The gimmick of hyperbole has always been quite the useful tool for journalists, sportswriters in particular. In an era where every insignificant opinion we ever hatch is a pushed button away from being shared with the entire western civilization and we imbibe freely of the intoxicating fantasy that everybody is listening to everything we say, write, and post, it grows more useful still.
Attach that ubiquitous picture of a little white goat to some words extolling the virtues of a dynamic athlete and watch the keyboard warriors begin to paw at the ground, snarling at the fresh raw prey thrown at their doorstep. The war of attrition is underway, and we wait to see who walks off with a carcass hanging from its bloodied mouth. They think it a gift from a merciful God when it’s simply gamekeepers fattening their game, taking advantage of toothless predators, perpetually hungry and relying solely on their whims for their next meal.
The handsome heads drone endlessy on our TV sets, recycling the same topics weekly and pushing their ratings ever higher. Lebron having or not having a ‘killer instinct”, whatever that may mean in the context of a given week, has created more jobs and careers than an Amazon fulfillment center in a dying urban area. The ‘best ever’ conversation works for every sport, every big game and every big moment. It seems overused and ridiculous, but it almost never fails. It reels us in, and we are so far gone we forget to even thrash on the hook.
There are, however, those rare slices of either achievement or failure, where the moment transcends hyperbole. Where the greatest adjectives of worship will never properly deify that which has transpired. The broadcaster falls still, the cursor is left blinking, and the roar of the crowd or its eerie painful silence is the only available avenue of illustration. Any effort to talk above the chaos is a splotch of neon paint thrown haphazardly on a Rembrandt, missing the beauty unfurled in front of you at best, and causing irreparable damage at worst.
Augusta National is the rarest of places. A spot on earth where our familiarity with its crevices and nooks adds to its impossible grace. Every year as spring beckons to our winter worn souls, we vacation there for a weekend. Somehow it never stagnates, never seems tired. So many have referred to it as a time warp of sorts, four days where the clock ceases to tick, but that doesn’t account for its constantly growing legend. It is so flexible and pliant that perhaps both can be true. The creeks and bunkers that caused heartbreak 40 or 50 years ago still do today, but there is always something different, a new kind of victim added to its tally. It takes as much bravery and talent to describe its scene as it does to play it well. So many of the best have been left wanting, bereft of the word or phrase that really fits. It is a place that asks for perfection, where less is sometimes the most you can do, for both the golf elite and for those that cover their exploits.
Over the top breathlessness never really works at the Masters, but this past Sunday I thought it especially so. Go ahead. Try to tell the tale of Tiger and his triumph, with the backdrop of all that has befallen him, self-inflicted or not. Narrate the outstretched arms toward his children, the relief hidden in the pure joy of a man who was forced to pay for his sins in the full view of millions enthralled by his crashing star. Reality TV at its finest. Except that for him it was reality. And he made it all the way back home, to the place where it all started, all those years ago. It is so patently absurd, the bastion of hyperbole we call Hollywood would leave it on the cutting floor, crushing the dreams of an aspiring screenwriter with nary a second look.
But in real time it had no need for a script. The familiar holes and the same yearly shots. Tests of mental fortitude, Rae’s Creek, and the calming voice of Jim Nantz were all we needed. All we’ve ever needed if we are being honest.
Was this the greatest ever Moment in….
America or the world?
Does the moment overtake Jack in ‘86?
Does he get to 18 and beyond?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I do know that for me, whatever it was, it was enough. It was a story with something for everyone. Villains and heroes, and a blurring of which one is which. Some who bowed to the pressure and one who stood tall. Defiance and reverence. Legacies burnished and legacies tarnished. A father and a son and his son after him. The cycle of life, forever moving and forever rooted in the very same place.
The secret of perfection is the awareness not to touch what has entered the world unblemished. Sunday at Augusta in 2019 will forever be a perfect sports story. But then, you don’t need me to tell you that nor should I need or want to. It is sometimes best to leave beauty exactly the way we found it.
As a story that told itself.