Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Green Jacket Ceremony At The Masters

(just watch the first 30 seconds) and compare with:
(start at 5:20 into it)

(you can skip to 2:00)
I look forward to the Masters every year. Golf is great. Fresh cut grass, beautiful weather, whispering commentators, and a tournament in which the winner must beat everyone competing (not something you see in, say, tennis). I'm just kidding I hate golf, it bores me. Most important to me, is the post-climax: the winner being donned the famous Green Jacket by the year's previous winner. I'm sure my reasons for enjoying this are much different than my dad's or some golf fans though.

I will go ahead and get to the point, and do so with a bold statement: The "jacket ceremony" at the Masters is the most awkward moment on television each year. Let me explain. The announcer is standing in that remote little clubhouse talking to the camera with some awkwardizer (who doesn't say anything at first) by his side. Then he invites the current and previous champion into the room and there is 5-8 seconds of relatively silent handshaking. They sit down and his assistant guy interviews the champion briefly. The part I really want to focus on is the putting on of the jacket (although I think the entire ceremony is pretty awkward). The announcer ends the interview and says "now it's time to present [so-and-so] with the Green Jacket." Then there is a roughly 10-15 second period in which the jacket is donned by the new champion and hands are shaken once again (for a reason I can't seem to understand).

There is no music. There is no audience to clap for him. Some of them usually mutter something trite to break up the awkward silence such as, "Congratulations" or "Thanks" (which they've already said at least twice). I think the reason it's so awkward is because of the lack of applause or music to "deawkwardize" the moment and fill in the silence. Although everyone watching knows it's an important moment, it is almost trivialized by being filmed in such a low-key and audience-free clubhouse. I really think that applause and music on television is, at heart, a way for people to feel less awkward on television and make what they're doing or saying seem more legitimate. (People applauding, after all, is a sign of approval, and what could be a better indicator that your show is legit than having hundreds of people showing their approval in front of you- this is similar to the idea behind the background laughter in sitcoms... the jokes aren't funny enough on their own).

Think of those interviews you see without an audience, where there's no one to laugh at the person's jokes, there's no "feel" or "atmosphere" to the room that can often be created by music and an audience's reaction. Maybe those interviews aren't terribly awkward as the Jacket ceremony is, but I think that's due to clever editing. As soon as the interesting part of an interview ends, the camera switches to commercials or the credits or music: that might be one of the problems with this Masters' ceremony- they keep the cameras rolling way too long! My description really does not do it justice (like most things in life) and I urge you to see and decide for yourself: compare the videos I attached. The first is the 2008 champion Trevor Immelman being awarded his Green Jacket in front of a loud audience ready to applaud at any moment and with tech people waiting to fill any silence with music. It's not that awkward. The second and third videos (take your pick) take place in the little clubhouse with no one to save them from the awkwardness of their own silences and the feeling of lack of legitimacy to the ceremony. (Maybe the recent decision to change venues and to include an audience was due to an observation similar to mine).

This reminds me of a moment this year when our team had just won the Ivy league championship (the story has a point I'm not just touting my own horn). Since squash is such a small sport, the audience was pretty small, mostly parents and such, and once the last match was over, parents were on their way shuffling out of the room. Our coach, one of the nicest and most gentle guys in the world had to grab the audiences attention by practically yelling at them, to get them to stay for the ceremony where we would be awarded the trophy. Some people stayed and some left. Our coach made a brief speech about the trophe and what it meant and how we won it and then gave it to our captain with his congratulations and some audience members clapped. I bring this up because it's such a strange and unsatisfying thing for a coach to be giving his own teammates an award that he helped them to win, not to mention having to get the audiences attention to hold them in their place to watch it be given. This is similar to the master's ceremony from the clubhouse because the audience was so small in our case, (like the Masters whose effective audience was 0) that it made the ceremony seem unnecessary and like a rather awkward formality of self-congratulation.