Jim Nantz (L) and Clark Kellogg (R) call the basketball game between Notre Dame and UCONN. (Feb. 28, 2009) Photo Credit: CBS
Here is a story I wrote for the newspaper about ESPN's Masters coverage plans for Thursday and Friday.
And here is one about an encounter I had with Jim Nantz last month on the subject of criticism of his famously reverential tone when calling the Masters.
A lot of good stuff from Nantz didn't fit into the newspaper.
Here is a complete transcript of what he said, minus my attempts at interjections and followups:
“You need to go to the Masters sometime, because YOU don’t get it. Seriously, you don’t get it. 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.
“I’m in love with the Masters. I’m in love with the Masters, OK? That’s the way I feel about it. Nobody is putting those words in my mouth. That’s how I feel. You know, you read my book. That was a boyhood dream of mine, to one day work the Masters. That’s how I feel about it.
“And by the way, nobody has a problem with it, except a few people like you who don’t watch golf, who don’t get it, who don’t understand the culture of it. That’s just the way it is. You don’t reflect the people who are watching golf every week, you just don’t. You’re entitled to your opinion, I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me.
“It’s not worth talking about, because people don’t talk about it, OK? People are not talking about it.
“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? Fine, I can take the criticism.
“Why would I care what they think? It’s like me saying I didn’t care for ‘Avatar.’ Why would anybody care what I thought about ‘Avatar?’ That movie didn’t do anything for me. So is James Cameron going to change the way ‘Avatar’ is made because I didn’t like the movie?
"That’s the way I broadcast the Masters tournament. That’s the way I feel about Augusta. Nobody is putting words in my mouth. I do it open-hearted. And if people have a problem with it, that’s their problem. That’s your problem, just because you don’t get golf and you don’t understand the culture of golf, it’s not my problem.
“I tell you what, seriously, get a credential, come to Augusta and you walk with me for eight hours at Augusta and I’ll give you a hundred dollars for every person who gets up and says, 'You’re too flowery about Augusta.' Now that’s the people that are watching. You’re not watching so you’re looking at it critically and paying attention to what some guys say on the blogosphere."
(I tried to point out to Nantz I have been watching the Masters for 40 years and have covered three golf majors and enjoy the sport, but he was somewhat agitated by this point.)
“You don’t get it. You’re paid to criticize. That’s what you’re paid to do, you’re a television critic. You don’t understand what people want. They like it. Nobody has a problem with how I broadcast the Masters who are the base people who watch the Masters.
“It’s crazy that I have to respond to people like, 'Hey, it’s a little flowery. You going to change it?' Change it? For you? Are you kidding me?
“My passion is there every single time I broadcast the Masters. And that’s the way I feel about it. It’s in my heart and I just express what I feel. And if people have a problem with that, I’m sorry. They’re entitled to their opinion. I respect that.
“All of the greatest writers in your industry are golf writers, they almost all aspire to be a golf writer or golf columnist, because they have a chance there to really deliver prose and not deal in stats and numbers and other minutiae. And they love the Masters.
“So what is it? Do you think there’s a Kool-Aid that they’re drinking? Do you think someone is telling Dan Jenkins how to write about the Masters? Seriously, these are talented people who cover it and understand how big this event is when they’re there. And what they write is a reflection of what they see when they’re there.
"That’s what I do. I am the link between the public who can’t be there and being on site, I just tell people what I see, and I’m totally upfront about it. I totally deliver this broadcast from my heart.
“It’s OK. I’ve heard it for a long time. I hear it from people whose opinion about golf I don’t respect. That’s the bottom line. So some guy on the blogosphere wants to make fun of me, I know they do. I know there are cynical people out there, and I don’t have a cynical bone in my body. That’s the problem. I am who I am. That’s how my father was. I don’t do sarcasm well. I don’t do cynicism. That’s just the way I feel about that event.
“You’re talking about a bigger issue, about Augusta and how we’re coached on how we’re supposed to approach this. I’ve never been coached or told what to say. For Heaven’s sake no. It’s clearly in my DNA.
“The only thing that bothers me [about being asked about this] is that it becomes the cheap question to ask me, the un-thought-out question that’s not really that original because you’ve heard something on the blogosphere that someone is making fun of it.
"Twenty-five Masters tournaments, trust me, I’m not going to brag about it but I will go around Augusta and there will be thousands of people who will come up to me and thank me for the way I broadcast the Masters.
“But then I have to respond to someone who says, 'Well, you’re a little sugary, a little syrupy.' I am. I can’t help it. I wish you’d come down to Augusta. Come walk around with me for a day.
“I know I’m a big presence in that tournament so I’m going to be a big target for anybody who has any kind of negative, knee-jerk reaction about Augusta. I’m going to be a big target there because I’m so associated with the tournament.
“It’s really easy to live in New York and not be a golf person and think that you know what Augusta is like and how much they tell us what to do. It’s easy to sit back and roll your eyes. That’s sad to me.
“Four years in a row I’ve had a line that’s embedded in my broadcast, and it’s important for me to say it, and that is, ‘I hope you’re watching. It’s going to be a special day. I hope you’re watching with someone special to you.’
"That’s from my father. It’s not because Augusta is telling me to say that. I used to sit as a little boy watching the Masters with my father.
“So I say that line and it’s hard for me to get the words out when I say that, because that’s an experience from my life. I feel blessed and lucky to have this childhood dream come true. I used to sit and tell my dad, ‘Someday I’d like to be able to broadcast the Masters tournament.’ That’s my goal in my life, and it came true. It’s an incredible blessing and I don’t regret it at all.
“I understand no matter what I say there are going to be people who roll their eyes. I’m so far down the road in this business and so numb to that kind of thing, there’s not a chance in the world I’m going to change the way I’m doing it. It doesn’t bother me.
“I just told you something I’ve never said before about a line in the broadcast. You can tell where I’m coming from in my heart and my gut for the Masters tournament. It’s a really emotional thing for me.
"I feel more tension and nervousness to get just the right exact prose on a canvas that’s that big and beautiful. I’m going to approach this is in a dispassionate fashion? It’s not in my DNA.’’
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