Before the 2021 Masters, Garrett Morrison hosted author Curt Sampson on The Fried Egg podcast for a reflective episode exploring the parallels between the patron-less 2020 and controversy-ridden 1968 editions of the Masters. Sampson is the author of many books, including one about the ’68 Masters, and he himself noted the 1968-2020 similarities in a Golf Digest essay on his week in an eerily quiet Augusta, Georgia, at the first-ever November Masters. For different reasons, society felt like it had been turned upside down in the days and months prior to each event. The Masters promised to bring fans hope of a brief reprieve from the stresses of reality, but as Garrett and Curt discuss, it wasn’t nearly as simple as that.

Sampson: “But I think, as we’re finding as we’re watching basketball and other sports without fans, the excitement is muted at best.”

Garrett: “It seems like, when we were in that period last year of about two months or so—March, April, a little bit of May, when there were no sports and really no live sports on TV—I think that people assumed when sports came back, ‘Oh man won’t it be great, won’t it be a wonderful distraction from all of this?’ And that’s really how people assume that sports should operate, and the Masters might be the ultimate example of it because what’s more different [from] the real world than this kind of magical, little green bubble?

“And yet, that idea of sports as a distraction or escape seems to fail at key moments. It failed at the 1968 Masters, and it may have been failing for the past year or so. So do you think that sports as a distraction, sports as an escape, that that’s maybe not the right idea about sports? Is there another way for us to view them or do we have to evolve our thinking about that in some way?”

Curt: “That’s a thinker. Sports-watching and -playing, to some degree with at least golf, is so much a part of who I am. It still seems vital, but it’ll take a while of pandemics for me to start looking elsewhere. I don’t want to think about it.”

Listen to the rest of their conversation, including an in-depth look at the 1968 scorecard controversy, here:

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