The Majesty of The Masters
Aside from nearly a century of tradition, the breathtaking beauty and serenity, and the grand majesty of Augusta National during the springtime, what truly sets The Masters apart from everything is the way it’s broadcast to millions of television viewers. Indeed, The Masters now stands alone as the only major sporting that hasn’t been destroyed by crass commercialization, excessive corporatism, and non-stop advertising.
Elsewhere, things have become a sewer. Advertisements, commercials, billboards, and public announcements have made virtually every other sport and entertainment event into little more than B-52’s bombarding us with products. You can’t tell if you’re watching a ball game or The Shopping Network. Nothing is sacred anymore. Not the television coverage. Not the stadiums. Not the fields. Not even the uniforms.
Every usable space is splattered with a corporate logo. Every spare second between innings, periods, and quarters is crammed with annoying music and ceaseless chatter relating to an advertisement. You aren’t even allowed to take a breath. Even the stadiums and bowl games are named for corporations. Look for player uniforms to fall victim next — as is already the case with many international soccer teams. The supreme arrogance of incessant corporatism is seeing beloved franchises like A.C. Milan, Real Madrid, Arsenal, and other top football teams now brandishing FLY EMIRATES on their uniforms. A serious line has been crossed when the most popular sports teams in Italy, Spain, and England now wear jerseys whoring for the official airline of a monarchy in the Middle East.
American football is just as bad. The NFL has almost become unwatchable. Thank goodness for the remote control and Direct TV. Commercials are constantly crammed down our throats. After every score, every kickoff, every change of possession, every quarter, every injury, and every time out — it’s commercial time. Usually several. Even key segments of the actual coverage are now pimped out to companies as is the case with player stats brought to you by giant banks and halftime reports sponsored by oil companies.
Last year, I was a guest of poker pro-Dennis Phillips. We attended a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. I got to see the new Busch Stadium. Dennis was a splendid host. We were joined by legendary radio talk show host Paul Harris. It was quite an afternoon.
But the serenity of what should be a pleasant afternoon spent at the ballpark was punctuated by everything in that stadium — every visible space, every spare second on the sound system, every break on the giant electronic billboard — being consumed by some product or service. Car dealerships. Banks. Snack foods. Gas stations. Tires. Beer. There were even electronic advertisements in the bathroom. You can’t even take a piss without hustled to re-finance your mortgage. Instead of following pitch counts, I spent three hours trying to tune out sales pitches. Going to a baseball game shouldn’t be like enduring the hell of a time-share presentation.
Fortunately, one sporting event remains sacred — and that’s The Masters.
If you happen to watch CBS’s outstanding coverage today, notice how much more enjoyable your experience is without advertisements and billboards. Sure, the network breaks away from coverage a few times an hour (and runs just two commercials on average, while the NFL usually runs at least four of five ads). Announcers sometimes gently remind us that coverage of The Masters is brought to us by AT&T and Exxon-Mobil. The soft sell works. In this instance, I actually remember the sponsors because they’re such an integral part of the broadcast, without stealing away the spotlight and becoming obnoxious.
I never thought I’d sing the praises and say thanks to two of the most reprehensible corporations in the world — namely AT&T and Exxon-Mobil. But for this weekend as long as The Masters remains virtually commercial-free on CBS, I’ll declare a truce and give credit where it’s due.
Thank you sponsors for allowing The Masters to be what it is — our most wonderful sporting event.