It just so happens that my favorite golf TV broadcaster, CBS, covers The Masters. Sounds like a match made in heaven, doesn't it?
Well not so much. You see, Augusta National represents many of the things that I despise in golf. Led by Chairman Hootie Johnson, Augusta has a long history of being pretty damn uptight and high-fallutin. They take issue with anything that doesn't agree with the 50s era that they choose to live. Remember Martha Burk's protest of Augusta National's all-male membership policy in 2003? She would have been more successful protesting the war in Iraq. If there is one place on earth where women will never roam, it's the member's only clubhouse at Augusta. The only good thing about Augusta's backward mindset is that you can still get a Pimento Cheese sandwich for a buck, whatever that is. I can't eat it anyway since I'm lactose-intolerant.
But the worst offense committed by Hootie and the Blowhards is their Stevie Williams-like bullying of CBS Sports. Hootie maintains that they have no control over their TV partner. Well, technically Angelina Jolie has no control over me. But if she promised to kiss me with those bee-stung lips every time I played golf in a dress, I'd be at Ann Taylor to fill my closet with size 4s pronto. Similarly, Augusta controls something that all sports television broadcasters would wear a dress for: The Masters television contract. It is the holy grail of golf broadcasting. Because Augusta refuses to grant long-term television contracts, they really have their TV broadcaster by the cojones. Since 1956, Augusta has granted a series of one-year TV deals to CBS Sports. There's no way that CBS will ever do anything to kill its golden egg-laying goose and everyone knows it. As a result, Augusta oversees CBS' coverage like Big Brother, and CBS knows that they must please The Master(s).
For example, Augusta limits CBS Sports to broadcast only four minutes of commercials each hour. In addition, CBS must receive final approval of all commercial copy from Augusta. When the champion is introduced at Butler Cabin to received his green jacket, an Augusta representative, not CBS, asks the first on-air question.
But the most regoddamndiculous thing that I've heard are Augusta's various linguistic rules for The Masters TV broadcast. The long-standing rumor has it that Augusta dictates the "proper" language to be used during the broadcast. Listen carefully to The Masters broadcast. Supposedly, there can be no mention of prize money. Certain familiar terms are blasphemous. "Fans" is considered an obscene four-letter word that must be replaced with "patrons." Similarly, "rough" must be termed "the second cut." Violations are often met with draconian penalties.
In 1966, Augusta took offense at Jack Whitaker's reference to a "mob" scene around the 18th green, and he was removed from the broadcasts immediately thereafter.
During the 1994 telecast, Gary McCord said that the greens were so slick they looked "bikini-waxed", and that it was so difficult to get up-and-down if you flew the 17th green there were "body bags" behind it. McCord was taken off the CBS team the following year and hasn't been back since.
Of course, Augusta appearing innocent to the public is a major part of the deal. Hootie has claimed several times that the club doesn't decide who CBS uses during the broadcasts. "We really don't make that decision. CBS puts together that team," said Hootie. "That's their call. We don't try to structure their organization."
Of course, CBS would never disagree with The Master(s). Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports, has confirmed that CBS makes the decision annually. "We make the decision which is best for our program," McManus has said. "Year in, year out, it's the one golf program people want to watch the most."
Yeah right. Gary McCord is one of the most entertaining personalities in golf, period. He and David Feherty make golf appealing to the masses. Together, their wit and chemistry is best for any golf coverage. McManus knows that. His statement's obviously a cry for sympathy. He really meant, "We all know that these guys who run Augusta are wackos. But what can I do? The moment we stop kissing their arses, our TV contact won't be renewed and I'm out of a job. Please understand."
It's been over 10 years since Gary McCord last broadcast from The Masters. Think of all the brilliant commentary that we have been deprived. And for what reason? A couple of innocent words that would be suitable for any G-rated program? To be fair, the Masters television rights fees CBS pays to Augusta are far less than that of similar sports events. But Augusta's absurd policies don't just punish CBS and Gary McCord, they punish all of us. Kim Jong Il would be proud.
P.S. You'd have to be ridiculous not to pick one of the Big 4 (Tiger, Els, Mickelson, Vijay) to win The Masters. Therefore, my pick is Luke Donald. With 3 top 10 finishes this year, he's primed. Luke, may the Force be with you!