By Daniel I. Dorfman–
We all have our guilty pleasures. Cookie dough ice cream, a silly YouTube video watched a million times or lying in bed one morning when we should be getting something accomplished. In sports, there is no greater guilty pleasure than the Masters. The tournament that screams “obnoxious” usually has another adjective attached to it: compelling.
I readily concede the Masters appears to be run by one of the most self-important, stuffy groups of people in the sporting landscape. These are the people who have membership policies at Augusta National Golf Club that raised eyebrows a few years ago, but now have been swept back under the rug.
Then there was the banishment of television analysts Jack Whitaker and Gary McCord because they used phrases that obviously meant no harm yet were deemed offensive by tournament officials. But the Masters TV contract is renewed on a one year contract and it draws big rating so it is the rare athletic event that can actually dictate terms to television and not the other way around.
Unfortunately, that means the reverential attitude towards the Masters spills into the TV coverage through endless gushing over the tournament to genuflecting over the course. Yes, it may be nice there are limited commercial breaks (a fact the tournament officials smugly point out every year) but how many times can you hear, “A tradition unlike any other?” without wanting to scream? We are still talking about a golf tournament, not a religious retreat.
Therefore, there are plenty of reasons to have righteous indignation toward the Masters, but instead, I am part of the “mob” (the phrase that got Whitaker in trouble in 1966) that will be paying attention this weekend.
Why? With few exceptions the Masters produces great theater. There have been so many times just since 1986 where the storylines have been powerful. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus coming out of nowhere on the final day shooting 65 at the age of 46 to win his 18th major. Aside from the U.S. beating the Soviet Union in hockey at the 1980 Olympics, tell me a greater national sporting event in recent history? It is impossible to do.
But the Nicklaus triumph was just one of many moments that added to a full tapestry. A small sampling includes Larry Mize’s chipped in from over 140 feet to stunningly win a playoff in 1987. There was Greg Norman’s collapse in 1996 as well as Tiger Woods’s first major victory in 1997 smashing the competition and the record book. Last year Phil Mickelson’s won as his wife and mother were battling breast cancer. The other three golf majors could be combined over that same quarter century period and the drama in relation to the Masters would not be equaled.
Moreover, almost every year the Masters produces a leaderboard filled with names that are familiar. The U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship often require a Google search to know something about the champion. But that is not the case at Augusta National. In years gone by, Nicklaus and Tom Watson were always around on the final Sunday and look for Woods and or Mickelson to be there this Sunday.
So I am not ashamed to admit I will enjoy the Masters this weekend. Well, maybe a little bit. But that won’t keep me from watching.
Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.