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Jim Nantz Really Loves Augusta, And Other Masters Media Notes

In an age of instant gratification and Twitter breaking more news stories than the actual news, it's amazing that Newsday media writer Neil Best was able to sit on these quotes for a month. Best spoke with Jim Nantz at the CBS media availability for the NCAA tournament back on March 9th, but held the Masters-related quotes until this week for the most impact. I respect his restraint.

The quotes do resonate more this week, especially considering the fact that Nantz was specifically asked, by Best, about those – including Best – who like to rip Nantz for his flowery way of calling the action at Augusta:

⇥"You need to go to the Masters sometime, because you don't get it," he began, speaking after CBS' pre-NCAA luncheon.⇥

⇥At first, I thought he might be putting me on. Um, no. "Seriously, you don't get it," he said, growing increasingly agitated. "Do you watch golf? Why don't you go around to a golf tournament sometime and if we run into a thousand people and if one in a thousand says something to me, then I will pay you a hundred dollars.⇥


⇥"Nobody looks at it that way except for people that don't watch golf. Golf's an easy sport to attack. You don't understand the culture of it."⇥

According to someone at the event, Nantz was noticeably agitated by the line of questioning. Turns out, he takes great umbrage with those in the media world – he even calls Best a blogger, whatever that is – not treating the Masters with the kind of reverence it deserves:
⇥"I am in love with the Masters, OK?" he said. "That's the way I feel about it. Nobody is putting those words in my mouth.⇥

⇥"Why would I want to tailor my way of approaching the Masters tournament to some guy who's a blogger who doesn't watch the Masters, or to someone like you who doesn't understand the difference between a birdie and a bogey? Why would I care what you think about it? It's crazy that I have to respond to people who are like, 'Hey, it's a little flowery. Are you going to change it?' '' he said. "Change it? For you? Are you kidding me?"⇥

Nantz also told Best that he has "embedded" the line, "[i]t's going to be a special day. I hope you're watching with someone special to you," into the last four Masters telecasts as a tribute to his father, with whom he grew up watching the Masters every year. So, per the report by Best, don't expect Nantz to change anytime soon.

• Speaking of watching the Masters with one's father, this isn't his Masters coverage anymore. Part of the reason the Masters never started until the back nine on Sunday was because television coverage didn't start until…yes, you get the point. It's still rather difficult to catch a glimpse of the front nine at Augusta, especially with ESPN's coverage starting at 4 p.m. when likely every group will be rounding the turn onto the back nine., in conjunction with the CBS and ESPN production of the event, does offer a ton of golf online, though, including every shot at Amen Corner, starting at 10:45 a.m. with Ian Eagle and Matt Gogel. The team will cover the action on 11, 12 and 13. Bobby Clampett will be hosting another online channel, starting at 11:45 a.m., dedicated exclusively to 15 and 16.

You can also watch, beginning at 10 a.m, the Feature Group Live, which will show every shot of one featured group of players through their entire round. Per reports, the 9:40 a.m. tee time of Mike Weir, Lee Westwood and Marco Manassero will be the feature group to start the day. People online seemed quite upset that Tiger Woods was not part of the feature group, but the online schedule has that channel open until 7:45 p.m., so there will obviously be a second group featured in the afternoon. It would make sense for the Masters to highlight Woods, if for nothing other than the amount of traffic they'll get to their website. That said, maybe they don't want the thing to crash and burn.

• Chris Chase of Yahoo tweeted yesterday that, "'Chris Berman not being at The Masters' tale is still one of the most underreported stories in sports media". So, in my due diligence, I tried to find out why Berman wasn't covering the Masters for ESPN. Mike Tirico leads the coverage the first two days, with Scott Van Pelt handling many of the interviews and much of the SportsCenter highlight and analysis duty.

The company line is that Berman has scheduled time off following the Super Bowl and before the NFL Draft before going in to preparation for the draft. As has been suggested in the past, one would think Berman would happily work a little double-duty to get a chance to call the Masters. Heck, Nantz calls the Final Four then hops on a plane to Georgia every year. The draft isn't until April 22. That being said, ESPN's coverage does not lack one bit by the absence of Berman. Tirico, Van Pelt, et al do a wonderful job, with far less bombast.

• With golf finally about to be played in Augusta and Woods just hours away from starting his season, we need some Tiger news to overanalyze, right? Well thanks to Augusta Chairman Billy Payne, we have our distraction:

⇥"As he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility," Payne said during his annual state of the Masters news conference. "It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.⇥

⇥"Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children," Payne said. "I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile."⇥


⇥"We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past," Payne said. "This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us who believe in second chances."⇥

Some reporters are looking at this like it's a huge salvo at Woods and that the Masters, as Bill Plaschke wote, "ripped the stripes off Tiger."

Payne's comments seemed like more of a punctuation mark than anything. We don’t approve of his actions, but he's "our hero" so let's see what he does from here on out. Of course, some writers – ahem, Whitlock – are going to spout off about the hypocrisy of the head of Augusta National talking about morality. And of course, talking about a former champion's transgressions – and moral turpitude – turned into something about race.

⇥Payne should be immediately drug tested. He’s chairman of a club with a history of exclusionary membership policies that would embarrass even the angriest Tea Party protesters.⇥You can’t preach ethics and morality from Payne’s bully pulpit. The stench of hypocrisy makes it sound like bull(spit).⇥Black and brown folks have kids and grandkids, too. And so do women.
Let's just play golf, already.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.