Sometimes I envy the XM Radio announcers on Tour. That people watch golf on TV is hard enough to understand, but that they listen to it on the radio is unfathomable. I envy the radio guys, because if they tell you a putt breaks left to right when in reality it comes harder from the right than Bill O’Reilly, you still think it’s a left-to-right putt! When I screw up a read, I have to fess up as being horticulturally illiterate, but when the radio swine misread one, they just keep on talking.
You see, on TV we figure you can’t draw your own conclusion as to whether the ball fell into the hole, and that without us, there is no way you can be sure why it did or didn’t, or how the player feels about the whole affair. And that’s when things are going well! It takes years of experience, training, hangovers and chili-dog induced Port-O-Let waterboard experiences to know what a player who has just triple-bogeyed is thinking. As a Grand Master of the Brown Gussett, however, I am at an exalted stage where I can read a player’s mind by glancing at his belt buckle, although I was thrown a bit when, without warning, Rory Sabbatini went to rhinestones that created a reflection, forcing me to read my own mind and blow a chunk of my frontal lobe to bits.
As a “color analyst,” whatever the hell that means, I’m paid to convey to you, the loyal viewer teetering between golf nap and coma, a sense of impending doom that is at the root of sports viewership. No matter what you say, impending doom is the very reason people watch NASCAR, because if they wanted to see idiots go in circles, they’d buy a bucket of hamsters. But car crashes are sudden and unpredictable. In golf, to inappropriately use an engineering term, failures are never “catastrophic.” No, an engineer would characterize a golfer’s failure as “graceful.” Rather than the sudden collapse (which granted, is much more entertaining), golfers bend, creak and melt in a gradual decline that takes longer but ends up in the same toilet of despair. My job is to recognize the signs of such a disaster, predict the same, and then describe it in gloating detail as it unfolds before your eyes, which unfortunately are closed.
While it’s not an exact science, here are a few hints that will enhance those non-REM viewing moments:
If a rookie player backs off a tee shot while trying to hold a tenuous final-round lead, then shoots a filthy look to a volunteer marshal who had the temerity to make a minor pocket-Johnson check, the player is toast. He’s going to lose by three.
If you hear me say “He seems a little bit rattled,” that really means, “I was downwind of him a few minutes ago, and I’m pretty sure he s—himself when his putter made contact on that third putt.”
“He has the 3-wood out, and I’m not sure that he needs it” means, “He’s a moron, and he’s going to blow the whole tournament out of his ass right here.”
“There’s something you don’t see very often” means “There’s something you see all the time — on Wednesday, in the f—ing pro-am.”
“He’d like to have that one over.” Translation: “His caddie is in immediate danger of being disemboweled with the wrong club.”
Even a compelling golf telecast has a yawning period of eyelid-paralyzing crap. That’s why I’m looking forward to the introduction of the new groove rule next year, when an entire generation of players that has never seen or felt the results of a flyer will suddenly start bombing wedges and 9-irons 50 yards over the green from fluffy, innocuous-looking lies. Woo-hoo! I predict utter mayhem and weapons-grade, postal-icious reactions. Caddies will need to start wearing football helmets or hockey gear (or both) and hell, on my way to work, I might even listen to golf on the radio.