All I Want for Christmas

Have a peek at my annual correspondence with Father Christmas.

Thrash TalkDear Santa,

As you know, I’ve been a reasonably good boy this year. We’ve been engaged in this same routine for 23 years now, so I think you are also aware what an avid fan of the game of golf I am. I want you to know, also, that I’m not holding it against you that I didn’t find that $2,300 replica of Tiger’s putter under my tree last year. The same goes for the trip to Sawgrass which has been a fixture on my list for the last several years. Surely these are difficult gifts to obtain, even for you, Mr. Claus.

I’m aware, as Burton Hillis said, “the best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family.” I’m really trying to be content with the simple pleasures and joys of the season (eggnog, cookies, tinsel, throwing wads of wrapping paper at the cat), but there are still a few outstanding items on my list I’m hoping to find beneath my tree in a few weeks.

More Innovations in Televised Golf Coverage
I’m not sure how much golf you are able to watch, as I imagine coordinating your large-scale surveillance and distribution systems is an immensely time consuming process. The majority of golf on television is hopelessly formulaic and rather boring. The traditional format in which a dull anchor with a velvety voice and an expert cohort sit in a tower and discuss the golf they too are watching on television interspliced with token insights from on course reporters (“this is pitching wedge from 143”) and shout outs to the helium filled billboards which hover, quite annoyingly, over the course, is bucolic and mind-numbing.

Granted, there are limitations. The generous three-hour time slot afforded to many weekend golf events and promotional obligations often result in the following sequence: Tee shot, golfer A, hole 3. Cut to golfer B, putting, hole 15. Cut to golfer C’s approach shot, hole 5. Cut to 30 second non-descript blimp shot. Cut to commentators, joined by the CEO of the company putting up the prize money, 30 seconds of the usual pleasantries. Queue commercials.

The meager selection of camera angles available is also limiting. Tower and blimp shots, tightly focused, necessarily overhead and simply following the ball, don’t give allow for any indication of context or appreciation of the shot. Cameras positioned behind players in the fairway are a bit better, but are deceptive with regard to shot-shape and relative position.

I have been encouraged, Mr. Claus, by some recent developments which have added a bit of spice to generally bland coverage, such as Pro Tracer and Swing Vision. More technology and more dynamic production techniques would substantially raise the quality of the telecasts. There also ought to be more of a pandering to the “golf-nut.” Why not (in violation of the apparent ban on mentioning any equipment company by name), for example, produce a brief segment touring the Nike Trailer, or a discussion of who was demo-ing what on the range on Tuesday?

More Masters Coverage, Less Masters Pretense
Santa, I really do love the Masters. However, the unabashed oozing of sentiment, the arrogance of “a tradition unlike any other,” that awful piano theme music, coupled with Jim Nantz’s constant pillow talk, really detracts from the viewing experience, for me. There has been an element of pretense about the Masters since its inception. This is necessary to the mystique of the event. To some extent, the tradition and milieu were manufactured, ad hoc, in 1934. This is fine. The history of the event becomes richer with each passing year. No additional work needs to be done on the part of networks, producers and commentators to profligate or proselytize.

I only have a very limited understanding of why there are only 13 hours of televised coverage of the Masters this year, Mr. Claus – perhaps to place a greater value on being a “patron” physically at the event? Why can’t we, the golfing public, see more? The British Open is on television for an incredible 48 hours from Thursday through Sunday of that event. I suppose I should be grateful that the generous members of Augusta National even allow me to see their event on television at all. At least I am able to watch all 18 holes of the final round on television, unlike previous generations. I’m really hoping you will bring me at least eight hours of coverage per day of future Masters, but I’m not counting on it.

Less Jimmy Roberts
As he’s won 11 Sports Emmy Awards, I am sure there are many fans of Jimmy Roberts. However, I have yet to meet any personally. His puff pieces of sappy “journalism” unnerve me nearly as much as his nasally voice. I always figured Roberts, who strikes me as an elitist resident of the Hamptons, had been awarded his job through some form of nepotism or gross negligence. I cringe every time the pompously attired Maryland Terrapin appears on screen. It is absolutely baffling to me that the man worked under Howard Cosell at ABC. Santa, I don’t want Jimmy Roberts to be fired, just reappointed to covering events which I don’t watch, such as bowling or figure skating.

Thank You and Merry Christmas. Your milk and cookies will be at the appointed location.



6 thoughts on “All I Want for Christmas”

  1. With regard to Masters Coverage the ‘live online Amen corner feed’ was a brilliant addition and a highlight of my golf watching year. It allowed viewing of all groups and players not just the box office names as per standard coverage.

  2. Eliminating the whole “wind bag” close concept that the networks feel compelled to include at the end any significant golf event would be grand. Save it for the Olympics, it’s only every 4 years!

    Great points on the Master! Why there isn’t 18 holes coverage on Saturday and Sunday and at least 6 – 8 hours on Thursday and Friday defies common sense.

  3. I just saw an ad for a Masters package from DirectTV that has four cameras at all times, kind of like the NFL SuperFan package. One, i believe, is the broadcast everyone sees. One is on Amen Corner. The third is on 16 and 17. I’m not sure what the fourth is. Then, if you have an HD tv, there will be a constant leader board on the left.

    Just a heads up.

    Looking forward to the National Golf Expo up here in Boston. Spring can’t come soon enough.

  4. I just saw an ad for a Masters package from DirectTV that has four cameras at all times, kind of like the NFL SuperFan package. One, i believe, is the broadcast everyone sees. One is on Amen Corner. The third is on 16 and 17. I’m not sure what the fourth is. Then, if you have an HD tv, there will be a constant leader board on the left.

    I knew Santa would come through with something.

  5. Ben,

    While I was reading your Christmas wish list, my wife asked me why I was talking to my computer.

    I informed her that someone has written something about someone that I can’t stand to watch or listen to either – Jimmy Roberts.

    Gosh, I sure hope Santa got both of our letters!

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