Why sports fans are slaves to The Masters
Look at the embedded video below. Not a leaf out of place. Not an errant grain of sand in the perfectly tended bunkers. Not a single majestic magnolia daring to burst forth in anything but full bloom. And classical music. Always with the classical music. Who knew Yo-Yo Ma was a golf fan?
Now, if you can bear it, take a quick squizz at the Masters theme song video. It’s basically more of the same. One of the commenters on YouTube says it’s the music they want at their wedding. Music for a funeral, more like.
Held in America’s Deep South in Augusta, Georgia each April, the Masters is the world’s most prestigious golf tournament. I’ve never been, but from where I sit, it has always looked like a good excuse for crusty old men to get bleary-eyed about the good old days, when lawns were always neatly cut, walls were not grafittied and everyone had three or four of those nice helpful slaves to help pick the cotton.
Augusta National Golf Club, of course, was at the centre of the 2002 stoush between feminist Martha Burk and then club chairman Hootie Johnson, over the issue of female membership. Today, there are still no females among the elite 300 or so members, whose number has included Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and whose average age is closer to 80 than 70. The phrase “old boys club” could have been coined for this place.
The club has no explicit policy against blacks, jews or any other minority, but it did take until 1990 to admit its first black member. This it arguably did only because of new membership guidelines put forward by golf’s administrative bodies.
But it’s not just the policies of the club that cast a pall of insidious old-school conservatism over the Masters. More than anything, it’s the trimmings, the very aesthetic of the tournament.
Look at the caddies in what can only be called their prison uniforms. On other golf courses, caddies wear whatever they like. At Australia’s own Masters tournament in Melbourne, they can even wear shorts. At Augusta National, they must wear white overalls. It makes them look uniform. Subservient. Obedient. Just like them good ‘ol slaves, yessiree.
Golf courses, in my experience, tend to be exposed, windswept places, with unkempt bits beyond fairway and green. At The Masters, it never seems to be windy. The water is always still. The forest has no undergrowth. Airborne petals do not blow, they float.
Galleries at The Masters never, ever seem to cough or sneeze out of place, lest they be pitchforked over the fence and straight into a witch’s bonfire. Nature, both of the environmental and human kind, has been tamed at The Masters. It is America tamed, just as the early pioneers dreamed when they found a wild, boundless land full of pesky Injuns.
Golf commentators are rarely what you’d call boisterous. At The Masters, they are even more reverential than usual. Their voices also seem deeper somehow. More dulcet. It’s like the whole tournament is a trailer for a movie about feelings.
There are, of course, times when the action at The Masters gets exciting, forcing the commentators to break out of character. Check this famous Tiger Woods clip from the 2005 Masters. As the commentator says, “in your life, have you seen anything like that?” I get shivers.
Now freeze the clip at about 1:50, just after Tiger picks the ball out of the hole. Look at the crowd. See what they’re wearing? Crazy isn’t it. They’re all wearing exactly the same clobber. It’s like a clothes rack in the menswear section of a mid-range department store.
And that, right there, is what’s really interesting about The Masters. In an era when America has a black president, and a population which is at least 35 per cent non-white, The Masters tournament is one of the last bastions of the white, mostly fat male.
There’s nothing wrong with being white, male, or even fat, of course. But if you ask me, it’s no coincidence that the tournament with the greatest mystique in the sport of golf is the tournament which best preserves the mood of the days when the white men were indeed “the masters”.
And if you think all this is a little over the top, cop this grab from former top golfer Fuzzy Zoeller.
Zoeller’s tasteless quote came after Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters, thereby earning the traditional right to plan the menu for the Champions Dinner the following year. Guess what Zoeller thought should be on the menu?
But the most shocking bit is right at the start, when he calls Tiger Woods a “boy”, which is the term masters used for their black slaves. Says it all, really.
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