Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday 4-10

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with The Masters. I love the beauty of the course and the great sports moments the event has generated--but the pretentiousness and forced reverence for the tournament are just making me sick.

I've been to Augusta National just once--for the practice days in 2006--and I can tell you the place looks even better in person than it does on TV. The elevation changes, the slope of the greens, the depth of the bunkers and the kaliedascope of colors along the fairways is unbelievable. And you cannot find a weed anywhere on that course--even between the fairways or around the cabins.

The amenities at the course are nice as well. On property parking is free. A bottle of water is a buck--the sandwiches are a buck-fifty--and the candy bars are less than a dollar as well. The souvenier shirts and golf items aren't that big a rip-off either. I always like to say its the rich taking care of the rich.

What really gets my goat is the "false airs" that are put on for this week. The media goes along with it willingly. Count how many times the announcers remind us this is a "tradition unlike any other" and this song--called "Augusta" by Dave Loggins--is the only one you will hear during coverage. The Augusta National club uses its broadcast rights like a club--limiting what commentators can say about the place. Jack Whitaker was banned for calling the fans a "mob" rather than the preferred "patrons". Gary McCord can't set foot in the place because he joked the lightning fast greens were treated with "bikini wax". The first amendment stops at the gate in Augusta.

Diversity stops at the gate as well. Augusta National has just a couple of African-American members and no ladies. There isn't even a women's locker room. Granted, they are a private club and therefore can welcome whomever they want--but c'mon guys it is the 21st century.

As beautiful as the golf club is, the city around it is that ugly. I don't think much of the money generated on the grounds makes it outside of the fences. The street leading to Augusta National from the interstate is lined with the usual assortment of restaurants like Hooters and Pizza Hut that pop up in tourist heavy areas. The rest of the neighborhoods in Augusta are run down and dumpy. Boarded up houses, pothole-ridden roads and a lot of people just standing around on street corners. I can't ever recall seeing on TV a story about what the rest of Augusta looks like. I'm sure the club would cry foul if the "mystique" of their magical place was ruined.

And the field of players for the Masters irritates me as well. Competitive players are often left out because they don't meet the rigid qualifying rules--yet old farts like Charles Coody and Gary Player get to go out there and shoot 90. That's why Tiger is such a prohibitive favorite every year, the challengers are so limited in number the odds swing farther in his favor.

So enjoy this week's coverage of the "toonament". Just don't treat it like some religious experience.

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