Masters Magic: Slipping Away

There was a time not so long ago when you could sink into the Masters telecast much as you might sink into a favorite armchair, allowing it to enfold you, leaning back and giving yourself up to two days of pure golf, virtually free of advertisements and exemplifying the very best the grand old game has to offer.

Alas, no more. At least, not really any more. It’s true the sportsmanship and the brinkmanship and the weekend fire is still there. The colossal ups are still there, and the dreadful downs, especially on the back nine.

But you can’t sink into it anymore. It can’t enfold you. Because the vaunted “limited interruptions” announcement by dear old Joe Ford is no longer quite accurate.

Oh sure: there are probably still only three major sponsors (although in Canada they used to be joined by luminaries like dry cleaners and lube shops; thankfully, those days seem to be gone). We still don’t see that many ads, especially by comparison with, say, The Open. But they intrude every ten minutes or so, instead of once an hour. And they’re joined by a lot of other stuff as well.

For the past several years, somebody—Augusta National? CBS?—seems to be terrified that we might be getting bored. To prevent that, they throw up leader boards and logos and extended re-encapsulations by Jim Nance, and excessive nattering. Just in case you missed all the action. Just in case you haven’t got PVR or any other recording device. Just in case the beauty that fills your eye is insufficiently arresting.

So now, it’s difficult, if not impossible to sink into the ambiance, drink in the beauty, listen to the crowd roars, revel in the excitement. You can still try to do these things, just as you can still watch your favorite try to make a run or keep his head (and his lead). But you’ll keep glancing at your watch. Because every time the host or CBS intrudes, you’re brought back to the real world.

No longer can you just forget your cares for four or five hours, and immerse yourself in a different world, a world of beauty, grace and sportsmanship. Now, each intrusion reminds you that it’s the weekend and you should be mowing the lawn, or cleaning out the garage, not—Good God!—watching television.

I’ll probably go on watching each year, just as my parents always did. But it’s not as magical as it once was, and if they go on working at keeping me interested, the Masters will one day lose its magic entirely and become just like any other tournament. And that will be a pity.