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Monday, November 07, 2005

What pro golf and Terrell Owens have in common

It's amusing watching ESPN, the holy church of the professional athelete, finally burn one of their own at the stake for heresy. "The Owenstein Monster " started eating his own teammates. Of course, Dr. Frankenstein had to destroy his own monster too.

The lesson to be learned (or not) is next time you (television sports media) are disgusted by the actions of pro atheletes who cross the line (or cross the loin in the case of the Minnesota Vikings)...

Don't feed the beast.

What kind of message does it send to already infernally educated, inarticulate, behaviorally underdeveloped or even hostile, spoiled multi-millionaires whose only "talent" is stupid human tricks with a ball when you let Michael Irvin or Jim Grey and other no-journalistic-talent posers and apologizers offer a 24/7/365 arena to "strut their stuff and bring their bling?" (that's a direct quote from Irvin, ESPN's anointed "Playmaker" and the Dallas City Police's rap-sheet recorded "Pleamaker.")

Of course...the message is "act like a chump all you like! The louder and more outrageous the better! We will protect you at all costs."

Ask Keyshawn Johnson or Terrell "where are they now?" Their stock was in sharp decline and Me-Shawn is now "Me-shawn when Coack Parcells says so..."

Of course ESPN's tune changes when the same atheletes start sexually propositioning young prudent tour boat employees or going into the stands to make oatmeal of a paying patron's face because of some MANUFACTURED claim of "disrispec, yo." Then, whoopsie, we better condemn it...except you, Screamin A. Smith...I mean Stephen A. Hole...I mean Stephen A. Smith, you defend them...we don't want the players to get mad. You too Irvin and Grey. Go interview Ron Artest the Victim.

After all, we might not get to roll to the club next week in the tricked out Escalade. Worse...we might have to offer them TWO "Sunday Conversation" spots in order to get one "Budweiser Hot Seat" out of them.

Now the same forces that brought us a cadre of obnoxious anti-social, preening, eat-their-own wide receivers, rap/thug mogul NBA "ballers" other assorted socially worthless in-your-face chumps have turned their attention to golf with the complete goal of making it as lowest common denominator as possible...right down to encouraging a manufactured slow-motion bumper car race of a money grab right while football is starting to really gain momentum.

...and Tim Finchem agrees. Mind you, these are the same TV nimrods who tell us to love the crazies lining the 16th at Scottsdale each spring to get drunk and heckle. Tink the pros like that? "That's not a golf tournament" says former U.S. Open Champ Jim Furyk.

Some members of some excellent private country clubs or good public golf courses often ask me what can be done to improve their rankings with major magazines. Sometimes the answer is simple...

Nothing. You have a great product (course). You have optimized your upward mobility. The only courses above you are, for all intents and purposes, untouchable. "Famous Country Club X" may be ranked in the top 25...but lets face it...Cypress, Augusta and Pinehurst are just better and are not going to drop beneath you. You will spend money needlessly that can be better used elsewhere.

Well, Tim Finchem, the same is true of golf when compared to Lord Football. No matter how many eagles Tiger makes at the TPC at Little Chicago's Merrill Lynch Shootout presented by Viagra, it is not as exciting to as many people as the Pittsburgh Steelers scoring 14 points in 47 seconds to beat the Dallas Cowboys by one at the gun.

Vijay chipping to one foot from the fringe to edge Phil is not going to lure people away from Tedy Bruschi sacking Peyton Manning and Willie McGinest scooping up the fumble and rumbling 75 yards for a score.

And let's face it...even Tiger heading right for Jack's major record is not generating the cross-demographic appeal of baseball or football.

Ron Sirak is dead wrong about one point in his article here. No...the Tour Championship is NOT more compelling than pro football. Always remember, Sirak works for ESPN. He is paid to try to run that by you. Don't feed the beast.

Like hockey, golf has a rabid, loyal, but limited fan base. Listening to the TV executives...who 1) only like things they have seen before; 2) seemingly roll dice to determine scheduling (read: More reality shows); 3) constantly underestimate middle America will dilute the importance of the rest of the season and fail to make a dent in footbal's fall dominence.

Regarding hockey's similar attempt to foist a watered down version of the game (a skills shootout) for settling ties, the New York Post's Phil Mushnick writes that it was like watching "an NBA game after one OT determined by a slam dunk contest or a baseball game, after 10 innings decided by a home run derby. We're told this is what the fans want. But we're not sure that's true."

No, Phil...it's what the TV suits want. Nice clean time lines for scheduling in extra reality shows or "entertainment tonight." And it's instant gratification for a "fast paced, get what we want when we want it on demand world."

Less real golf, more silly golf. Brought to you by the same guys who put Chris Berman in the tower at Pinehurst during the U.S. Open so he could say "David Major Toms" every single time TV cut to the guy. Too bad 80% of your audience is too old or too refined to get the joke.

You know, Tim you could follow Augusta National's template. You call the shots to TV. Less flash, better product. Hell, tthe Masters got along just fine WITHOUT two years' TV revenue!

Rather than changing the schedule of the major championships (HEAVEN FORBID!!!) or worse, adding Sawgrass as a fifth major (BLASPHEMY!!!), we now have a golf version of a bad "made for TV movie." Something else that, like the "Tour Championship," is only mildly interesting to only the most hardcore fans.

Why not take the silly season and do something Jack Nicklaus suggested twenty years ago...have the players form teams and play each other? Or better yet, have the NCAA championship in the fall instead of the spring, and dominate the landscape as golf's version of the final four? Maybe we need more international events instead of meaningless "World Golf Championships" (which are "actually four more majors" according to the Accenture marketing division and various TV shills) and silly skins games. No...make up your own mind about what makes up good golf television, good golf tournament setups and good tournament courses.

Don't just believe the beast.

Maybe the fall malaise is caused by too much meaningless stroke play as well as being up against the sports world juggernaut. Hasn't anyone noticed how every other sport has at least a four to five month off season, but stroke-play golf never ends?

Well, like most fans, until I see something truly original, wake me up in January for a glimpse of Kapalua and Wailea...

...then I'll sleep again till Sawgrass, when real sports sparks start to fly again. Not TV induced hysteria...both on and off the field of play.