Late Night Lunacy

Late Night Lunacy

Now that 2001 is upon us, get ready for all the Arthur C. Clarke retrospective stuff, and also for the new season of the critically disclaimed “Late Night Show,” featuring McCordless (the new digital version) and, well, me. The show, now in its third season, airs after Letterman on Thursday and Friday nights for the first five weeks of CBS golf, starting at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This year, Gary and I would really appreciate it if somebody, somewhere, actually watched.

In the last two years, very occasionally, someone has admitted to us they stayed up that late, but it always seems to be the same type of person. There’s one in every village. You know the guy: overcoat in the summertime and shirtsleeves in the winter. A couple of teeth missing, a permanently constipated expression, and a small dog with some kind of a skin disease on a leash. McCord calls them, “idiot savants.” Yeah, and perverted insomniacs. Apparently, that’s our demographic.

I know it’s aired late, but to be so totally ignored is extremely discouraging for two fully-grown announcers, who willingly subject themselves to the kind of idiocy and humiliation that only can be aired after midnight. For example, in one episode last season from the Warner Bros. Studios, I wore an apricot whalebone gown with matching sun hat and parasol, last worn by Barbara Stanwyck in “The Big Valley” in 1965. I thought I looked rather fetching, but who knew? McCord was ironclad in a suit of medieval armor, and needed his helmet altered so it didn’t wad up his handlebars.

The whole thing just reeked of professionalism and attention to detail, as did the show from San Diego, in which, with the full cooperation of the California Highway Patrol, officers “Rock McCord” and “Dirk (Thrust) Feherty” were ultimately arrested and formally indicted on charges of “really bad acting,” by none other than Cheryl Ladd of “Charlie’s Angels.” We were taken downtown, thrown in the slammer, and molested by a 350-pound inmate of indeterminate gender, all in the name of a golf highlight show.

So Robert De Niro put on 40 pounds for his role in Raging Bull. Big friggin’ deal. And while I’m on a roll, how many announcers have hijacked the MetLife blimp and thrown themselves out over Venice Beach, California, only to have been spotted later, stumbling out of the Viper Room in Los Angeles, chased by a couple of elderly women?

All right, Brookshire and Summerall, but that was a long time ago. The point is Gary and I are doing our best to carry on an old tradition. To its eternal credit, CBS has never been afraid to allow some announcers to look stupid so that others may appear intelligent. For Gary and me, this is a labor of love. In fact, greater love hath no announcer than he who lays down his career for the idiots he works with.

On the other side of the camera, we are equally blessed with production from Jim Rikhoff and Chris Svendsen, both of whom should be chained up somewhere, away from anything sharper than a bar of soap.

Of course, none of this would be possible, either, were it not for the men of the PGA Tour, and the nature of the game they play. Golfers are great people, and I think it’s unlikely that these shows would get made in any other sport. At the end of last season, in the last of our highlight shows at the NEC Invitational, for the second time I hosted our CBS awards show, the Golden Ferrets. It’s a golfing version of the Oscars and I think it’s safe to say one of the least coveted awards in all of sport. But for the last two years, some of the best golfers in the world have taken their parts very seriously, each and every one of them, apparently willing to make themselves look almost as daft as I do.

Justin Leonard looked longingly at an over-stuffed Beanie Baby mounted on a wooden and brass plinth, and reminisced about how it felt to hold the Claret jug, and since that day, how he had longed for the moment in which he would “stroke the Ferret.”

Nick Price, the owner of two PGAs and a British Open Championship, said he didn’t want to go down in history as the best player never to win a Ferret, and Jose Maria Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, told the world that as a little boy in San Sebastian, he always dreamed that one day he would hold the coveted Golden Ferret.

Ernie Els, a giant among us in more ways than one, was big enough to lovingly hug the Ferret, and say, “At last, I’ve won one! The Golden Ferret is mine!” Then I walked into the frame, snatched it from him, and marched off saying, “Sorry Ern, you were second!” Ernie just looked back at the camera, shaking his head. If you’d seen it, you’d love him more than you probably do now.

Then, of course, there was the winner of the Golden Ferret for the second year running: Tiger Woods. Those of you who have seen the commercials (and if you are one of those who haven’t, please have the decency to fall over, because you are dead) know that he’s pretty good at this sort of thing already.

McCord and I are taking full responsibility for his acting prowess, due to the fact that he frequently rehearses with us. This scene, however, he wasn’t getting paid for. The presentation ceremony took place during a practice round, on the second green, with buddies Mark O’Meara and Notah Begay at hand. Tiger’s acceptance speech was suitably heartfelt and movingly sincere, and as he held his trophy Ferret aloft and kissed it for the crowd, in the background Notah and Mark held their caps over their hearts.

I nearly wet myself laughing, as did everyone else except McCord, who is very old and is frequently ambushed by his bladder. He tries to avoid laughter, in case he wets somebody standing close by. If you’re ever around him when anyone says something really funny, keep on your toes. Don’t send me your dry cleaning bills; you have been warned.

At the end of the day, it’s all about work and how much we enjoy it. Gary and I have unbelievable jobs, occupations that most people would sell their first-born in-laws to have, and we are both aware of just how lucky we are. In truth, we would probably be unemployable in any other industry.

Often, we’ll be sitting in some airport bar on a Sunday evening, making very loud small talk in the hope of being recognized, when some poor individual — who actually has to go to meetings and write reports and stuff — will turn an ear our way, and realize who Gary is, at least. Sometimes he gets to sign an autograph, while I look the other way, tapping my foot and trying to appear nonchalant, as if it doesn’t matter that this person doesn’t know who I am.

McCord will then gloat, until the guy says, “Thanks Rollie, you’re the only one of the old Oakland A’s I didn’t have!” Hey, you have to have a recognizable face before somebody can mistake you for someone else. Gary’s face, of course, is much more familiar than mine, and I’m glad to report considerably more punchable, although I think that has more to do with the shoes he wears than anything else. I’m fighting Kostis for custody of him as I write, and when I win, footwear is the first of his attire that will be tossed.

This is pathetic to read, I know: Two grown men pleading for recognition in the middle of the night. But I will tell you this: I am not doing this show again if nobody watches this year. Last year, I did a nude shower scene with Kostis. Normally, that’s something that both he and I would try to avoid, but in the end it didn’t matter. Nobody watched. Even McCord, who was in the scene, did it with his eyes closed, and insisted on wearing a full wet suit, “In case they splash me.” He truly is the man who put the first four letters in the word, “analyst.”

I played tonsil-hockey with a 700-pound sea lion at the San Diego Zoo, and it took me three weeks to lose the taste of rotting flounder. In between all of this, we actually did golf highlights each night, so listen up, you putterheads. We start at the Sony Open in Hawaii again this season and already I can feel a grass skirt and a pair of coconuts coming on. Gary and I will probably be the last two left on the island — the crotchety old goat, and the guy with the love handles and the hairy chest. Trust me, neither of us is making a million.

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