It comes around this time of year when Super Bowl fever strikes and the frenzy spread through all my friends. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of football, but I will sit and watch a game. I know the strategy and can follow plays and their purpose. In fact, my annual thumbing of the Super Bowl has nothing to do with an ignorance of football. It’s not the only cumulative season-ending sporting event I don’t watch. Stanley Cup finals being the exception of course. As a Canadian I’m required by federal law to watch that.
There is, however, one tournament I look forward to annually with the same excitement most do for The Super Bowl: The Masters. Without fail every year I put my name into the ticket lottery and hope and pray I will be blessed with the opportunity to buy tickets. My dreams are filled with visions of walking the historic pines of the course, running my feet gently through the infamous rough. Standing along the edge of those stunning green fairways and watching as the world’s best struggle to tame an ancient monster. It’s all very poetic really, as anything golf related is.
This is probably the thing about The Masters that is the most contentious. People either have a love or hate relationship with the traditions that the tournament is steeped in. I, for one, love them. The history buff in me loves the heritage represented in many of the time honoured and often pretentious traditions that surround Augusta National. Despite the age of the Super Bowl, still a young tournament, it’s constantly strives to be a showcase of the cuttingest and shiniest the edge has to offer. Aside from player superstitions there is little in traditional heritage to the tournament. Perhaps it’s my boring personality, but the “old fashioned” way of the Masters is far more comfortable than the pizazz of the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl has easily become the consumer driven event of the year. Companies spend insane amounts of money for 30 second commercials. They craft these commercials specifically for that 30 second spot and with a unique nature. Sure, we get some entertaining and creative promos, but it’s all a tip of what the tournament really is. The numbers spent on the Super Bowl are beyond mind blowing; often well beyond the GDP of small nations. Despite that, patrons pay ridiculously high prices for beer and hot dogs while they enjoy the event they payed two arms and a kidney for. The financial burden the Super Bowl places on it’s spectators and host venues is stunning.
The Masters, in contrast, has remained relatively unchanged. Thanks to their “old fashioned” traditions even advertising time is heavily controlled by the committee. TV times have a maximum number of advertising minutes meaning we get to watch more uninterrupted tournament. Costs to enter the tournament aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than admission into the Super Bowl. Not only that, prices at concession stands are controlled so much that they are unchanged since the 60s; $2 actually buys you stuff! A general atmosphere of respect for tournament, players and spectators can be fostered. This is quashed under the hundreds of millions of endorsement dollars at the Super Bowl.
This isn’t a reference to the atmosphere at the Super Bowl. On the contrary, it’s the Masters. You’ll find everywhere a buzz and energy that is impossible to resist. You’ll join the roars and applause despite missing the action. People smile and cry, emotions are on edge all weekend long. All of this is achieved with nearly zero sound systems. The Super Bowl is overwhelmed with lights, speakers, and screens of all kinds. The atmosphere is electric alright, but only thanks to a nuclear reactor’s worth of help.
For a truly electric experience, stand on the 18th on the final Sunday as the closing hours of the day wind down. The Masters never disappoints when it comes to drama and energy.
The Super Bowl is only one afternoon long. One game, two halves. It will last 3 hours and then all will be done. The Masters lasts 4 days, from sun up until sun down. You can watch a group play 18 then walk back to the beginning and watch another group do it all over again. Why have only one day of a great thing then when you can have four!
So you settle down in your seats, $50 worth of beer and food in your lap. You look waaaaaaaay down to the stadium below and regret not bringing those binoculars. Sure the crowd is fun and you enjoy the game from your vantage point, but at some point your mind begins to wander, even if only for the briefest moments. At the Super Bowl you’ve just got one game and one stadium. Sure those are both huge, you’re stuck when it comes to variety. Even more stuck when it comes to seating.
At the Masters you have eighteen stadiums to choose from. All are outdoors and feature reserved seating, though none are more than twenty or so rows deep. You can plunk down at a hole or fairway and watch as the groups play through. Bored? Follow a group around and see how they tackle eighteen truly unique and individual playing fields. Need better vision? Move to a hole with a different group. Crowds will ebb and flow as the day and play progress. Rarely are you so far back you still can’t feel like you’re in the game. You can see the weekend’s drama unfold before you from what barely seems to be beyond the reach of your arm. All for the same ticket price. Oh, yeah.
Any seat, same price
Pick a spot, it’s yours. Sure, you can pay more to get access to exclusive boxes along different holes. That said, however, everywhere else on the course is fair game to grounds admissions paying people; including along the famous 18th green.
Players playing to win
This isn’t a unique feature to The Masters. Every PGA Tour event in the year has this, but in this comparison it is unique to the Masters. NFL players are on contract, members of a team. They will be paid no matter if they win or loose. Sure, winning the Super Bowl is a BIG DEAL, but playing to get paid is a BIGGER deal. PGA players only get paid if they make the cut and they only get endorsements if they place. This means everybody wants, needs, to make Friday cut. Then everybody wants, almost needs, to place on Sunday. Now, add to that the same pressure to win as Super Bowl players have (it is THE MASTERS after all, the most desired tournament of the year) and you have players who REALLY want it. Badly. Emotions are so raw during the Masters, specially on Sunday. Grown men don’t just cry, they weep, laugh, morn, swear and have bouts of insanity.
The beginning, not the end, of the season
Events like the Super Bowl mark the final championship capping off a months long season. These sporting events are the grand finale for the season. They create a massive build up of fanaticism for the game and then leave you hanging for the off season, emotionally starved of the game you were so pumped about only days before. The Masters, however, is traditionally considered to mark the start of the spring golf season. To some it is THE start to the golf season. There are many great tournaments before the Masters is held, but things really seem to get into full swing once Masters weekend has passed.
But perhaps there’s the genius to it. Golf fans worldwide get ramped up during Masters weekend, their blood gets flowing and people start getting behind the players they want to win it that year. The energy never fades, however, since the next tour event follows right after and keeps going well into the fall. Weekend after weekend a new event keeps fans going. There is no post-tournament hangover or withdraw. Instead of being built up to nothing we’re built up and launched into a season full of spectacular tournament after tournament. It leaves you with a wonderful feeling of satisfaction by fall’s end.
So, hurry up March. Can’t wait for this year’s Masters.