Tag: Joe Buck

Monday After The US Open Hot Topics

So after roughly 80 bazillion picks of who will/won’t/might/maybe contend at this week’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the winner was Brooks Koepka, otherwise known as the same guy who won last year.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a week of smooth sailing.  Traffic (who knew that summer traffic in a summer destination was going to be an issue other than the millions of people who live/work/vacation in the area), course set-up, and a host of other issues got everyone riled up.  Rather than offer my opinions, I’m ceding the floor to Golf Twitter to argue the issues of the week.

Issue: Phil Mickelson’s attempt at playing polo on 13 on Saturday was a disgrace and he should have been DQ on the spot and drawn & quartered.  Or he was making a comment about the course conditions.  Let’s go to the evidence.

For: He deliberately hit a moving ball to keep it from running off the green!

Against: The USGA gave him a 2-stroke penalty as prescribed by the rules.

For: Several players weren’t exactly happy with this.  They typically don’t sound off en masse unless something goes completely off the rails (see Johnson, Dustin in 2016).

Against: He’s Phil Mickelson.  It was his birthday!  Fans love the guy!  Fans don’t care what the haters think.

For: Oh, so the rules don’t apply to beloved players.  His explanation was…well, you watch it.

Against: He wasn’t going to win so what’s the big deal?  Shut up!  Phil’s awesome!

For: Have you heard of protecting the field?

Against: Dummy says what?

For: He should have done the honorable thing and WD on Saturday night.

Against: He offered to and the USGA said no.  Says his wife Amy.

Resolved: We disagree.  Brendan Porath has a pretty smart take here.  I also think John Feinstein gets it right (his words, not mine):

Here are two things that are crystal clear: First, Mickelson embarrassed himself with his sprint, spin and putt while his bogey putt was still rolling. Second, the USGA, already having a bad day because of the way Shinnecock Hills was set up, embarrassed itself further by not disqualifying Mickelson the instant he smugly told the media his act was intentional.

Issue: The USGA’s course set-up went off the rails.  Again.

For: When you look at every foul-up or controversy at a men’s US Open, the problem can be traced back to course set-up.  Golf Channel certainly didn’t mince words.

Against: It’s the National Championship!  It’s supposed to be hard!  Who wants to see someone win with 20 under as a score?

For: The USGA admitted that they lost the course on Saturday and several players agreed.

Against: Oh great, now the players are turning into snowflakes because the course is a bit difficult.  Why not just get rid of all the rough and give everyone a trophy?  I want it harder!

For: The greens were dead.  Again.  After pinkie-swearing that there would not be a repeat of 2004.  They lost them in 2016, 2015, 2014.  Merion was lambasted in 2013.

Against: US Open is supposed to be hard. HULK SMASH.  Put bears in the fairway and land sharks in the rough.  MUST MAKE HARD.  What- they can’t play in wind anymore?  Winning score should be 20 over par so that us regular golfers can relate!

For:  It was windier than they expected.  In an area that is known to be windy.  Apparently with all this technology they literally can’t forecast wind a day in advance.

Against: It’s the National Championship, not some random tournament.

For: You can create a difficult challenge without stressing out greens.

Against: NO YOU CAN’T.  They should be stimping out at 20.  I WANT CARNAGE!!!

For: The Masters, Open Championship and USPGA manage course set-up without turning greens into parking lots.

Against: Did I stutter?  I WANT CARNAGE!  Tears, blood, and everything unfair.  It’s our national championship and it should be hard!

For: It already is.

Against: No it’s not.  I want a literal bloodbath.  I want a 79 to be the low score of the week.  I want to see scores in the 100’s.  9,000 yard courses, bunkers with poisonous snakes, 5-yard wide fairways.  AHHHHH!

For:  In that case they should just change the putting surfaces to concrete.

Against: Now you’re talking!

Resolved: Somewhere between last year’s event and this year, the USGA can and should create a difficult test that involves something more than lightning-fast greens.  Luckily they should not need to do much to Pebble Beach for 2019.

Issue: Fans at the US Open behave inappropriately.

For: You don’t see this in Augusta or at the Open Championship.

Against: Mashed Potatoes! Dilly Dilly!

For: This isn’t the Ryder Cup.

Against: U!S!A!  Hey look it’s Poulter….boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

For: Maybe a few less beers.

Against: Baba Booey!  Look at me everyone!

For: Seriously…can you not?

Against: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Killjoy.  Stop being a hater, broheim.

Resolved: The 2024 Ryder Cup is going to be a gong show.

Issue: Fox completed their 4th US Open so only 8 more years of this.

For: Their production and their technical advances are outstanding.

Against: Joe Buck.

For: Shane Bacon was outstanding.

Against: The Bill Hemmer interview during the 2nd round was a special kind of tone-deaf stupidity you only get from Fox.

For: Brad Faxon was outstanding.  Not flashy, but does a solid job of telling the viewer something they probably don’t know.

Against: Picking up player-caddie discussions are great. Fan discussions about their…ahem…partners isn’t.  Who thought this was a good idea?

For: Mike Davis appeared at the end of the 3rd round and took the hit for the course setup.

Against: Seriously.  Get rid of Joe Buck.  While you’re at it, tell Paul Azinger to drop the Grumpy Old Man bit.

Resolved: If Fox feels like they need him around, push Buck into a host role (think Bob Costas when NBC had the US Open) and find a competent 18th hole tower announcer.  Maybe Shane Bacon is the answer, maybe he’s not.  Think beyond the norm.  Some people are good at golf. Buck isn’t.  It’s been four years of USGA events; he’s not going to get better.  It’s just not his thing.

SONG OF THE DAY

30 years ago today I went with some friends to see Depeche Mode at the Rose Bowl in California.  Good times, minus the five couples around me who broke up (including the couple I went with), and two people projectile vomiting in the sink of the men’s washroom.   Enjoy.

 

Silly Season Suggestions

It’s now December (and Verne Lundquist is signing off for the last time and will be missed by everyone), and unlike last year, the weather isn’t going to be conducive to any mid-month golf in spring/fall dress.  So your golf fix is largely going to be televised.  This coming weekend is the Franklin-Templeton Shootout which ends on Saturday (Golf Channel had the Thursday-Friday coverage and Saturday coverage went over to Fox).  So just when you thought you were done with Fox and their golf coverage…you’re not (in a perfect world Fox would just use the Golf Channel crew but we can’t have nice things, so there’s that).  However, Joe Buck was not there.  Whew.

Take the weekend off. Please.

Take the weekend off. Please.

While we’re talking about this tournament, Lexi Thompson is playing with Bryson Dechambeau and his sidesaddle putting stroke.  Which made me wonder?  Why not just pair up an LPGA pro with a PGA Tour pro?  Let them choose up sides if you want, or even better, have a fantasy draft!   You’re telling me Golf Channel wouldn’t air this live?  They’d air it live and run it back several times over.  The NHL All Star Game did this (starting in 2011; since discontinued), which gave us this bon mot:

I’m a died-in-the-wool Leafs fan and I still don’t know what the hell this was.  You can’t not watch but you can’t turn away.

What I’d do is have the guys seated, and draw a female player out of a hat.  She comes on stage, and picks her playing partner.  I’d allow trades (make the rules up as you go along-mostly to give the USGA an aneurysm).  Drinking?  Oh HELL YES.  Talking trash?  By all means.  I’d have all the players miked up.  Similar to what they do now, I’d play 2-man best ball two days, and a shamble the other day.  Have the women tee off a bit closer (7-8%).  Oh, I’d let them ride in carts.  With music.  The point is that it’s supposed to be fun.

So that’s problem #1 solved.

If it’s December, it also means that Golf Channel is in filler mode once the silly season events end (I’d expect that counter for the start of the PGA Tour season to be up any day now).  For the remaining two people who get Golf Channel and haven’t seen the edited-for-TV versions of The Trinity (that’s Caddyshack, Tin Cup, and The Legend of Bagger Vance), December is your lucky month.  I’m not remotely kidding.  I had a weird dream last night (and I have a lot of them) that someone decides to turn Tin Cup or Caddyshack into something similar to what Rocky Horror Picture Show is or The Big Lebowski (I’ve seen something similar at Lebowskifest, which was a tribute to The Big Lebowski).  Look- if I can’t get someone to play Judge Smails, Lacy Underalls or Danny Noonan, than my faith in humanity is for nothing.   Note to anyone from Golf Channel: if you’re reading this and you’re not thinking about it,  pour another tumbler of bourbon and think about it some more.  You could put this on tour and people would come, Ray.  People would come.

Tennis icon Arthur Ashe Playing golf during The Superstars.

Tennis icon Arthur Ashe Playing golf during The Superstars.

But more to the point is this…we need a new silly season event.  It came to me a few weeks ago, when after a long night of drinking (that’ll be enough judgement from you) I was watching ESPN Classic and the 70’s show The Superstars was on.  Take a bunch of professional athletes from all sports and let them compete in a bunch of silly events.  TV magic!  Arthur Ashe playing golf (see above).  Reggie Jackson swimming!  Roger Staubach riding a bicycle!   Short-shorts, and the likelihood of there being off-camera drinking at about 99%.

photo courtesy Getty Images

The buttery smooth swing of Charles Barkley. He’s committed. Or should be.

This got me thinking (as often happens when I’m watching TV and I’m half in the bag).  If you ever see me half in the bag with a steno pad and a pen, it’s a good time to be marginally worried.  We know that pro athletes love golf and many are really good at it (and a lot of NFLers are very good).  We also know that, in the 21st century, golf is one of those rare activities teams don’t mind players participating in.  So then I started thinking about something beyond a stroke-play event (NBC already shows a celebrity tournament from Lake Tahoe that features professional athletes, actors/actresses, and “other” celebrities).

Very talented basketball player plays golf. Film at 11.

Very talented basketball player plays golf. Film at 11.

But what about a team event?  At first I was thinking about something where the Championship teams would play against each other, but then it dawned on me that this could be difficult to pull off.  Then, much like that episode of Seinfeld when Costanza’s dad decides to bring back Festivus, it hit me like big shiny Festivus pole to the head-  have teams made up of players from each league!

NHL players playing golf? Why, I've never heard of such a thing!

NHL players playing golf? Why, I’ve never heard of such a thing!

If you timed it right (say July) you would have 3 of the big 4 team sports in their off season (NFL, NBA, NHL).  With 12 spots per team each league would have no problem finding willing participants (open it up to retired players if you want, or let each league pick 2 retired players to fill out their rosters).  If you wanted to include baseball players you could go with former players (and there’s a fair few who are pretty good).  Don’t want that?  Fine- find some former Olympic athletes (nice cross promotion for NBC/Golf Channel) and call it a ‘Team USA’ or something.  I’d have the players riding in carts and playing no more than 18 holes in a day (that should keep teams from concerns over health/safety).   Play the tournament over 3 days; crazy idea here but do a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday dates.  That means no overlap with PGA/Euro/LPGA/Champions events (honestly, how many repeats of the Final Round of the John Deere Classic do you need?).

NFL kicker likes golf. Alert the news media.

NFL kicker likes golf. Alert the news media.

Have a purse that goes to the Players Associations benevolent/emergency funds (or they can name a charity); very little work (I’m sure you could find a few willing sponsors to put their name on this) would get you a $200K 1st place, $150K 2nd, $100K third and $50K 4th place (that’s $500K total).  If you were to sell tickets at $25 a pop (very reasonable) and sell 15,000 tickets TOTAL (5,000 per day), that’s $375,000 right there.  Throw up some premium seats and the purse is more than covered and you haven’t even sold advertising, concessions, parking, etc.

Golf Channel could produce it and control the rights (file under “hey, look at this content we have”).  Think about all those Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf and how those get edited down…bingo.  You could easily condense the final round into a 90 minute segment, which is wonderful filler.

How would this work, you ask?  Simple.

Monday: 3-man shamble.  Each “league” gets 4 groups (4 groups x 4 teams= 16 groups).  Run a 2-tee start and things get going quickly.

Tuesday: 2-man best ball.  Each “league” gets 6 groups.  Put 2 groups together and it’s 12 foursomes.  Again- 2-tee start to get things moving quickly.

Tuesday night: After two rounds, the team that’s in first plays the team in 4th, and the team in 2nd plays the team in 3rd in 9 holes of match play.  Teams submit orders.  Team that finishes first picks if they want to play the front 9 or back 9.  2nd/3rd match plays the other 9 holes (so things move quickly).  Ties settled by sudden death playoff by teams picking one player from their 12.

Wednesday: Teams play 9 holes of match play in the morning (just like the Ryder Cup; 12 singles matches).  Teams that win those matches play back 9 in championship match.  Tied after that?  Anchors (guys who went out 12th) play sudden-death playoff.

Think about the effort they put into the old Tavistock Cup; with a replication of effort they’d be able to put together a decent event and they’d have something they could re-air later in the year.  Not that the odd showing of one of The Trinity isn’t enjoyable, but we’re approaching Law & Order rerun territory, folks.  Don’t suppose you’d run that Perfect Club Infomercial again?

Where to hold it?  Not sure it matters; off the top of my head I’d say either the West Coast (California), or somewhere in the Great Lakes area (Michigan/Traverse City area, Kohler, etc.).  I’m saying no on Vegas because it gets ungodly hot in July, but if that would work then by all means go for it.  Play it at night under the lights if you want to!

Song of the Day

I heard Nice as F**k on SiriusXM a couple months ago.  If you can get past the NSFW name, the song is great.  Everything a pop song should be.  Have a listen.  Nobody will tell.

 

 

The US Open on Fox Drinking Game You’ll Need (2016 Edition)

He's back.  Prepare accordingly.

He’s back. Prepare accordingly.

After a debut that would be charitably described as poor, Fox Sports will air next week’s US Open (after next week only 10 more years of this dirge) from Oakmont CC in western Pennsylvania.  Greg Norman is no longer their main analyst, however Paul Azinger will step into the booth alongside Joe Buck.  I suppose this will be a good time to point out they’ve never worked together covering a major championship (Azinger did, however, work at ABC/ESPN in a 3-man booth with Nick Faldo and Mike Tirico and a 2-man booth with Tirico).  Here’s their new promo…see if you notice anything:

Other than Spieth and McIlroy, none of the people they showed are playing.  So the ad seems to say “tune in and see none of these golfers” which sounds a brilliant idea.  While the theme music was really good, I had something in mind more appropriate to their broadcasting expertise, or how I picture people going to their production meetings.

In that vein, if you tune in to watch, you’re going to need something to keep you going, and your faithful scribe has just the thing you need…a drinking game!  Yup, I’m dusting off the old and tired hack-worthy bit and creating your very own U.S. Open on Fox Drinking Game (the Oakmont 2016 version).  As always, drink responsibly, but if you don’t, then at least have a sober friend drive you to your AA meeting because drinking and driving isn’t cool.

Take 1 drink (sip) every time the following happen:

-Someone on the air refers to it as a tournament, and not a championship.

-Joe Buck correctly pronounces Centenario.

-A retired former Pittsburgh-area pro athlete is shown at the course wearing his team’s apparel.

-Any mentions of Tiger Woods during the broadcast.

-Any mentions of Spieth/McIlroy/Day/Mickelson during weekend coverage if they miss the cut.

-Any mentions of the Stimpmeter and how the greens are faster during Oakmont’s annual member-guest event.

-Any mentions of Paul Azinger’s 2008 Ryder Cup captaincy.

-Any mentions of Donald Trump.

-Any time there is more than 5 seconds of dead air.

Take 2 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Fox mid-identifies what hole they’re showing.

-2 or more people are speaking at the same time on-air.

-Any mentions of Greg Norman.

-Mentions of Ernie Els winning in 1994 or Angel Cabrera winning in 2007.

-Mentions of Brad Faxon’s Ryder Cup record.

-Any mention of Tiger Woods and 18 majors (or for that matter, 18 majors).

-Any mentions of The Golf Boys video.

Take 3 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Fox critiques the USGA course setup.

-Anyone on-air calls the USGA a group of idiots who couldn’t organize a 2-car parade.

-Any mentions of Mickelson’s gambling habits or his settlement with the SEC.

-Any mentions of Deer Antler Spray.

-Any mentions about OJ Simpson’s Bronco chase during the 2nd round of the 1994 US Open at Oakmont.

Take 4 drinks (sips) every time any of the following happen:

-Anyone says “Mike Davis is a turd wrangling asshole” on-air.

-Someone asks “why are we covering this event?” on-air.

-Anyone says “you know what would make this better…glow-pucks!”

-Someone on-air refers to the local area as a cesspool of inbred hayseeds and rubes.

-Anyone on-air references Benghazi.

-Someone says that the putting greens are too slow.

-Joe Buck is drinking out of a paper bag on-air.

-Joe Buck is reading tweets from Dan Jenkins about Sergio Garcia on-air with a fake Spanish accent.

-A post-tournament apology followed by “well folks, only 10 more years of us covering this event!”

-“Joe Buck has taken ill. Filling in for him will be GUS JOHNSON OH MY GAWD!!!”

However, no drinks for the following:

-Mentions of Johnny Miller’s 63.

-Any shots of people waiving those yellow towels that Pittsburgh people think is a thing.

-Random former Pittsburgh-area athletes on-air.

-Any mentions of Fox shows.

 

 

 

On the USGA and TV coverage

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.