Saturday, June 16, 2007

Quiz to U.S. Open Viewers: What did Johnny MIller once shoot in the final round at Oakmont?

If you cannot answer this question, then I maintain that you haven't watched more than 59 consecutive seconds of NBC's/ESPN's U.S. Open Coverage (I have--for 6 straight hours, since I woke 2 p.m.)

Why is this so important? Well, maybe because the U.S. Open is currently being played at Oakmont CC outside of Pittsburgh, PA, where years ago Johnny Miller did shoot an admittedly remarkable 63 in the final round, taking home the cup and the glory. Why else should we supposedly care? Well, because Johnny Miller himself is sitting in the booth, disparaging players who are right in saying the course is now unprecedented in its difficulty, in an effort by Johnny to make his own record all the more impressive. And his co-anchors are just gobbling it up.

Why does NBC think we want to hear this?

Honestly, every 8 seconds, an NBC anchorman says something like, "Man, if Tiger can hole out on 16, 17, and 18, he might get close to your record of 63, Johnny."

A smug Johnny Miller: "Heck, I tell you, that'd be a heck of a round. Maybe some of these other guys would stop whining about how tough the course is. It's not that tough. I shot a 63 here once, remember?"

Yes, Johnny, you did. The course was also 500 yards shorter, the rough less arduous to navigate, and the bunkers about 1/4 as deep. Oh, and the fairways were wider then, too. Oh, and you weren't battling the phenoms that the tour now pumps out at an abysmal rate in the post-Tiger era. Yeah, Jack was good, but he really was the only star. Now there are 20 players worldwide that are just as good, and they are all assembled at Pittsburgh this week to play the Open. Yet you still contend that players should be going lower.

A parallel to how ironic it is that Johnny is on-air beefing up his accomplishments could only be found if, say, members of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins broadcast the last 10 regular-season football games of a team that started 6-0, talking the whole time about how many obstacles that Dolphins team had to overcome to not lose once and about, contrary to popular belief (and reality), "it was so much harder to do back then." Are people not seeing right through this?

Also, I kept an official tally of every time Johnny said a variant of, "These players have to realize that the ball breaks toward the turnpike on most of these putts," referring to the Pittsburgh turnpike that Johnny thinks supplanted bodies of water as a ball magnet. The Saturday total? 28 times...again, one day, one line, spoken amid shameless efforts to secure the validity of his one moment of shining glory 18 years ago. It's a wonder he had time to say anything else.

So why does NBC keep this abrasive "color man" in the booth, knowing full and well that he'll milk his "miracle" round to the fullest at Oakmont at every given possibility? Because: he's candid. Too his credit, Johnny Miller is the only golf announcer on TV with the stones to say what everybody else is thinking, namely about players' emotions in major-championship play. While Jim Nantz and the other WASPs in the booth lament about how "It's too bad Mickelson couldn't pull this one off," Johnny offers a reason (and kicks Lefty while he's down): "Yeah, Phil choked here, Rog. Just made some atrocious decisions. Arguably the worst decision making we've every seen in major-championship history. He's gonna feel like hell tomorrow."

While no one is a bigger self-aggrandizing jackass, no one is better--that's why the controversial Johnny Miller remains in golf broadcasting.

And if you find it funny or annoying that I blog about golf...well...yeah, it kind of is. You see, back in '78, I shot a 63 in the final round at Oakmont...


p.s. Tiger's got this one on lock-down...playing in the final group with Baddeley, who will choke, only two strokes's over.

1 comment:

Jon Gold said...

That was an unholy mutant of a U.S. Open, by the way.