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Why are our television golf analysts so darn British?

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Johnny Miller, Peter Allis, David Feherty and Nick Faldo: Miller aside, where are the Americans?

Old Tom Morris
What if Old Tom Morris was a backwoods hillbilly from West Virginia?
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Old Tom MorrisDavid Feherty
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The perfect TV golf analyst would combine the brutal candor of Johnny Miller, subtle wit of Peter Allis, irreverence of David Feherty and - the ladies would say - the voice and looks of Nick Faldo.

Notice a trend here?

With the exception of Miller, all are European - Allis and Faldo being English and Feherty being Irish.

And they're all here in America, telling Americans what the golfers on the PGA Tour, mostly Americans, are doing, why they're doing it - or not - and even what they're thinking.

Imagine an English accent doing the NFL. He'd be taken as seriously as Dennis Miller, the most disastrous experiment since DDT.

Imagine an irish accent doing Major League Baseball. Inevitably, he'd start blabbering about wickets, stumps and beamers.

And yet, when it comes to golf, those accents are seen as the ultimate, omniscient voice, especially here in the good ol' US of A.

Why?

Well, it may have to do with the fact the home of golf is in St. Andrews. The Scots may look upon themselves as an entity apart, but the great book of geography says they're a part of the United Kingdom.

What if Old Tom Morris had been a transplanted moonshiner from West Virginia? Would the ultimate voice in golf sound like a character on "Hee-Haw?"

Another reason may involve certain - how shall I say this delicately? - class distinctions. In America, golf is still largely seen as an upper-crust sport. And the English accent embodies this privileged realm. At least the "BBC English" accent does. I used to think all Brits spoke like that, until I went through a spell of living in foreign countries. I once got into a long bar conversation with a - shall we say, working-class - Brit, and found out that stupidity cannot and will not be confined by national borders. Still, I finally learned the true meaning of the word "bollocks" without any linguistic niceties to get in the way.

Americans have this notion that all English people speak like Basil Rathbone and must all be Oxford-educated, though higher learning in America is most probably superior to that in England.

Another reason I can think of is that the English accent just sounds more mellifluous than ours, except for the aristocratic Virginians.

This is flat weird, since the English accent was transported here, along with other accents from around the world. How did it evolve to what it is in modern America? Well, linguists will give you all kind of theories, but I believe mine is the most intellectually credentialed: Wendy's.

Americans have adapted to Darwinian forces by learning to quickly say "Quarter-pound, deluxe double-stack, fries and co-cola" and then get the hell on to the pay window, whereas the British would have died out here, droning on and on about Shakespeare while the Joad clan in the Ford behind them started shooting.

In any case, Miller himself speaks in a bland monotone, the voice of an accountant. He'd put you to sleep if he wasn't saying such outrageous things.

Johnny Miller vs. Peter Allis

Here's the difference:

Miller: "He has a swing that would make Ben Hogan puke."

Allis would say something like: "The chap's swing could most definitely be described as eccentric, one I'm sure the great Ben Hogan would not have, in all conscience, counseled."

Which leads me to one of my few dislikes about some of the British analysts. They're too wordy. They can use 10 words where one would do. You can listen to a three-minute monologue from Faldo and Allis - not so much Feherty - and though you can appreciate the language, you can also realize they haven't said much. Fortunately, it doesn't happen often enough to detract much from their skills.

The last reason I can think of on why Europeans dominate American golf air waves is more disturbing: There simply aren't any Americans good enough for the job.

Why is this? Why can't we have a terrific, humorous, insightful analyst besides Miller, talking to us in our native tongue?

This is the most difficult question to answer. It may be simply the fact that with the accent bias, they don't stand a chance, no matter how insightful and intelligent their comments are - though I sure as hell haven't personally witnessed this.

Hell, maybe Americans just play the sport better than we talk it. Look at the world rankings.

What do you say to that, fancy-boy, Euro-talkers?

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Who cares?

    Jim wrote on: Jul 28, 2007

    I'm tired of listening to fererners. Git some Texicans other than Nantz talkin'. The Aussies sound like Yabadabado, Ian Baker-BirdieFinch and Jane Crapper.

    Reply

    • RE: Who cares?

      J.S.K. wrote on: Mar 1, 2013

      I care!!!! I have turned off more golf because I can no longer stand staied the daey or iuall saay the plaayers are heiting the ball inta the wined. What is a waiyve green?
      Turn them off!!!

      Reply

  • They're more literate!

    Dave Berner, Host TGW wrote on: Jul 23, 2007

    Tim wonders why the British, or UK accent on a golf broadcaster or analyst is so appealing to us. Tim, and others - it's not the accent. It's because most Brits, Irish, Scots, Welsh, are just simply more literate than most Americans. They know how to tell a story, they know the language and the beauty of it. Ever been to the UK? Ever notice how many people are reading? They read everywhere - sitting in the park, sitting on bus, waiting for a bus, coffee shops aren't jammed with suits checking their email, they're jammed with people reading!
    The society is simply overall more in touch with, and more understanding, of the beauty of the language and how a well-turned phase (yes, said with the right accent), can simply be grand.
    I listened to some of The Open on BBC radio and it was magnificent coverage...yes, technically wonderful...but also, superb word pictures and descriptions. When I listen to the PGA Tour Radio Network for coverage of other tourneys, it's not on the same level, nowhere close.
    Johnny Miller, and the like, are good, but good because they're glib, and yes, knowledgeable. But no one can turn a phase like the Brits.
    Allis, Feherty, Faldo, even Ben Wright in his time - are, and always will be the best.

    Reply

  • Fancy US Talkers

    ronmon wrote on: Jul 17, 2007

    Well, we've given the world Ken Venturi, Lanny Wadkins, and Jim Nantz. Sorry to say that Nantz takes no risks, Venturi was a nice grandpa that you believed until you knew better, and Wadkins a disgrace to a Wake Forest education. Feherty, I'm told, is a trained opera singer who considered a stage career along with golf (Don Cherry of Eyrie?) As you alluded, it is WHAT they say in addition to HOW they say it. British accents seem to circle the wagons and roam together, whereas American accents seem to be built on individualism and rebellion. Therefore, no matter how erudite the material presented, some of us simply come across as sounding like dumb poops. As for future commentators, how about Casey Martin, Jim Thorpe, Notah Begay, David Duval, and Charlie Rymer?

    Reply

    • RE: Fancy US Talkers

      Tom wrote on: May 18, 2013

      British accents are cool; but they are really a put-on.... ever hear The Beatles? No accent when singing at all...no Brit, Irish, Australian, Scottish or whatever - ever sings with an accent, only when pontificating.
      Stll sounds cool to me though.... ( does your Pa shoot Par?)

      Reply

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