Sunday, 25 August 2013

Professional Golfers Are Not Entertainers

The ugly face of golf
For golfers to be entertainers presumes that professional golf as we know it would not exist were it not for television coverage. That notion is wrong. Professional golf exists at many levels that are not televised (local PGA, mini-tours, developmental tours, etc.) Many PGA Tour events were once held untelevised.

Without television and the ad revenue it produces it may be true that professional golfers would not be playing for the same amount of money they play for now. But make no mistake about it, professional golf can exist without television. Television, although it can exist without golf, cannot exist without programming. And golf is programming.
We have all witnessed the powerful effect of television when it comes to new-reporting and politics. TV is full of “pseudo-events”, i.e., events that occur only to be reported. If it weren't for their need to act as programming to be “reported” these “pseudo-events” wouldn't occur. That is not the case with professional golf.

Without TV the US Open, the Masters, the PGA and British Open would all continue as major championships. Much of the history of these events pre-dates TV. TV doesn't add to the events themselves it only adds to the coverage of the event. Players aren't to “act” on TV as professional golfers. They ARE professional golfers and these are professional golf events. All TV does is allow a wider audience to spectate.

TV has become the 9 foot gorilla in today’s world. The press for constant programming has caused news to be transformed into “entertainment”. New stories, instead of presenting facts are “scripted” for the “entertainment” value (“if it bleeds, it leads”). The worst of human frailties, foibles and morals are constantly portrayed. What gets portrayed most often usually becomes “accepted” after a while and “accepted” leads to “normal”. Thus the morality of a culture is changed, coarsened and degraded all because the pervasive medium of television needs its 24-hour programming.

Let’s not let professional golf ever become entertainment. If we do it will go the way of professional wrestling. All that is done is done for “the show”. If this mindset prevails and golf becomes entertainment what’s next? Fan participation?

TV and live-event golf fans already have to endure the constant verbal barrage of idiots who think it is their right to shout “get in the hole!” one nano-second after the pro makes contact with the ball. Soon we will have fans purposefully interfering with the flight or travel of the ball. We already have fans thinking they are “participating” in the Ryder Cup by verbally abusing players and taking them out of their games (re: Colin Montgomery at the ’99 Ryder Cup).

Let’s do all we can to preserve our game, this great game of golf with the distinctives that set it apart from today’s “entertainment sports”. Self-policing of rules infractions, gentlemanliness and sportsmanship all contribute to make golf unique among sports. Let’s be sure, in our “rush” to provide TV with its insatiable need for “exciting programming” that we don’t lose everything that once made golf different. And better.

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