We have made it through the most tedious part of the sports year — the post–Super Bowl sports drought from the beginning of February to April. Now, the Masters is here.
The first major PGA championship held annually in Augusta, Ga., is a landmark event in the sports world because it acts as an unofficial start of the sports calendar year by being the first meaningful contest held in warm weather.
The two major sports in season, NHL and NBA, were in the middle of months of monotonous games in February and March, and ESPN SportsCenter’s main content was the offseason of football, which does not kick off until September. The basketball games during March Madness gave us some intriguing action, but those were just a few weekends of fun.
The Masters is, figuratively, the exclusive, high-class ceremony that celebrates the new sports year. The only way to become a member at Augusta National is through an invitation from the club, which both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have accepted. Cellphones are even confiscated upon entry, potentially making it the only selfie-free zone in the world. The course is also beautiful, with its greenness popping out of your television’s high definition, especially after staring at muddy snow for months.
I understand the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club are certainly caught in the past with their ridiculous cobweb policies — they didn’t admit African-American members until 1990 and women until 2012. Those are absurd facts, and I absolutely believe that someone should tackle Chairman Billy Payne off his high horse. But like it or not, Augusta is the most famous course in America and the only venue in the world to host a PGA major championship every year.
Thursday’s opening round leads into a snowball of sports: Next week, the NHL and NBA playoffs begin, which carry us with near-daily matchups until June. The U.S. Open for golf and the FIFA World Cup begin June 12 and last until June 15 and July 13, respectively. You’ll have to step outside and enjoy the end of July, before college football season begins in August.
You could argue that baseball marks the turning of the sports calendar. But each baseball game is only .6 percent of a baseball season — I’ll tune in after the All-Star Break in July when the games are under more of a microscope. On the other hand, the Masters are the pinnacle event of the entire golf season. Last year, 14.7 million people tuned in for Sunday’s Final Round.
Tiger Woods isn’t playing this year, but Tiger isn’t the allure of the Masters. Rather, its symbol as the beginning of nine months of action-packed sports watching draws fans.