Thursday, March 24, 2011

Duffer's Lament

I heard a radio commercial this weekend for The Masters, golf’s annual showcase event.  Underneath the hushed voice of the announcer, you can hear the tickle of the ivories playing a soothing, classical melody.  “The rich tradition (translation: discriminatory history) of Augusta National.”  And the azaleas…ah the azaleas.

While listening to the promotional message, I couldn’t help thinking that this was atypical of most sporting event commercials.  Where were the adjectives and adverbs of violence and impact, the background roar of the crowd, the anticipation of a high stakes showdown between hated rivals?  What about ticket availability?  Instead, it had all the drama of a Shakespeare in the Park summer festival announcement.  I don’t know why this surprised me.  I have always questioned golf’s standing as a sport anyway.

Golf fans, prepare to be offended:   

Reasons Golf is Not a Sport

1.         You can only touch the ball once it stops moving.

The artistry of sports is that the players are trying to interact while other players move AND the ball moves.  In golf, you walk up to the ball, look at the ball, sometimes pick it up and blow on the ball, then stare at the ball some more.  Yes, it can be tough to hit, but let’s face it.  It’s a stationary object.  Try hitting a round ball at 90 mph with a round bat squarely.  Now we’re talking sports.

2.         How you dress is equally as important as how you play.

Fashion conscious players may bring in valuable merchandising dollars for the PGA and USGA, but when the drape of the man’s gabardine becomes a storyline, your in the world of modeling, not sports.

3.         Its’ signature event each year is defined by a flowering bush.

The azaleas, I will grant you, are very picturesque.  They could easily grace the cover of Home and Garden or become the subject of a complex 750 piece jigsaw puzzle.  A real sporting event is defined by the point during which beer sales are cut off – end of the 7th inning?  Start of the 4th quarter?  3rd set?  Flowers are nice, but I’d like to see golfers play the ball off a wall of ivy before I respect them.

4.         The crowd never does the wave.

In fact, there is no face painting either, now that I think about it.  What kind of legitimate sport encourages the ‘shushing’ of fanes at its major championship?  Some of my earliest memories are of my dad watching golf on Sunday afternoons – so that he could fall asleep in his Lazy Boy 1.0 (before the side lever and the built in cup holder innovations).  If it is used to induce sleep, I am pretty sure it’s not a sport – it’s a sedative.

5.         You win by scoring the lowest.

This is America.  More is always better.  Higher scores should equal victory.  In golf, a higher score equals less money and an early trip home for the weekend.  This reminds me of that middle school game of you can hit you the softest.  You go first.

6.         “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey” is never played on the 18th green.

Yes, Tiger Woods has added a level of pre-match trashing talking to the competition that had not previously existed.  Face to face taunting, however, is still noticeably absent.  You should be allowed to get inside your opponent’s head with some well crafted profane insults during a game.
7.         You can smoke while playing.

Baseball player have smoked in the clubhouse in between innings, and some NBA players are probably stoned during summer league games.  You won’t catch Ryan Zimmerman puffing away at third base in between pitches though, or Blake Griffin doing bong hits at half court.  I think it is a simple line to be drawn.  As soon as John Daly starts hitting his Marlboro red pack during a stroll down the 16th fairway, we have left the concept of ‘sport’ behind.  It’s leisure time, even though he’s sweating profusely.

8.         It is cheaper to go to watch a round of golf than to play one.

18 holes with a cart could run anywhere from $80 to $150 per – on a cheap course.  Pebble Beach runs about $500 a round.  A pick-up basketball game is free on a public blacktop.  Soccer requires a ball and some grass.  Football requires a ball and pants that you don’t mind getting dirty.  My point is that real sports should be accessible.  Golf has priced itself out of the accessible market.

9.         Someone else carries your equipment during the competition.

Shouldn’t part of the physical challenge be doing all that walking while lugging your own 50 pound bag of clubs and accessories?  Better yet add a clock and give points for finishing fastest.  At least then you are closer to being a real sport.  Tell me that tuning in to see Vijay Singh running with a full bag on the back nine one Sunday isn’t must watch TV.

10.       You can’t play it in a domed stadium.

I think that’s self-explanatory. 

Golf is a competition, like darts or bowling or poker.  Golf is lots of fun, and it requires hand eye coordination and endurance.  No argument there.  But a sport?  You’re reaching.  I will go out on a limb and call it an activity.

Next up: Why making a series of left hand turns at high speed for 4 hours is not a sport either.

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