Opening Day Sucks; So Does The Masters
It's Opening Day for the Pirates, who return home triumphant after actually winning a baseball game
yesterday. Everyone is so buzzed about that big win--after all, the Bucs might only manage that feat 30 or 40 more times this year. Each victory must be savored, like something...really...savory.
What sucks, and sucks large, is that my building is located right next door to PNC Park. So if I take a look out the window I can see a parking lot filled with thousands of early-morning tailgaters. Lounging out in the sun, drinkin' beer, eatin' kiebasa. And here I am in my Dockers and collared shirt looking out, sighing theatrically, with my nose pressed against the glass. We're going out at lunch to hang with a guy in our department who's out there right now; he just called to say he has an extra ticket. I'm so tempted...but I'd have to run home and change, don't feel like watching a game while dressed for work. It wouldn't feel right. So I'll just go out at noon and enjoy the sights and smells. Nothing smells better than a tailgate party.
OK, I just went outside with folks I work with and hung out at the party for an hour. Had a hot dog; did not have a beer. Had to come back inside. This sucks. Should've taken off. Mistake.
Anyway, I watched The Masters yesterday, which didn't make for especially scintillating television. The leaders all played so-so, with Mickelson playing less (or more) so-so than everyone else to win the green jacket. Now, I know that CBS has a Very Special Relationship with Augusta National. They want us to know that The Masters isn't a sporting event; it's the most sacred ritual of some undefined religious sect. Every year we hear Jim Nantz speak reverently about Bobby Jones, making him sound like a cross between Roy Hobbs, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jesus of Nazareth. The three holes that make up Amen Corner are spoken of as if they're comperable to the Stations of the Cross. Each hole has its own bucolic nickname (Azalea, Juniper, Yellow Jasmine (my favorite). To the Green Jacket is granted talismanic, transformational powers.
As readers of this blog know so well, I rather enjoy a little hyperbole, especially if there's a dash of hysteria involved to spice things up. But what bothers me about CBS's worship of The Masters is that we unwashed masses aren't welcome inside the revival tent. Augusta National is a private club. They don't let just anyone join. They don't let just anyone play a round there. They don't let just anyone stand in the gallery (according to the club's official FAQ, "Practice Rounds tickets are limited and sold in advance. Tournament or Series Badges are sold to those on a patron list which is closed"). Hell, the tournament even has the smallest, most exclusive field in golf. And while I'm more likely than most people to someday stroll the holy ground of August (I'm white, and male) I do have one big disadvantage that will forever keep me from leaving my footprints on the fairways--I'm not very, very rich.
Mind you, I'm not blaming the folks at Augusta National for this. It's a free country, and if you want to have a private club that exludes certain members of society, I think you should be free to do that. Those exluded members of society then have the right to protest and picket and call for boycotts of the club's sponsors--freedom goes both ways. This way everybody wins...or loses, which I guess is basically the same thing.
No, I find myself getting more ticked off by CBS. I know The Masters is hugely popular and it's in their best interest to build it up as much as possible, but I found myself getting pissed a fair few times yesterday. The first thing that pissed me off was the bird. I'm sure you heard it--on several occasions, as a player was teeing off, you could hear this clear-as-day chirping of a sparrow or robin or frickin' chickadee. Now, if Tiger or Phil heard some bird cheeping that loud as they settled over the ball they'd have their caddies tracking the critter with a shotgun. So, as a friend of mine observed, either CBS had a parabolic mike pointed as some especially contented warbler or they had some avian lifeform locked up in a trailer with orders to make with the music. All I know is that I heard the same bird chirping when Mickelson was teeing off and then, a minute later, he was chirping as Chad Campbell stood over a putt. Unless evolution has bred publicity-hungry fowl, it was staged.
My goat was gotten when Verne Lundquist said something along the lines of "Augusta National is the most beautiful venue in all of sports". Now, this may be true. The thing is, me and the vast majority of the populace will never get to SEE it. It would be no big deal to spring for tickets to Fenway Park, or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or Old Trafford, or Madison Square Garden. But I'll never have the chance to see Augusta for myself. Few of us will. Unless we have lots of money, some serious corporate weight, and are the "right" sort of fellow. Our country is increasingly fragmented along sharply defined lines--left-right, blue-red, rich-poor. Maintaining their exclusivity is one of the Masters' prime directives, and while that's their call, that doesn't mean I have to enjoy CBS cramming the manufactured romance down my throat. Contrast that to the tailgating folks outside my window--a big mass of humanity, everyone just hanging out, eating the same grilled meats, drinking beer from cans, having fun in the sun. Wanna quick hot dog? Stop on by.