Sports

Jim Nantz Doesn’t Own the Rights to His Most Famous Phrase

Some catchphrases are so closely associated with certain announcers that no one else can use them. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” was so perfect when Al Michaels excitedly spoke those words at Lake Placid in 1980 that no one else dares use them for a lesser accomplishment than a bunch of college kids beating the greatest international hockey dynasty ever.

Along the same lines, other basketball play-by-play announcers trot out “Yes, and it counts,” but it’s to their detriment since just about anybody over the age of 40 only hears Marv Albert’s voice when the words are spoken. Jim Nantz knows that feeling, too.

How a Masters tradition came to be

Jim Nantz has had a variety of roles in network broadcasting in his career, but he’s most closely identified with his duties as the host for television coverage of The Masters golf tournament each April.

Nantz first described the tournament at Augusta as “a tradition unlike any other” in 1986 while preparing network promos with CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian, and the phrase became a regular part of the broadcasts in 1989.

Although the phrase is so closely associated with Nantz, the veteran announcer has in the past credited Doug Towey, a CBS creative director at the time of his death in 2009, for lending an assist. It shouldn’t surprise that Towey might have had a hand in crafting such a memorable phrase since network officials also credit him with a major role in “One Shining Moment,” which became the signature celebration of the NCAA Tournament in basketball.

Oddly enough, Jim Nantz doesn’t own his trademark phrase

Augusta National Golf Club conducts The Masters and has maintained strict control over all aspects of the tournament, including placing tight controls on the sale of tickets and keeping ownership rights to the broadcast.

The club has applied for trademarks on a variety of products and images over the years and in 2014 took the step of applying for two trademarks for “A tradition unlike any other.” The filing cited Augusta’s belief that Jim Nantz was the sole creator of the expression and asserted the club’s rights to its use since it owns the broadcast’s words and images.

Nantz’s lawyer said at the time that the announcer was unaware of the trademark application being filed but that he did not object because he agreed that Augusta National owns what is said and shown on the broadcasts.

The trademarks give Augusta protection against unauthorized use on merchandise that could be otherwise mistaken as being associated with The Masters, and the strategy is not uncommon.

Boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer acquired trademark rights for his signature line “Let’s get ready to rumble,” and has profited handsomely from merchandise licensing.

Los Angeles Lakers player Byron Scott is believed to have come up with the phrase “three-peat” after beating the Detroit Pistons for the 1988 NBA championship, but coach Pat Riley had the presence of mind to apply for the trademark.

Other Masters traditions and trademarks

The Masters is a multi-million-dollar enterprise, so Augusta National has taken steps over the years to protect its rights with numerous trademarks, including the name of the club and tournament as well as Amen Corner and Berckmans Place, the high-end VIP area.

More recently, the club has trademarked “Green Jacket” as well as the image of the jacket traditionally presented to the winner of the tournament early on Sunday evening.