Back To The Future

Back early in 2018, when Justin Thomas holed out on the 72nd hole in Mexico to get into a playoff, I remember tweeting something along the lines of “If Tiger had of done that, we would all be getting the tissues out.” Of course, tissues referring to masturbation. 2018 has been a fascinating year for me, I’ve won two golf tournaments, I’ve experienced a number of different health events from ending up in hospital to doing my back in, and I’m now followed on Twitter by Ann Summers. One thought I’ve had this year though has kept on popping up; Sports stars of the early 2000’s, continue to wield enormous power.

There’s an emptiness in today’s generation of achievements, of which mine are meagre. Modern standards however are fighting for exposure and excitement in a world where consumers have embedded within them memories of a recent past. I think in golf this year, certain accomplishments have warranted more of a viral dance, but we’re not dancing. We’re stumbling up the hill of consumption while exhausted. And bored. Until Tiger comes along, then BANG, a shot of adrenaline, like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Tiger being the doctor, Sherlock being the consumer. While the efficacy of modern medicine is gradually wearing thin, certain sports stars of the early 21st Century still contain within them the antidote to numbness.

Golf isn’t unique in this. Bizarrely, something I never imagined would happen, did happen in 2018, whereby I drew comparisons (in my own head) between golf and WWE Wrestling. WWE has a similar problem to golf in that its pull seems to lie in showcasing the stars of yesteryear. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, these legends, continue to perform to salivating crowds much in the same way Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson do. I say ‘problem’ not because this isn’t good, or exciting, but because fairly soon, golf and WWE are going to have to stand on its own two feet without these stars being part of it. And that’s going to be challenging, for a number of reasons.

PewDiePie (YouTuber) has 75 million subscribers. His audience is dominated by 16-24 year olds. More and more it seems, young adults are becoming addicted to sites such as YouTube, and this is a wildly different form of consumption to what we’ve been used to. Finding a way of converting these people from YouTube to sports coverage isn’t something I have the faintest clue in how to do, but I’m not under the impression it can, or will happen naturally. If the future therefore isn’t subscription services through television, golf among other sports, will have to find a way of exploring this, without losing the revenue it currently receives through television rights. Competing in a world where gaming and cosmetic tutorials rule the roost might be tough.

In 2019, the European Tour will have a Legends Category. Within this category are roughly 12 players who are, as defined by the tournament committee’s parameters, ‘Legends.’ Within this group are players such as Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam, just to name a few. It goes without saying, they are legendary, and I have as much respect for their careers as anyone. However, for these guys to be eligible to gain entry into events like the BMW PGA at Wentworth ahead of guys who finished 30th on the R2D in 2018 (without winning), seems to me to be somewhat odd. This type of category exposes the very nature of what I talked about above (eluding specifically to WWE), in that we will seemingly do anything and everything to make it so that stars of the past can continue to be paraded in an attempt to bring in viewers. This may prove to be valuable and indeed effective, but for how long, and at what cost? When we undercut skill in this way, I believe we risk validating the idea of entitlement above the virtue of competence.

It would therefore seem that golf currently sits in the void between young people who consume via the internet on sites such as YouTube, and the elderly population who continue to enjoy television, even in spite of the burgeoning costs, that seem to want to be reminded of the excitement they felt around the turn of the century when television took off, and sportsmen became stars.

I don’t even think this problem is exclusive to golf and WWE. Tennis is likely experiencing a similar problem. Tennis is a nice example for me to use because I myself cannot imagine a time in the future where I could stop drooling nostalgically over Roger Federer. Maybe, the elderly amongst us would say they feel the same way about Andre Agassi, but it’s not clear to me that we’ve at all transitioned over to the modern generation of sports stars yet. Some might say that’s because they are ‘boring’ or ‘advised,’ therefore not themselves. It might be that we are all bored of television and consumption in this format.

Finally, if sport can find a way of recapturing people’s interest and vigour, then maybe politics will return to the quieter niches of coverage, where some might say it belongs. The politicalisation of sports is maybe just an attempt to regain this share of the pie. The world would be a much better place however, if politics took on more of what sport is about.

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14 Responses to Back To The Future

  1. Daniel Love says:

    Very well written and thoughtful Ed. Happy New Year and Hail Hail 🍀

  2. Nibs Webber says:

    Philosophical and poignant Eddie. It was said “That non seeath further than John Mason” back in the 16th century. Have you taken over the mantle?
    Just given up at JMS happy daze!!

  3. Andy MacArthur says:

    Careful Eddie, you may well become a legend yourself in 50 or so years time!
    As you well know, this is nothing to do with fairness (who plays at Wentworth etc.) it’s all about revenues and what TV demands.

  4. Hugh Smith says:

    An excellent piece of original thinking, although I am intrigued to find out how your knowledge of cosmetic tutorials came about😂😂

  5. Andy Collins says:

    You nailed it with the comment about players not feeling like they can be themselves. I firmly believe it’s the characters that make sports interesting but with the scrutiny you guys are all under now, very few of you feel that you can just be natural and do/say what you really want to. I listen to a hockey podcast called Spittin Chicklets with a couple of ex NHL guys and they’ve all but stopped getting current players on the pod for this exact reason. They almost exclusively interview retired guys because they can tell the stories that the current guys won’t and as a result, there’s no interest in listening to the current stars which is ridiculous! Understandable from a content perspective but ridiculous none the less.

  6. Ingrid Stam says:

    Spot on Eddie👍🏼👌🏼, it will be very hard to keep the young people interested with so many other things they like ( you tubers) and everything has to be fast and exiting but with so many good players of which anyone can win, no one stands out and therefor not much excitement in their opion.
    Not for me mind you haha, I like it more with close leaderboards and not just one hero like Tiger winning everything, but I’m not a young one 😂😊
    Maybe making the tournaments over three days would make it more interesting ? it would for sure deal with the exhausting feeling you all must have.
    Have a great 2019 and hoping to see a tweet with your schedule for it.

  7. divot watcher says:

    Oxford dictionary definitions
    Legend – a very famous person
    Legend – a story of ancient times that may or not be true
    Legend – a much overused description of things that are not legendary ( my own)

    With all due respect to all involved this category shouldn’t exist. If the tour wants to shoehorn legends into certain events there is already a category for this – the tournament invitation.

    Only those close to the tour will know how they ‘dreamt up’ this category. I imagine the narrative will be that the legendary CEO watched some TED talk that inspired him, or that they held a poll and the overriding consensus was 16-24 year olds want to watch Thomas Bjorn et al waddle their fat asses around the golf course berating tournament staff and the odd caddie.

    Fair play Ed for having the balls to broach this subject. It is understandable though that you have had to show some restraint on your opinion as I get the sense that you cant see any in this?

    If this category could some how give people the chance to see an actual legend like Seve or Old Tom Morris play the game then Pelly and your committee would deserve a firm pat on the back – instead this legend is just a tale of ancient thinking that turns out to be true.

    Happy New Year Ted

  8. Graham says:

    Best wishes for 2019. Hope you have a successful season.

  9. Adam Barnes says:

    Insightful and entertaining as always Eddie, thanks for 2018, looking forward to your blogs in 2019. HNY etc.

  10. terry scaysbrook says:

    Interesting stuff. Pepperell writes well and always has an interesting angle to golf and its influence in the modern era. Sky are particularly guilty of nostalgia, especially where Tiger is concerned. Bjorn’s Ryder Cup choice of Sergio Garcia over Matt Wallace is another example. These youngsters need to be given chances, especially when they are clearly playing so well.

    Anyway, have a great New Year’s Eve.

    Terry

    Terry’s iPhone

    >

  11. Garry Major says:

    Very thoughtful comments,may be too much money in pot as players pick and choose tournaments to play thus less head to head matches Rory and tiger in Hawaii for example .Love watching Roger Federer ,but he is no rod laver .I love watching the old players ,Nicholas putting style ,Trevino wedge play and what steve could do with a 56 degree wedge was amazing. Remember it’s what the fans want to watch that is most important ,swings with character ,there is not much of that on tour today.best regards for another great year from New Zealand.

  12. @npinit says:

    Eddie, I love your blog – always interesting, always well written, and always able to stimulate debate. I don’t always agree with you, but hey that’s life. As a Walton Heath member I can’t tell you how proud I was that you won there this summer. It wasn’t easy keeping it going over the last day in that weather, so bloody well done!

    For me your Back to the Future feature raises as many questions as answers. Here’s a thing. My 26 year old son didn’t visit a shop this Christmas – did all his gift-buying online. My wife did half hers that way. Even my mother-in-law, into her 70’s, did some of hers like that too. Then all we have all Christmas is headlines about the carnage on the high street, with shops closing left, right and centre, HMV (very sadly) going in to receivership being the biggest casuality. And I guarantee you nearly everyone of the journalists writing the stories, and general public up in arms and politicians moaning, also did some/a lot of/all of their Christmas shopping online. I’ve never seen so many white vans zipping up and down our road. And yet nearly all of us moan about the ‘death’ of the High St. and how awful it is. Proving that we can’t have it both ways. We who are very happy to use the convenience and ease of shopping from the comfort of our own homes, can’t moan about it when the shops in our towns and villages just disappear. And so it is with Golf. You are absoulutely right about the void in golf between old and young – and it is up to all involved, the rule-setters, the broadcasters, the clubs, private and public, the manufacturers, the tour administrators, and us the players, to find ways to make sure our beloved game, both professional and amateur doesn’t go the way of the high street. I have a few thoughts on this, but will save it for another time.
    Happy New Year to you and best wishes for a great 2019.

  13. Andrew says:

    I often think about the role of sport (and golf) in our society as we move forward. I am 40, play sports, keep fit and also drink red wine and like too many bourbons. I love nostalgia but there is nothing like living in the present and looking forward in terms of constant improvement and an incessant desire to raise standards.

    So I suppose in a nutshell, I personally promote balance in an inclusive world where everyone is encouraged to make a bloody good effort so they can enjoy a bloody good result.

    Golf suffers from the same problem that has always been its achilles heel. It is simply hard, very hard and also takes a while to play and even longer to reach a level of competence where it becomes genuinely rewarding.

    This does not fit in well with the society we know at present. Instant gratification seems to be the overwhelming parameter these days amongst the demographic who we need to rely on to move the game forward. There is no instant gratification with golf or many sports to be honest. Society wants us to be fit, it wants us to look good and it wants others to look in from the outside and give some form of approval. That is why gym membership is sky high. That is why people are on their bikes everywhere. It is why Strava enjoys high use. People spend shorter periods of time accessing only fitness when I recall fitness being a by product of enjoying competetive sports. Competetive sports where you had to work hard to hone a skill until you were better than the rest.

    They say amateurs practice until they get it right and pros practice until they never get it wrong. Being a pro is hard beyond belief but these days we barely have any amateurs.

    The current mindset in society is worrying and needs work before sports, and golf in general, has a chance of pulling itself from its malaise.

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