On Sunday, with a two-foot bogey putt on the 18th hole, Hideki Matsuyama became both the first Japanese Masters champion and also the first Japanese golfer to win a men’s major tournament. It’s a career-defining accomplishment for the 29-year-old Matsuyama, one deepened in light of all the ways in which both the Masters and institutional golf, even in 2021, labor to preserve themselves as the domain of rich white men.
It’s a moment, if you like, to reflect on golf’s long history of racial exclusivity, and on how far it still has to go to achieve anything like true inclusivity. Or to imagine what this moment might mean for the sport of golf in Japan, an archipelago that as recently as 2017 had as many golf courses as the entire rest of the continent of Asia. Or just to watch video of a tearful Matsuyama walking off the 18th green after his victory and think to yourself, “Aw, what a nice moment.” Or, if you are The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, it’s a moment to reflect on how, thanks to this damn cancel culture, you can’t even make racist jokes about the first Japanese Masters champion on national television at the absolute apex of his professional life anymore.
Come with me, my friends, to the 28th minute of today’s episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, in which Simmons and co-host Kevin Clark discuss … well, here, just read the transcription for yourself.
BILL SIMMONS: Alright so Nantz, we were hoping for one of his, ah, classic pre-baked one-liners when Matsuyama won the Masters. I think he was scared off, he felt nervous to me the last 20 minutes, um, cancel culture, I don’t, I don’t think Nantz even wanted to go near anything. He kept kind of throwing it to Faldo, and then, when Matsuyama hit the—first of all, he, he missed the par putt, he had the, the little two-footer coming back, he made it, he wins, and Nantz basically said, “And Matsuya—Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese golfer to win the Masters!” I, I’ve never heard him put less thought, energy, creativity, anything into one of his calls, and ah, it was a scared Jim Nantz. Let’s, let’s be honest.
KEVIN CLARK: OK. So, you’re—let’s put you in the booth—
CLARK: What do you give us?
SIMMONS: So I had it, I had the savvy one. Um. “Heat of the Moment,” which was a song that won like five Grammys—
SIMMONS: —by a band called Asia in the ’80s.
SIMMONS: I think Nantz could have gone stealth, and done, “It was the heat of the moment! Hideki Matsui [Editor’s note: A different Japanese athlete from the golfer who won the Masters on Sunday] is our Masters champion!” Something like that—
CLARK: [indistinct gasping sound, as though preparing to hold breath for a long time]
SIMMONS: —and then it just would have been really underground, nobody would have even gotten it. Um. But, but he just played it chalk, and, and, you know what, you just signed a new contract, Jim Nantz, we don’t want a scared Jim Nantz. Come up with a, some sort of line. Anything? Disappointing.
CLARK: [possibly trying to steer this boat out of Racism Canal and into the Sea of Plausible Deniability?] So, Joe House was hoping that Xander Schauffele would win for a DMX reference.
SIMMONS: Right, “X gonna—X gonna give it to you,” something like that, that would, that actually would have been fitting. It did seem like there was some possible DMX, X stuff, parallel stuff happening.
Well, there you have it. We don’t want a scared Jim Nantz, according to The Ringer’s Bill Simmons. We want a Jim Nantz who will make a shitty, stupid, multiply outmoded racist joke about Hideki Matsuyama—apparently the only kind of joke you can make about Hideki Matsuyama, according to Bill Simmons!—on live television at the exact peak of Matsuyama’s golf career, with the whole world watching. Cancel culture has taken this away, and that is very disappointing.
A few minutes prior, Simmons reminisced proudly about having discussed with some pals which golf announcer would be the first to refer to runner-up Will Zalatoris as “Clitoris,” a word that does not even sound much like “Zalatoris” at all, and suggested that a good nickname for Zalatoris might be “The Z-Spot,” which would be a play on the term “the G-spot,” which is a whole different part of the human anatomy from the clitoris. The guy’s just a real funny guy! A real cut-up. Clark responded with a very terse “Sure.”