A heavy work schedule meant that I was spared the annual two-day assault on the senses that is ESPN’s first and second round coverage of the US Open, led by its moron-in-chief Chris Berman. I know that picking on Chris Berman’s announcing seems a bit overdone by now, but it leaves me asking two questions:
1) Who are these people who like Berman’s schtick (which was old 20 years ago)? Are they the same people who think the Internet is a fad?
2) What kind of deal with the devil has ESPN made with this rube? At least with someone like Joe Buck doing baseball or football games on Fox, his knowledge of the game is solid. Same with the NHL’s lightning rod (Pierre McGuire of NBC); while hockey blogger supremo Greg Wyshynski (you might know him better as Puck Daddy of Yahoo! Sports and the best hockey podcast “Marek v. Wyshynski) isn’t a fan, at least there’s an acknowlegement of his knowledge followed by a thorough critique of McGuire’s shortcomings (in the main I like McGuire but he was much better working with Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert of TSN). In short, Berman’s an idiot, he comes off as unprepared, and yet, ESPN serves this up to golf fans; what should be 2 of the best days of golf on television are sullied by Berman (all you need to know is that while ESPN also has the first 2 rounds of the Masters…the Men of the Masters aren’t having it).

Berman, on the other hand, comes off like an uninformed rube with zero charm; a comic who’s bombing but doesn’t have the chops to go along with things. I feel bad for Roger Maltbie, who by Friday night appears to be a victim of Stockholm Syndrome; laughing at Berman’s tiresome and frankly useless banter. I wrote about the passing of Ken Venturi a few weeks ago; it pains me that these two cover the same sport. Nobody expects Berman to become a Venturi; but he could knock the act off a bit and try to do what a good host does- defer to those that know more about what it is you’re covering.

Which leads me to the USGA. Their new ads trying to get average golfers to play faster are well intended (and if we’re being honest, six-hour rounds isn’t the fertile breeding ground where new golfers come from). However, it’s hard to conduct a championship being played at a pace I’d charitably describe as glacial and then prattle on about picking up the pace. And as they say, this leads us to the larger problem.

At the Masters, amateur Tianlang Guan was penalized for slow play. By the reaction from the 4th estate and his fellow competitors, you’d have thought they DQ’d him and insulted his family. The problem is that everyone complains about slow play until they’re the one under the spotlight. Everyone “thinks” they’re a fast player. Except when they’re not. Nobody ever says “man I played slow out there today”…everyone uses the same boring, tiresome excuses instead of copping guilt.

What’s the answer? The usual suspects…play ready golf (forget who has the damn honor!). Continuous putting (the Ohio Golf Association did this and it cut rounds by 15 minutes). Once practice swing. If you’re at double par (or your handicap max)…pick up! Learn how to use a golf cart. If you’re in a group and a couple of the others are looking for a lost ball, hit your approach and then go help them. Limit your search to two minutes. Play the appropriate set of tees.

What can courses do? Have tees listed by handicap range (if you’re already doing this then great). Sprinklerheads should have yardages. Use local rules to avoid having golfers re-tee. Have Marshals out on the course.

And lastly…every single one of us needs to try to play faster. It starts with me. And you. And everyone else.