make the best case, but with the amount of whistles, it too cannot compete with golf’s ability to have action on screen at all times. People complain that golf is boring to watch, but the beauty and purity of the game needs greater appreciation.
Not only is The Masters a perfect tournament, and not only is golf the best TV sport, but golf also allows for the most wide open, “anything can happen”, “anyone can win finish in sports.” Where else can a 16 year old amateur compete on a level playing field against a 30 or 40 year old, multiple time champion? Where else can a 20 year old (Jordan Spieth) legitimately compete for a championship right alongside a 44 year old past champion (Angel Cabrera)? Tennis could make an argument that it allows for these, but when in tennis does someone over the age of 35 have a legitimate chance to win? The field in golf is so immensely widespread from an age perspective that people of all ages can watch and root with someone of their own age group.
Is age the only way that golf’s leaderboard is diverse? Nope, although the tournament is historically dominated by Americans, in the past six tournaments, two South Africans have won, one Argentine, and an Australian have all won. Who knows where the winner will hail from in this year’s Masters, the US? the UK? Spain? Australia? South Africa? or somewhere no one is thinking of?
And these people playing and winning The Masters are not just numbers or countries, they are some of the most genuine humans in all of sports. The list of people who I want to see win the tournament extends to virtually of those in the field this week. There is a story behind every single player that explains why I would be excited if they won. One reason golf is beautiful is that it is built on honor and integrity. The men who reach the epitome of the game also represent the epitome of what golf means (in general). Nearly every player on tour either has their own charity or have a direct partnership with an existing charity. You look at their families and for the most part, they seem like regular, modern day families. Do these men have a lot of money? Yes. But do they flaunt their wealth like many other athletes do? No. Interviews are conducted with great humility, respect, and appreciation for the livelihood they have worked so hard for. These golfers do not take their job for granted and give back to their communities because they are so appreciative. For the record, I would love to see someone with zero career major titles win The Masters this year. People like Steve Stricker (47 years old) and Matt Kuchar (35 years old) deserve to win a major one of these years, and I hope its this year at Augusta National.
Not only is the venue, tournament, and sport itself all nearly perfect, the coverage from CBS is as good as it gets in sports. The “play by play” announcer is Jim Nantz, who is probably the greatest commentator in the industry, while his broadcast partner is Sir Nick Faldo. Faldo receives little fanfare from the sports entertainment industry at large, but he would fall right in that upper echelon of “color commentators.” The perspective that he brings as one of the greatest golfers and British golfers of all time is priceless and he delivers his expertise in an effortless, enjoyable way that keeps me coming back for more. The on course reporters are also stellar and provide information that you simply could not get anywhere else. So, even if you simply appreciate an incredibly polished, almost perfect broadcast of a sporting event, The Masters is for you.
Enough about the tournament as a whole, enough about how great golf is, and enough about how great the sport is on TV. Why do I really LOVE The Masters? The answer is simple, the greatest sports day of the entire year…Masters Sunday. Is the Super Bowl great? Yes. But is Masters Sunday greater? Yes. There is no other day on the calendar that allows for this many winners. There is no other day on the calendar that generates as much anticipation and anxiety than this single day. 18 holes separate a group of roughly 10-15 men from the seemingly unattainable goal of slipping on that famed Green Jacket. A great round can send someone skyrocketing up the leaderboard, while a few rough holes can send someone tumbling down that same leaderboard. No day puts a greater microscope and focus on each and every hole and shot each man takes. As Nick Faldo has put it, “each shot is a piece of history.” Masters Sunday is one of those days that you just put CBS on when coverage starts and you don’t change the channel for the entire day until the final interview with the champion has been conducted. The action is unmatched anywhere, the drama is beyond any other theatre, and the joys from triumph extend further and deeper than any other event on the athletic calendar (maybe the Olympics could say something about this argument).
And in the end, who wouldn’t want to win that fabled Green Jacket?
Watch for immense emotion this week from the players. Whether it be fist pumps after a huge putt to ignite the crowds or Bubba Watson’s tears after winning an event that meant so much to him. The world for these players stops for 4 days in April and they take in every sight, every sound, and every smell that Augusta National has to offer because it truly is the ultimate in sport.
I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on play and watching whenever I can. But more importantly, will you?