You Know, We Don’t Really NEED Athletes To Say ANYTHING

A lot of people are wondering what sports are going to look like as we come out of this COVID-19 epidemic, and just generally in the years/decades to come.

The Match II was a popular thing that happened recently. If you don’t know what that is, it was this round of golf played by Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson; their partners, respectively, were Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They apparently raised a lot of money for … people who were affected by the virus, I guess. Obviously, with social distancing and all that, it was a golf match with no fans, no caddies, and a limited number of crew people around to broadcast the whole thing. To compensate for this, all four players were mic’d up and wearing earpieces, so they could chat with the announcers and any other celebs who called in and wanted to chat. It was very charming and a fun way to spend an otherwise sportsless afternoon.

I was listening to the Brock & Salk podcast after The Match II, and they interviewed one of the announcers, who talked about the experience, and it was his opinion that this could be a wave of the future, not just for golf but for all major sports. The XFL dabbled in a lot of live, on-field interviews where their sideline reporters had to run around and find players who just did something exciting to ask them about it in real-time (as opposed to after the game, which is what would happen under normal circumstances). I’ve probably talked about that before, but really, WHO IS THIS FOR?! I would argue, only people IN the media enjoy this shit.

Do you know why The Match II was such a rousing success, with respect to the live interactions between media & athletes? Because you had four of the biggest, most famous, most articulate athletes in modern sports history. Tiger and Phil and Peyton and Tom? OF COURSE they’re going to be engaging and interesting to interact with!

Do you know what the VAST MAJORITY of athletes sound like on a regular basis? Dumb as rocks. Boring as dirt. Bland cliche machines who have been programmed over their entire lives in how to “game” the media. Saying something while never really saying anything. It is, by and large, BRUTAL to listen to an athlete being interviewed, whether it’s in the moment or after they’ve had hours and hours to craft a pre-packaged response.

I mean, as you can see from Drew Brees’ recent comments – before he walked them back, of course – you can give an athlete YEARS to come up with an opinion, and he’ll still sound like he has no idea what he’s talking about!

The wave of the future, I’m sad to say, is headed in the direction of more media interactions with players, and it’s going to be to all of our detriment. I dunno, unless I’m just an old man now; that’s possible too. Maybe to keep the younger generations engaged in sports, you need to offer this horseshit to continue to grow and prosper your sport. I would guess that’s probably closer to reality, since there’s so much money involved in this enterprise, it’s not like they haven’t done TONS of market research on the topic.

The thing I can’t tell is: who’s pushing for this? Is it the leagues? Do they like it when their players put their feet in their own mouths? Is any publicity good publicity, as they say? Or, are the players pushing for this, in an attempt to grow their individual brands and introduce new market streams during and after their athletic careers? I’m sure both could be true, I suppose. But, I just keep coming back to the sports media complex trying to create a market for something where there’s really no demand for it!

Athletes saying dumb shit can generate countless clicks and views and scoops and editorials for days on end! You’ve got the dumb shit they say, you’ve got the immediate backlash, you’ve got follow-up stories from other sports people commenting on it, you’ve got talking heads voicing their VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, you’ve got sports radio hosts being handed hours upon hours of content to regurgitate. Then, you’ve got the same athlete apologizing for the dumb shit they said, the immediate backlash to that, the continued follow-up stories, the ever-growing VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, and another full day’s worth of sports radio fodder … until some other athlete says something else dumb and the Baby Huey that is our collective sports media consciousness proceeds to waddle over to the next outrage where he plops his ass down to obsess over the next round of nonsense.

You don’t get ANY of that without constant media/athlete interactions. And, sure, you have to wade through an endless stream of cliches and rote, banal responses. But, once you unearth that little nugget of gold, you’re on easy street for at least another week.

Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. This isn’t a “Stick To Sports” rant. This is a “Stick To What You’re Good At” rant.

When LeBron James or Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett or Gregg Popovich or any number of intelligent, thoughtful people give an opinion on an issue of the day, I’m more than happy to listen. Or, even if it’s just X’s & O’s talk! Deshaun Watson gives some of the best postgame interviews about certain critical plays that happened during his games! Even Bill Belichick, when he wants to be, can be engaging and insightful on a bevy of different topics.

But, I would argue these people are the exceptions, and you REALLY have to suffer through a lot of mindlessness in the meantime. Not EVERYONE needs to make their voices heard. Sometimes, it’s okay just to shut the fuck up and let the adults have a fucking conversation. If you’ve got nothing interesting or worthwhile to say, then maybe just do us all a favor and keep quiet. You’ll save us a lot of wasted time, and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of agony by not having to scramble to make up for some faux pas that got out in some interview you didn’t prepare for and didn’t think would come to light to a worldwide audience.

Again, I’m mostly talking to Drew Brees here, but this goes for a lot of you!

My Review of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay

Just so we’re clear:  I’m not a golf fan.  So, don’t expect this to be riddled with insight on the game.  Before this tournament, if you asked me to name all the golfers I could name, I’d be able to come up with the usual suspects pretty easy – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els – and if you gave me a list of the full field, I’d probably be able to recall another few handfuls of names.  But, I couldn’t tell you where anyone ranks, what their strengths or weaknesses are, or how many tournaments they’ve won.  At best, I’m not even a casual viewer of golf.  Whenever I watch golf, it’s because I’m too hungover to even use a remote control and I just want background noise so I can take a nap.  And, considering I’m a semi-pro in the art of Weekend Warrioring, those types of all-encompassing hangovers don’t happen too often.

I’m writing about golf today because the U.S. Open just took place at Chambers Bay, which is sort of in my backyard.  I live in Seattle, but I grew up in Tacoma, and I still go down there frequently to hang out with my family and friends who live there.  Chambers Bay is about 6 miles from my dad’s house, so it’s pretty cool to think that the elite of the elite golfers in the world were all congregated RIGHT THERE, so close to my childhood home, for the better part of a week.

To backtrack a bit, my disdain for golf doesn’t stop at the boredom induced by watching it on TV.  I also hate the physical act of going out there, schlepping a bag of clubs around, and whacking a little white ball to and fro.  I don’t hate it the way most golfers hate it, but still go out there every week for whatever God-foresaken reason; I hate it in the way that a true American patriot hates golf!  I tried it out a few times, tagging along with my dad to the driving range and a few courses, I sucked DIIIIIIIICK at it about as hard as anyone can suck at anything that you’d think would be relatively simple, and I formally gave it up forever.  Because, as I said before, I suck at it.  And because it’s a stupid game for stupid-heads.

The last time I golfed was for a friend’s bachelor party.  I got sloshed on homemade Jack & Cokes, spent most of the time driving the golf cart like a maniac trying to Tokyo Drift, and even spent one hole trying to see how many “strokes” it would take to throw a golf ball on a Par 4.  I’m more of the Calvinball school of golfing.

I also readily admit that I MUCH prefer watching tennis to golf.  So, yeah, that’s me.

But, when the U.S. Open comes to town, it’s not something as a sports fan I could just ignore.  That’s a BIG deal!  The Pacific Northwest has never hosted a major golf tournament for the PGA!  And now it’s here, just south of Tacoma.

I ended up watching about 2-3 hours of it on Thursday, none of it on Friday or Saturday, and then almost all of it on Sunday.  Here’s what I gleaned as the major storylines:

  • Tiger Woods sucked HARD and missed the cut
  • Jason Day has vertigo and struggled with that for the duration, yet was tied for the lead going into the final day
  • Rory McIlroy made a hard charge on the last day to try to catch up to the leaders, but ultimately fell short
  • Jordan Spieth won his second consecutive Major, putting him on pace to win the single-year Grand Slam
  • Dustin Johnson blew it BIG TIME
  • And, just about everyone has a negative opinion of the course

I’ll say this about Chambers Bay:  it has potential to be one of the most beautiful and amazing golf courses in the country.  The view of the water, the train, the single tree, all the hills and bunkers, the length of the course:  it’s all great!  But, I’m sorry, that grass is a fucking disaster!

As I said up top, I don’t know anything about golf.  I’m sure the fescue is just like what they have in British links courses (whatever that string of words means), but I don’t care.  What I do know is what’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and a bunch of dead looking grass surrounded by taller, deader looking grass is not what I expect to look at when I’m watching ANY golf tournament, let alone a Major.  And those greens?  I have no opinion whatsoever on how they played – though, by most accounts, they were pretty crappy (including that one time where the dude putted and the ball literally bounced up in the air for no reason other than the fact that the green was bumpy as shit) – but the greens LOOKED terrible.  All discolored and splotchy, it was like the greens had fucking lupus!

Photo by Erick Smith ...

Photo by Erick Smith …

Again, maybe that type of grass is supposed to look like that.  Maybe it’s authentic as fuck and golf purists get huge boners over it.  But, to the average fan just watching because it’s a Major, or because they live in the area, it’s grotesque.  Fool us!  Bring in the type of grass that stays green all the time!  Make it look nice!  Don’t embarrass the region all in the name of authenticity.

And, speaking of embarrassing sycophants, the local media should take a long look at themselves for their rampant homerism this week.  Don’t defend that grass!  It’s horrific!  It’s okay to make fun of crybaby golfers like Billy Horschel for acting like a loon out there on the course, but don’t pretend like these guys don’t have a point.  Everyone sees it – everyone with the ability of sight anyway – and everyone thinks it’s ugly as sin.  The ol’ “face only a mother could love” in full effect.  So, don’t pretend you think it’s aesthetically pleasing when it’s so clearly not.

Of course, that being said, it sure made for some interesting game play.  The quality of the greens and the course itself, I’m sure, got into more than a few golfers’ heads.  Watching the cream of the crop rise to the challenge and finish with amazing final rounds was really something to behold and appreciate.  Hell, the fact that Jason Day was even able to finish the four rounds at all deserves a round of applause!

I haven’t seen many tournaments, but I can’t imagine a more exciting finish.  Spieth (with a 2-stroke lead) double-bogeyed the Par 3 17 to fall to a tie for first with Louis Oosthuizen (who’d already wrapped up his round and was in the clubhouse) and Dustin Johnson (who would go on to birdie 17 as he was a hole behind Spieth).  Then, Spieth turned it right around to birdie the Par 5 18 to take a 1-stroke lead (missing a reasonable – though by no means easy – eagle attempt).  THEN, Johnson had an even easier eagle attempt on 18 (though, to be fair, at a slight decline, and of course on the crap-quality greens) to win it outright.  He missed that, then missed the birdie attempt to force an 18-hole playoff, and ended up in a tie for second.  Absolutely electrifying intensity all the way around.

All in all, despite the looks of the grass and the near-constant complaining by golfers and non-FOX pundits alike, I thought it was a great success.  The course itself is different, that’s for sure, and I think it’s something to take pride in.  That having been said, if Chambers Bay ever wants to grab its very own annual tournament (of the non-Major variety), they better compromise on that grass and get something a little more green and professional looking.  Because, there’s one thing even the homerest of homers can’t deny:  if this wasn’t the U.S. Open – if this was just the Taco Del Mar Invitational or whatever – I can guarantee most of the bigtime golfers would’ve skipped it altogether.  They would’ve heeded the advice of advanced scouts, reporters, whathaveyou, and they would’ve said, “No Thanks” to Chambers Bay.

I mean, let’s face it, you’re already talking about a huge challenge just to get people to want to fly all the way up here in the first place.  It’s Washington State!  Unless you’re a golfer who lives on the west coast, you don’t want any part of a cross-country flight to SeaTac.  Then, it’s a buttfuck of a drive from SeaTac to Chambers Bay or anywhere else that’s cool and exciting.  On a good day, it’s taking you about 45 minutes to get there from the airport, and when are there ever any good traffic days in Western Washington?  Then, you want to pile those puke greens on top of it?  I guarantee none of the good golfers would show up and we’d be stuck with the likes of Numbnuts McGee.

Then again, if it means a tournament without Sergio Garcia, could it be THAT bad?

Finally, I’ll end on this:  did the U.S. Open change my views on golf?  I’ll admit, I’m a little more open to it now.  You still sure as shit won’t catch me playing it anytime soon, but I could see myself partaking of more weekend tournaments on the TV.

Especially since my brother and I crafted the perfect drinking game!

  • 1 drink for every birdie
  • 2 drinks for every eagle
  • 1 drink for every bogey
  • 2 drinks for every bogey (and keep increasing drinks for every shot a player hits over par)
  • 1 drink for every time someone says the name of the grass (which would’ve had everyone blacking out for all the times they said “fescue”)
  • Start a “waterfall” (see King’s Cup for the definition of a waterfall) whenever someone in the crowd yells, “Get in the hole!”  You can’t stop drinking until the ball stops rolling.  And, if it’s said on a drive or any shot outside the green – and that shot ends up going in the hole – you have to finish your drink

We’re thinking about doing this next Saturday.  I hope they have golf next Saturday …