What Disney Can Learn from The Masters | The Cost of Reverence
It’s 2020, it’s Fall, and Tiger Woods is about to defend his Green Jacket. There’s a three-piece combo none of us saw coming. Yet, this week is one of my favorite times of the year. So, for a change I’m going to be more serious in nature and tone. Thursday morning marks the beginning of the event which I hold in the highest reverence each year. I think it’s a fair observation from my previous articles to say that I am irreverent. I’ve probably ruined someone’s thoughts about Disney World more than their 3 year old kid ruined the picture because he was scared of a giant, expressionless mascot version of Mickey.
The Masters, however, is one of the few things in my life that morphs me into a mature middle aged man (which is honestly where I should be, but I still giggle at farts). Every year I will come into work early to ensure I come home in time for the TV broadcast, and I specifically upgrade my data plan so I can stream the morning coverage on my phone. My default when I’m at home is gym shorts with the option of a shirt, yet I find myself watching The Masters in proper attire even if no one is home.
This has led me to ponder a lot about myself. Being as existentially self aware as I am, Monday I literally asked myself why I’ve chosen to revere a golf tournament that takes place in an otherwise dirty city in my home state over things like my wedding or Walt Disney World. True story, I added a whoopie cushion to our wedding registry. For once though, I was able to come to a reasonable answer.
I promise I’m getting to a Walt Disney World point here…just go with me a little more…
The Masters is the most difficult ticket in sports to get, but when you purchase the ticket directly from the tournament, it’s literally the lowest priced major sporting event to attend. They have a set of rules for the attendees that you must follow, and if you don’t you will not be allowed back. If you give your ticket to someone else, and they break any of the rules, you also get your rights to the tickets revoked. I’ve never been to the tournament, but when I do get the opportunity, I will cry harder than Rudy’s Dad at the sights my eyes will see (both because it’s the closest I will come to a religious experience and because I have severe pollen allergies). Once on the grounds, I will have the opportunity to purchase the most reasonably priced souvenirs and eat the lowest priced food of any concession stand in America. The tournament has not raised prices in decades, despite rampant inflation, and yet they do not sacrifice the quality of their merchandise or the food being served to their patrons.
On television, there are only three sponsors for the broadcast. There are no live reads by the broadcasters, no advertisements for any re-boots of Murphy Brown or some show with the Jeff Goldblum’s dad in Independence Day. CBS is only allowed to mention that 60 Minutes will start after the tournament has concluded if it goes past the 7:00 PM mark. CBS, ESPN and those sponsors still pay tens of millions of dollars for the right to broadcast it every year.
What I’m getting at here is there is a purity about The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club that I just can’t be cynical about. Love or hate the somewhat starched, outdated decorum of the tournament, it’s admirable that an entity like this hasn’t capitulated their personal integrity like the rest of golf, and frankly the country, to the echoes of the masses. They could easily sell thousands of more tickets at significantly higher prices, charge more for broadcasts and sponsorships, have more sponsors in general, and slap logos on every scoreboard and caddy – but they don’t. It remains like it has for years and it appears that it shall remain. This is why I hold The Masters in such high regard, and it’s also why as the years pass I become more and more cynical about Disney. There was an era in the 80’s and 90’s when it did not cost half your income and a kidney to have a week-long vacation in Orlando. Rather than provide upgrades to enhance what was, the plan seems to be to let attractions, hotels and restaurants wear down to the point of sadness, then scrap the whole thing and “re-theme” it specifically to tie into an intellectual property.
A few years ago, a torrential snow and ice storm came across the southeast, which caused trees to fall, landscaping to die and damage to the clubhouse at Augusta National. Literally the next day, despite the conditions, there was no evidence that such a storm occurred. The grounds were cleaned and the damage was repaired overnight. If not for some reporter seeing a contractor’s truck pull into the gate, we’d never have known it occurred. Like ‘The Masters,’ Disney was once known for its pristine image, but more and more we see a lack of custodial duties being performed all while half the property is under constant construction and prices continue to rise.
Ultimately what I’m getting at is I hope that once the dust settles on the pandemic and all of the current construction projects, plus the 50th Anniversary passes. I hope Walt Disney World picks up a few things from Augusta National. It’s still possible to make millions of dollars in profit without making guests pay $5 for a bottle of water or raising a one day ticket to almost $150. Then again, I do love being cynical…
-The Disney Cynic
“I’m all beers!”