ESPN misplaces the Clarity Jug

During this weekend’s golf at St. Andrews, the venerable Sean McDonough let slip the equivalent of an expletive on ESPN’s coverage.

“… the British Open – the Open, pardon me …”

The tournament was in Scotland, which, last I checked, remains in Britain.

But it was apparently verboten to link the words “British” and “Open” on the air.

The ESPN logo for the event was THE OPEN. All caps. Announcers called it the Open, or the Open championship.

It’s as if the U.S. network was following the script from a video on the tournament’s website which begins: “This is the ONE, THE ONE.”

All bow to the royals and ancients.

(As did some loyalist sportswriters in Canada – for the Toronto Star, National Post, and the Sun papers.)

For my money, the Clarity Jug goes to the wire services – the Associated Press, Canadian Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse – and such sometime paragons of the printed word as the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

For the benefit of readers, their style principles call it the British Open, not to be confused with national opens in the United States, Canada, Ireland, France, Spain, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, India, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Thailand, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

But that is of no consequence when the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports makes its pilgrimage to the self-proclaimed Home of Golf.

I used to write about golf, beginning at the 1975 Canadian Open at Royal Montreal, where the press tent blew away in a storm and Weiskopf beat Nicklaus in a playoff.

I love golf on TV, watch it nearly every weekend.

And it’s no surprise to me that a network would pay many millions of dollars to broadcast a sporting event and kowtow to the recipient of that largesse.

But the slurping seems to be especially egregious in golf.

CBS genuflects through the Masters every April, kneeling at the knees of the plantation owners.

Is a golf tournament really “a tradition unlike any other,” as Jim Nantz croons?

How about such traditions as forcing women to wear burkas? Or being nailed to a cross on Good Friday in the Philippines? Or gathering a crowd for your son’s circumcision and then serving bagels and lox?

The most significant tradition unlike any other for CBS’s golf coverage is 21 years and counting, since it rolled over and played dead when the crackers in the green jackets banished Gary McCord from Augusta for being Gary McCord – funny.

NBC/Golf Channel is no better when it comes to sucking up to event organizers and sponsors. Is there a viewer who doesn’t hit the mute button or click to the ballgame when Nantz or Dan Hicks “interviews” the vice president in charge of paper clips at Waste Management or Cadillac?

It’s also a disservice to golf fans that the networks accept the PGA Tour’s constant rewriting of its record books to accommodate sponsors.

Did Zach Johnson really compete on the Web.com Tour, as the ads suggest? Or was it the Hogan Tour? The Nike Tour? The Buy.com Tour? The Nationwide Tour?

Did Willie Smith win the 1899 BMW Championship? The PGA Tour says he did – which is a neat trick since the Bavarian Motor Works wasn’t founded until 1916.

It’s probably best to go along to get along when your winter workplace jets to Maui, Palm Springs or Pebble Beach.

And a trip to Britain in July might be nice. Unless you’re not allowed to recognize what country you’re in.

I watched hours and hours of the ESPN broadcast from St. Andrews. And heard only McDonough go off script until the closing minutes on Monday, when Paul Azinger summed up:

“Zach Johnson is a hard worker and he’s a dreamer. And winning the British Open today, his ultimate dream has come true.”

If it was deliberate – subversive – Zinger is my champion announcer of the year.

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