May 4, 2009

Has SI's Alan Shipnuck Seen The Future Of Golf?

In this week's PGA Tour Confidential, Sports Illustrated senior writer Alan Shipnuck said this:
"Golf's appeal to many fans, including me, is that it is not loud and crass like most pro sports. It's OK to counter-program [television sports.] Otherwise, are we going to wind up with cheerleaders behind the 18th green in slinky outfits (by Ashworth, of course)?"
It's possible, I suppose, as a new TV contract is on the horizon, and is coming at a time when America is in a recession, companies are dropping out of agreements to sponsor tournaments and the game of golf itself is suffering as people have less disposable income to spend of playing golf or watching the PGA live and in person at its events. The PGA is working to generate more excitement, and if other sports can feature slinky ladies to get guys to gawk cheer, it wouldn't surprise me if the PGA figured out a way to sex up its TV coverage.

After all, my local NHL franchise was the first team in that tradition bound sport to have cheerleaders at its games, and the young ladies proved to be so popular that pretty much the rest of the league copied them the next year. And live, in the arena, lots and lots of male eyes are drawn their way. That makes Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Storm Squad's (pictured, above) current sponsor quite happy, I suppose, since they get tens of thousands of "impressions" a night for their trouble.

We already live in a world where "Get in the hole!" is shouted out by at least one fan on every shot -- and taking the idea of a subdued, staid gallery with it. Real Women Golf already covered that with aplomb, when Heather said
"While I savored every moment of the Masters last weekend, my golfing euphoria was often rudely interrupted when some idiot would scream, "Get in the hole!" after one of my favorite players hit his tee shot. I find this especially irritating on a par-5 at the Masters for two reasons. First, not even Mr. Woods can reach a par-5 at Augusta in one. Second, the Masters crowd is supposed to be the most civilized and well behaved in all of golf, yet some golf lovers continue to scream this beaten-down phrase.

"I discussed the subject on Twitter on Sunday with some golf fans. I suggested that anyone who yells, "Get in the hole!" on a tee shot of a par-5 should immediately be escorted off the premises."
Amen. And since the PGA Tour lets these guys (and they are always guys, have you noticed?) have their fun, I suppose that the next thing we might see are cheerleaders. The easiest way to make a product sexy these days is to sex it up, and it wouldn't shock me in the least if it happened.

Old Fuddy Duddy Alert: Where I Pooh-Pooh The Very Idea Of It

I'm sure that Mr. Shipnuck would say that he was kidding, if asked if he was serious. Then again, I can almost see some brash young marketing director pitching the idea somewhere as if it is a good one. It isn't, but bad marketing ideas are implemented by desperate organizations every day. Attractive golfers, no problem. If they want to emphasize their physiques, a la Villegas or Gulbis, no problem so long as it is done tastefully. But a squad of young lovelies to hype up a crowd on the golf course? Bad idea -- even at the FBR Championship.

Thing is, at some point you start to lose the core values of your product and it becomes something else again, and that new something is rarely if ever better than the original. Golf is a sport that is different than hockey, hoops or football, meaning that cheerleaders aren't necessary, that cheering is done positively and that shouting out at the top of your lungs is ostensibly discouraged. Doing these things in other sports is great and I don't mind seeing a pretty cheerleader any more than most any red-blooded fellow. But that doesn't mean it belongs in the world of golf. For each thing a season and for each thing a time and a place. May those two never meet.

1 comment:

  1. It's a very tough subject. Golf runs the risk of relying so heavily on Tiger that they just lose viewers hand over fist once he retires or his skills begin to flag.

    In a word - Balance.

    Mic caddies...mic 'em the heck up. It's entertaining as heck and adds a real-time reality TV aspect to the game.

    Once in a while work ina 16th at Scottsdale and a 17th at TPC into the mix.

    Beyond that...who knows there are a million great ideas. Good thoughtful post though.

    The worst thing would be to have the pendulum swing too far one way or the other.

    Cheerleaders...probably go too far in one direction :). Too bad (did I just say that out loud?).


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