Out of My Element

Out of My Element

Gary McCord and I had an enlightening experience at last year’s Sprint International at Castle Pines. We were the only two announcers available to work the two-hour ESPN show on Thursday, which was a total rainout.

Two hours in a Colorado summer thunderstorm in a studio with McCord and Feherty. It’s not what you think. We were like those two old guys on the balcony in “The Muppets Show,” except we weren’t funny.

About five minutes into the show, I wanted my mommy. People kept shining hot bright lights in my face and pointing cameras at me. Worse than that, they wanted me to say Jim Nantz-like things in a comforting Jim Nantz-like way.

The whole debacle gave me a clearer understanding of why CBS pays Nantz all those coconuts — and just how easy my job is by comparison.

I have the best job in the world. The hardest part about it is convincing my employers that no one else can do it. I spend a lot of time striding importantly around the TV compound, carrying a briefcase that holds all my important stuff.

I’ll go through it now and tell you what’s inside. Let me see, there’s several fragments of the column you are reading at this moment, a packet of Skittles (some of which have escaped into the crevices), two highlighter pens, sunscreen, a CD of Puccini’s Turandot, and a copy of Mad Magazine with a picture of Scott Hoch on the cover.

Not a lot of people know this, but I asked him and he confirmed it. I think it was taken in sixth grade. And, yes, he’s a lot funnier than you might think.

Anyway, I digress, as usual. The fact of the matter is, any idiot could do my job, even the idiot that edits my column, but don’t dare tell him that. I don’t have to research anything, as all I do is describe what I see. How do you research something that hasn’t happened yet?

If you know the answer to this question, please don’t tell me. The other guys have to download all kinds of information into laptops — you know, bios, facts and figures, names of players’ wives, children, and dogs, etc.

What a nightmare. When people ask me if eventually I want to work in a tower (as if there is some kind of promotion involved), I say, “Hell, no.” That would mean I might actually have to do some work, something I’ve managed to avoid for almost 40 years and I can assure you, I have no intention of starting now.

Peter Kostis, the evil genius, almost had a bright promotional idea the other day. He suggested that we should run a competition at each CBS venue, the prize being a chance to be an announcer for a day. We could hold auditions by the putting green and give the lucky winner a headset and a mike. He (or she) could hold hands with me all day inside the ropes.

I pointed out that the end result might be the loss of my job to some member of the public and quickly beat him into silence with my Sports Illustrated (swimsuit issue, of course).

In my job, I spend most of my time on the ground with players and caddies, so it’s a bit of a culture shock for me when I get ordered upstairs into a tower. It’s an entirely different discipline, in that I need some. In the tower, I have to do research and learn how to pronounce everyone’s name correctly.

I still can’t say Hjertstedt and every time I say Lickliter I risk getting fired. But I can read the blimp card like an old pro, and I can throw it to commercial, even when someone is yelling, “You moron!!!” in my left ear.

None of this is easy.

But what really bums me out is they let everyone play with the telestrator except me. I mean, in the name of all that’s right and fair, they even let McCord doodle on the damn thing occasionally and, as much as I love him, I wouldn’t trust him to sit the right way ’round on a toilet seat.

I’ve promised not to draw a mustache and glasses on anyone and still no one trusts me. I just don’t understand it, but it’s chapping my cheeks so badly that I’m going to break an unwritten rule of broadcasting and shamelessly rat out my fellow announcers.

You’ve read what the pros know that you don’t. So, here’s what the announcers know that you’ve always suspected.

They have absolutely no idea what they are drawing when they use the telestrator to break down a player’s swing. He can hit it 100 yards to the right of the fairway with a swing that looks exactly the same as the one that propels the pellet down the middle.

It’s only the body language after the shot that gives us a clue where the ball has gone. If, after a swing, a player runs off the right edge of the tee and body slams an elderly lady in the gallery in order to see his ball land, it’s a fair bet he’s hooked it.

If he leans to the left on his follow-through, the ball has gone right. If he puts his hand in his right pocket and lifts his left heel, he’s adjusting his underwear.

Now that, unlike the swing itself, is worth telestrating.

No, I’ll be happy sneaking through the shrubs for the next 30 years, just as Rossie has done, the wiley old coot. He’s got it dead right even though, just like me, he gets it dead wrong on occasion.

What people tend to forget is that even current Tour players read putts wrong and hit the wrong shot a lot of the time. What makes them think that we ex-players should be any different?

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