At first, when I heard the latest “pampered golfer” incident — that Davis Love III threatened to stop playing last Sunday unless an unruly fan was ejected — I wasn’t going to comment. This is not a new issue. Golfers love their silence. They treat it as a birthright. The fact that other major sports play in loud, raucous environments means nothing to them. Golf is “special.” Fine. Whatever.
But then I saw the comments from Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour chief. He sympathized with Love’s plight, and agreed that something needed to be done.
“This isn’t hockey,” Finchem said.
Them’s fightin’ words, Mister.
So now I am going to comment. Here’s what I say to Finchem. You’re right. Golf isn’t hockey. In hockey they carry their own sticks.
In hockey, careers are much shorter than in golf. In hockey, most players earn less in a year than Tiger Woods earns in a week. In hockey, players not only get hammered verbally, they get hammered physically.
And now and then they get sent to a penalty box, on the road, where they must sit and endure two minutes worth of obnoxious fan abuse — fans as close to them than as gallery crowds ever get to Davis Love.
Yet you know what, Mr. Finchem? They endure. Goalies manage to stop speeding pucks while fans are yelling curses. Pitchers manage to deliver fastballs to the outside corner while fans are yelling about their mothers. Basketball players — all the way down to high school level — manage to sink winning free throws while the crowd waves towels and boos.
You mean a New York Yankee can bat in Fenway Park, but Davis Love can’t hit a ball at La Costa — because a fan yelled something after he missed a putt?
Here’s some glue. Get some thicker skin.
A rapidly changing sport
Now, I know all about the “tradition of golf.” And those of you already halfway through your angry letters, save your ink. I am not arguing against the “tradition of golf.” It’s a lovely tradition. Bucolic atmosphere. Gentlemen’s rules. I could do without the “no minorities or women allowed” thing, but in most places, that part of the tradition has changed.
Which only proves that golf can evolve. More than that, it wants to evolve. No sport has marketed itself more than golf in recent years. Tiger Woods paved roads to millions of new fans. Children’s clinics are everywhere. There’s a full-time golf TV channel. Challenge matches. Made-for-TV events. Sports Illustrated has a thick “Golf Plus” insert.
Well, if you keep courting all these new fans, eventually they’re gonna show up. Especially the young ones. And a few may be less than sedate. That’s the sad truth of today’s society. You know what? Deal with it. Walk away. The guy bothering Love was removed. Did Love really need to throw a snit fit?
“I wasn’t going to play anymore until someone got kicked out,” Love said. “I wasn’t going to put up with it.”
What he had to “put up” with was the fan yelling “Whoop” after he missed a putt, and yelling “No Love!” as he stepped up to a shot.
Wow. Talk about abuse.
Another day at the office
Love, like a lot of golf purists, insists that his critics “don’t understand the game.”
Wrong. They understand the game. This may be a shock, but the game isn’t that complex. And hitting a golf ball requires no more or less concentration that hitting a curveball, or making a winning jumper, or catching a 60-yard bomb in the end zone.
Davis simply is used to one thing, deferential silence, and he doesn’t want it changed. Well. That’s OK. If golf wants to scale back its popularity, not sell as many tickets, not take as much TV money, maybe it can control its crowds.
But given the grandiosity of the sport, it’s a little tough to hear Love whine the following: “I don’t come into your office and screw you up. Don’t come into my office and screw me up.”
His office? You know what he got for “losing” to Woods last Sunday? He got
$700,000. I don’t know about you, but that kind of money doesn’t lie around most offices.
It comes, ultimately, from fans — fans who watch television, fans who represent customers to the sponsors, and yes, fans who come out to the events.
I don’t condone people acting like idiots. But one guy yelling, or one guy snapping a photo, or one guy jangling his keys does not warrant a player protest. Or a threat that he’ll stop playing.
Perhaps Davis Love III could hire a thicker-skinned bodyguard next time. Someone to glare at unruly fans. Someone a little less sensitive. Someone a bit more grown up.
You know, like a hockey player.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or email@example.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.