AUGUSTA, Ga. - During this Masters week, when everyone involved with the production of this most famous golf tournament, present company included, gets a little dewy-eyed and nostalgic about the sanctified history of Augusta National Golf Club, it's worth remembering that not everyone regards this tournament in quite the same way ... and that "a tradition unlike any other" has very different meanings to different people.
Appearing on Dan Patrick's radio show on Friday, Bob Costas of NBC Sports took on the Masters and, more specifically, CBS. Costas took issue with the fact that CBS completely ignores Augusta's very real, and very recent, history of gender- and race-based discrimination. As Costas said:
What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta's history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds—forget about taking a side—never acknowledging it. So not only will I never work the Masters because I'm not at CBS, but I'd have to say something and then I would be ejected.
He's correct. Augusta National has a history of removing media personnel who don't toe the line. Jack Whitaker was banned from the club for calling a collection of patrons a "mob," and Gary McCord hasn't been back since 1994, when he referred to the greens as "bikini-waxed" and the hills beyond one hole as "body bags."
Costas concedes that he finds Augusta beautiful, he considers Augusta National chairman Billy Payne a friend, and that he's played the course. Even so, he believes that the club's difficult and treacherous history should have been recognized. He doesn't name names, but it's clearly obvious who he's talking about here:
I think somebody should have had the guts to do it along the way. Broadcaster, executive, somebody should have said to someone at Augusta, 'Look, this is an issue. And this is not 'Nightline' or 'Meet The Press,' we understand that. But this is an issue. And it's an elephant in the room. And we're going to address it as concisely as we can, but we're going to address it so our heads are not in the collective sand trap.'
Give Costas credit, he has no fear of injecting political issues into sporting events. Sometimes it's evocative and necessary, as when he criticized the Olympics for not honoring the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre. And sometimes he seems to overreach and preach, as when he held forth on gun control during a Sunday night football telecast.
Still, he speaks his mind and says what he believes, and among media members, that's something of a rarity. It's worth remembering that while Augusta National is indeed one of the most beautiful places on earth, that beauty is neither all-encompassing nor retroactive.
-Follow Jay Busbee all week from Augusta National on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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