Listening to The Masters

Spending the day with the radio broadcast of the most visual sport on television.
Share |

This, but on the radio.

My father has been golfing for almost 50 years. In his younger years, he spent every weekend on Hawaii’s many awe-inspiring courses, and held a five handicap as an amateur. Advancing years and advancing arthritis sent that number plunging into the mid-30s. He’s lived on a significantly less scenic country club about 50 minutes outside of D.C. for a good while now, and when I was younger myself, and less couch-bound, I would join him for 18 holes, carrying his bag as we walked through thickets bisected by cart paths and into and out of bunkers like poached egg whites and across lots and lots and lots of green grass. This was as close as I could get to my dad’s own skill as a golfer – he had given me some lessons when I was a teenager, and I have a reasonable putting stroke, but I was always going to have a swing somewhere between Barkley and Gilmore; to his credit, he realized as much, didn’t consign me to an Earl Woods hell, and accepted that his son would be a better mini-golfer than actual golfer. It was a good deal for us both.

Instead, I would rake out after my dad punched out of a sand trap, place leather covers back on his woods after he cracked a shot down a fairway, and tap in his gimmes if it was just him and I. Through this, I learned that the experience of golf, and not the game itself, is the sport’s main draw. It is different, of course, with millions of dollars on the line. But the people who played at August between Thursday and Sunday are playing golf in a different way and for different reasons than those doing so to look at nature as Robert Trent Jones or one of his acolytes chose to frame it. It is a good thing, to see the swell of hillsides making certain greens Escher-ian nightmares, or to see fairways that stretch out into the horizon. It’s nice, surely, to nail a really good shot and gain the satisfaction therein. If that’s the point, though, most golfers are doomed to be pretty unhappy in their golfing. It’s about seeing things, being there, the strange and bracing severity of the game’s scale. It is not the sort of experience that’s truly available over the radio. And yet.

***  

If you are going to listen to golf on the radio, all that sprawling natural nuance is reduced (or not) to something to be imagined. For one thing, the listener must be instantly familiar with every inch of (in this case) Augusta National, from Rae’s Creek to Amen Corner to those goddamn azaleas Jim Nantz kept bringing up while (and we’re imagining here, too) lolling his head backwards and gently closing his eyes. If you’re not familiar with all this, there’s only a certain amount of mental filling-in that the announcers can provide. We know what a baseball diamond or a football field or basketball court looks like without visual prompts, and know what goes on there. A golf course, even one as familiar and unchanging as Augusta National, is different.

And, also, the very nature of what radio tends to be these days – something on in the car, on the way to the hardware store or the supermarket or Wendy’s – is entirely antithetical to golf as a spectator event. Watching the final round of the Masters is a commitment, inasmuch as sitting on a couch and getting up only during commercial breaks (or when somebody you don’t care about is taking a shot) qualifies as a commitment. It is, at the very least, an undertaking, a full-day, five-hour sporting motion picture. Listening on the radio, in ten or fifteen minute bursts, would be like channel surfing and occasionally popping back to whatever channel happens to be playing Scarface, hoping to get the full experience while wondering why Tony seems all pissed off at Manny now. That wasn’t how I set out to listen to The Masters. I wanted to see if it could work, or how it would work, if I committed to the radio the way I might have to the broadcast.

***

Thankfully, this too involved lying on my couch, albeit with the television off. This left me with just the flooded-out, faintly moldy basement – there are a bunch of Simpsons references and baseball cards and hashtags floating around; it smells funny – that passes for my imagination to deliver the depth. I’ve watched The Masters’ final five hours live every year since I was 11 or so, so I knew what was being described, if not quite enough to play the broadcast out in my memory with any ease. Those five hours ended up being about five hours and forty five minutes on Sunday, thanks to what wound up being a two-hole playoff between Argentine grill-dad Angel Cabrera and proto-Aussie Adam Scott. That is a lot of time to spend sitting and listening to the radio; after two and a half hours, I’m sorry to say, I gave up and switched on my TV, but left the sound muted in favor of the radio broadcast. This, maybe surprisingly, turned out to be a pretty good decision.

The radio experience for golf, much like the radio experience for any sport, has its obvious downsides, beyond not being able to actually see the action. I happened to listen to the broadcast via the Masters’ official website, which meant that I was spared the usual bleak radio ads peddling cash for gold or McDonalds newest meat-nubs or what have you, but it also meant that time had to be filled during those breaks where the ads would go.

What replaced those spots: anecdotes of great moments in Masters history, narrated by either Jim Nantz or John Todges, which would have been fine except for the fact that the same four or five anecdotes kept getting played, over and over, Jim Nantz intoning the same freaking things with the same reverence and awe and crisp robo-diction. Intoning and intoning, to the point where I wanted to travel back and time and kill Gary Player or Gene Sarazen, nice men though they probably are, just so I wouldn’t have to hear about their great shots ever again and again and again.

As for the actual broadcast itself, I found that without the sights of whatever it was the announcers were talking about to ground me in the proceedings, I would lose interest if the action hit a lull – which is what happened in the first two hours, as the excitement over Jason Day’s first two holes and Bernhard Langer’s surprising charge receded into a fog of par putts and Tiger Woods not quite doing anything.

Golf is hardly the only sport that can induce this fade, of course, but in an event that takes the equivalent of two airings of Lincoln to complete, it’s tough not to find oneself checking email or browsing Twitter at a certain point. The announcers – a mostly interchangeable selection of white guys (one of them Jim Gray) scattered about the course while Charlie Rymer and Bob Papa handled the main duties – did their best. Papa, in fact, did very well: he sounded the way that Nantz might’ve sounded a couple decades ago, before all those Presidential golf dates and the attendant plumminess bloated and bleached him as they have. But without anything dramatic to describe, they were mostly talking about landscape, with some ambient golf noises behind them.

That being said, once I made the decision to match up TV picture and radio sound, the upsides of the radio experience became much more apparent, even with a two-second lag between radio and TV broadcast. The radio scoreboard, read at lulls in the action, was preceded with a quick read for Barbasol, which felt much more like a charming throwback to the 1950s than television’s garish hammer-on-nail desensitization blitzkrieg on behalf of whatever was being sold in that 30 second spot. The radio microphones placed around the course did a much better job of picking up the eidetic sound of the course and its current inhabitants than even the TV mics did; this meant the chirping of birds and muttering of golfers to caddies and (later on) the pounding rain as the tournament headed towards a dramatic if understandably sloppy conclusion.

The play by play men, perhaps cognizant that a more inside-baseball crowd would be listening to the radio broadcast than the Tiger-tourists watching on television, felt free to get a bit more esoteric. And so they dropped golf-SABR stats like “scrambling percentage” as a way of explaining how Langer’s consistent Champions Tour performances were allowing him to stay in the mix, at least until the less complex numbers of age inevitably caught up with him. To me, the best part of choosing the radio broadcast was how much more excited and animated the radio guys were during putting, which the television announcers invariably invoke in hushed church-like tones, with the occasional “maybe” or “it’s got a chance” as the ball rolls towards either heartbreak or its opposite.

With the knowledge that this simply wouldn’t do without the visuals, the radio announcers give a much busier call of a putt in question, groaning in dismay if it misses or shouting with joy if it goes in. One Masters moments that was replayed (and replayed) during breaks was Phil Mickelson’s famous 72nd-hole birdie to win the 2004 Masters; the radio call was used, which meant I got to hear two Southern gentlemen just screaming and whooping it up as Phil knocked down that putt and somewhat goofily and dude-bustily leapt in the air in astonished disbelief. To me, that’s how it should be – golf announcers on TV so rarely raise their voice at any moment, and Nantz pushes his hushed-reverent Honored Guest routine to new heights of flavorlessness. He and his peers stick to a church-whisper on even the biggest putts, but you the crowds do not. The play by play of that moment should match the energy of the people roaring for it, it seems to me, and not the self-regarding pomp of the tournament’s brand.

This is not to say that listening to The Masters was much fun in the early going, because it was not. But as the day moved towards its tense, rainy finish, it improved into a pleasant and even occasionally superior counterpoint to the five-hour brand-wank that is CBS’s presentation of the Tradition Unlike Anzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Next year, I’ll be listening in to the radio broadcast again. I’ll do it with the television on, because we only get to see Augusta National once a year, and because it’s worth it, and because all that looking and those sporadic moments of appreciating the color and light and intersection between design and nature’s material are the better part of golf’s pleasures. Listening on the radio means that I’ll hear the (goddamn) Masters theme more than I normally would; I may hear the call of Adam Scott’s winning putt eight or ten or a dozen times. But if part of why we watch The Masters is to see as much of the full spectacle as we can, it only makes sense to hear it all in detail that's as sharp and stunning.


Share |

Comments

seo I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good. visit this site hurry up waiting your order low obl unique domain Thanks alot! dofollow blog comments

Bijzondere Oakley monturencollecties, comfortabele contactlenzen en deskundig advies over de nieuwste Oakley sportbrillen. Koop een Oakley sportbril online met service en garantie.
Oakley Sportbrillen online kopen

the satisfaction therein. If that’s the point, though, most golfers are doomed to be pretty unhappy in their golfing. It’s about seeing things, being there, the strange and bracing severity of the game’s scale. It is not the sort of experience that’s truly available over the radio. And yet.
`un toptancısı

Experts in ontstoppingswerken, professionele ontstoppingsdienst, zodat we voor ieder huis in staat om snel een vakkundige verstoppings op te lossen. Ook renoveren van uw riool. Ook onstoppingswerken voor de meest hardnekkige verstopping van uw afvoer.
Ontstoppingsdienst Ninove

pretty unhappy in their golfing. It’s about seeing things, being there, the strange and bracing severity of the game’s scale. It is not the sort of experience that’s truly available over the radio. And yet.create android app in kuwait

really good shot and gain the satisfaction therein. If that’s the point, though, most golfers are doomed to be pretty unhappy in their golfing. It’s about seeing things, being there, the strange and bracing severity of the game’s scale. It is not the sort of experience that’s truly available over the radio. And yet.behangpapier

Allowing your customers to contact you via a free phone number could give your business a boost 0800 numbers for free

It’s nice, surely, to nail a really good shot and gain the satisfaction therein. If that’s the point, though, most golfers are doomed to be pretty unhappy in their golfing. It’s about seeing things, being there, the strange and bracing severity of the game’s scale. It is not the sort of experience that’s truly available over the radio. And yet.escorts bogota 69

These are among the most reliable spare parts on the market, which enables every golf player to practice their favorite sport like a professional.jouer a minecraft |
psn free games january 2016

Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information.nj dui penalties

I like to recommend exclusively fine plus efficient information and facts, hence notice it: Toronto escorts

I just thought it may be an idea to post incase anyone else was having problems researching but I am a little unsure if I am allowed to put names and addresses on here. roman blinds

wow this saintly however ,I love your enter plus nice pics might be part personss negative love being defrent mind total poeple , dentalimplantstoronto

If we were to chose a sport that can help us relax while playing, golf would definitely be a winner. Many people are practicing this sport and assuming that at least some of them have a golf cart, they are familiar with the club car golf cart parts. These are among the most reliable spare parts on the market, which enables every golf player to practice their favorite sport like a professional.

Good blog along with the excellent quality stuff and I’m sure this will be greatly helpful.
http://www.theopulenceforlife.com/bonus/

The vital information in this blogs has allured me.quantum success coaching academy christy whitman

I truly appreciate your working guys, thumbs up!!easyonlinepaydayloan.com

Thanks meant for sharing this type of satisfying opinion, written piece is fastidious, that’s why I’ve read it completely.Inbox Blueprint reviews