Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sell Out Saturday

Let me preface this by saying that when it comes to covering golf, no one can touch CBS.  I would go so far as to say that CBS does golf better than any other network covers any other sport and that is thanks to a guy named Frank Chirkinian who revolutionized the way the game is televised by showing more actual golf shots (novel idea) and regularly hitting the mute button on his announcers.  He once told Brent Musburger prior to the Masters, "I'll kill you if you raise your voice one-half a decibel" which would have been like telling Richard Pryor "I'll kill you if you use the word 'mutherfucker' on stage tonight."  Combine Chirkinian's production skills with Jim Nantz's understated announcing style, and you get the Bill Walsh-Joe Montana of sports broadcasting.  One day a year, however, CBS abandons the Chirkinian method, allows its announcers to really explore the studio space and does everything to promote its network programming but don a pimp suit and start walking with a cane.  That day is the Saturday of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am.

"I see what you're doing CBS but you 
can't pull the wool over my eyes.
Cashmere maybe, but wool?  Never!"
Saturday at Pebble Beach used to be devoted to guys like Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and Jim Backus (a/k/a Thurston Howell, III).  You know, stars.  Now we're subjected to the likes of Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement), Eric Close (Chaos) and Chris O'Donnell (NCIS: Los Angeles) who is apparently trying to convince everyone that he is now a tough guy even though he will never be able to undo his portrayal of a human speed bump in Scent of a Woman.  (Ok Chris, we're going to need you to look REALLY pathetic in this closing sequence to make Al's overacting pop off the screen).  At least CBS stops short of having The Amazing Race contestants climbing the cliffs next to the 8th hole but you know its been discussed.

And it's not unseemly enough for CBS to makes us watch a bunch of "C" and "D" level celebrities duff it around one of the three greatest courses in the country.  They compound it by having the announcers alternately shill for the network and try to be part of the act which leads to cringeworthy moments like Nick Faldo proving that you can be painfully unfunny with a British accent and, more specifically, when the Master Shill Ian Baker-Finch comments that Chris O'Donnell is "one of my favorite TV actors on one of my favorite TV shows, NCIS: Los Angeles, which airs on CBS."  He followed that shameless plug with, "of course my TV is always programmed to CBS" and I couldn't tell whether he was being serious or he just realized how ridiculous he sounded and tried to make light of it.  Considering that no one works the on-air pom poms for AT&T, CBS and Pebble Beach with quite the tenacity of Baker-Finch, I'm going with the former.  When they subsequently cut to a beautiful blimp shot of seagulls flying over the beach, I fully expected him to say in his happy go lucky Australian accent, "one of those seagulls shit on my head yesterday.  There's really nothing quite like having a Pebble Beach seagull shit on your head.  The smell . . . the consistency . . . ahhh just delightful."
Maybe I was a little quick
to judge Bianca Kajlich
and Rules of Engagement.
This year I thought we were going to dodge the really schlocky stuff because Tiger was in contention playing with Tony Romo and they dominated the first half of the coverage.  And then, at about the 1:47 mark on my Tivo, my hopes were dashed when George Lopez literally came flying into the shot and jumped into the crowd of 50 people standing next to the 15th tee which I think were the same 50 people who were watching his show on the night it was cancelled back in August.  Apparently there are those at CBS Sports who believe that either (a) golf fans enjoy the door to door vacuum cleaner salesman style humor of George Lopez (we don't), or (b) having a washed-up comedian try to recreate the glory days of vaudeville on a golf course will attract a non-golfing audience (it won't).  Actually Lopez did have one funny moment.  After Peter Kostis broke down his swing in slow motion, Lopez started to joke that he wasn't inspected that thoroughly when he crossed the border but then thought better of it and said something like "when I entered the country."  Why the stumble?  Probably because George was born in California.  Now that's funny.          

I'll tell you what would be entertaining.  The same event, only if it was produced by HBO and featured their stars playing Pebble Beach in character.  Tony Soprano and Avon Barksdale in the featured group with Sylvio Dante and Stringer Bell lurking behind them followed by Johnny Drama and Kenny Powers preening for the crowd.  We'd accidentally give the rest of the Entourage cast the wrong date (except for Emmanuelle Chriqui so we could have a ladies foursome of Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), Sloan McQuewick (Entourage), Atia of the Julii (Rome) and Meadow Soprano).  In the next to last group you'd have Larry David's regular foursome including Jeff Greene, Cousin Andy and Marty Funkhouser who might be able to pick-up and run with the comedy ball that Bill Murray started fumbling about five years ago.  In the final group you would of course have Omar Little so from three holes away you'd hear "OMAR'S COMIN!!!"  We'd pair him with Bunk to keep him from jacking half of the gallery for their wallets.  (Classic Omar scene - Omar and McNulty shopping for the post round cocktail party).  Ian Baker-Finch would undoubtedly gush over him as a man of the people and an inspirational gay rights activist.  

The Final Round                       

"Oh my God!
I look ridiculous."
As usual, I've buried the lead but frankly I'm exhausted by the over analysis of what happened on Sunday.  Two of the best players of all-time teed off together.  One had his A+ game and the other had his C- game.  In golf you can't beat a guy who is your equal or better when he has his A+ game and right now Phil is better than Tiger.

During the closing holes the announcers started having a casual debate about what failed Tiger down the stretch, putting or ball striking.  The answer is both but I don't think either is the most important thing he needs to fix between now and the Masters.  In the words of Mars Blackmon, "Money it's gotta be the shoes!"  White tennis shoes?  Are you kidding me?  How does Tiger expect to compete with Mickelson, McIlroy, Day and Kaymer when he looks like he's playing in the Tuesday nine hole group at the Del Boca Vista retirement community?  I haven't seen anyone that cool look that uncool since Don Cheadle wore that ridiculous Egyptian outfit at the end of Boogie Nights.

At some point last year a swing guru said he started wearing the shoes to improve his footwork and that may be true but are you telling me that Phil Knight can't come up with a color and design that doesn't completely rob Tiger of his mojo.  I actually think Knight might be behind this.  For years Nike has been trying to break through in golf from shoes to balls to clubs with very limited success despite the fact that their pitchman was getting ten times as much airtime as anyone else.  I'm sure at some point Knight went to Tiger and asked,"what would you think about starting a trend by wearing white tennis shoes?" and Tiger laughed for a second and then got really serious and responded "are you fucking kidding me?  Have you seen my badass Sunday outfit with the black shoes, pants and red shirt?  I feel like Superman in that."

"What's the matter with you?  Is this
what you've become, a PGA Tour
Finocchio who cries like a woman?"
But leverage is a funny thing.  One Thanksgiving day you have it and the next morning you wake-up with a black eye, a bloody lip and a smashed window in your Escalade and, when you look around, you notice your leverage is gone.  A few months later, after half of your sponsors have jumped ship, you're sitting in a room at a Mississippi sex addiction clinic with Phil Knight practically begging for his support and telling him that you'll come back and make him proud and he tells you, "Tiger, you're like family and we would never think about invoking that morals clause in our contract.  But I do have just one request . . ."

The Pick of the Week

My partners and I are currently sitting 6th out of 79 teams in our one pick a week league thanks to Spencer Levin's ability to regroup after his meltdown in Scottsdale and post a tie for 9th at Pebble.  If this success continues, I'm going to have to stop handing out this information or just start lying but for now I'll keep it honest (as far as you know) and throw K.J. Choi out there.  He's never missed the cut at Riviera where consistency is key.  I'm still not ready to start using the big guns.  That, along with the real golf season, begins next week at the Match Play.  (The thought of that just got me more excited than that picture of Bianca Kajlich which is just sad).                   

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