Yesterday I said that the PGA Tour was riding on the wave of popularity of Tiger Woods and that their concocted FedEx Cup Tournament didn’t mean a damned thing without his participation. Despite the widespread popularity of golf as a participatory sport by adults all over the US, the TV ratings for golf depend on two things – and two things only:
1. Large numbers of people watch the four major golf tournaments no matter who is playing or who is not playing.
2. Large numbers of people watch golf tournaments when Tiger Woods is in the field.
Other than those two conditions, not a whole lot of people care enough to turn on the TV and plop themselves down on the couch to watch.
Here’s some data. Last weekend, the first tournament of the FedEx Cup Championship Round drew a TV rating of 2.1. Just to put a perspective on that, the XFL drew that kind of rating when it was at its nadir and the XFL dried up and blew away. Last weekend – and in the same time slot as the first round of the FedEx Cup Championship – the Little League World Series Championship game between Georgia and Japan got a rating of 3.5. On a percentage basis, 66% more TV sets tuned in to see 12-year-old kids play baseball than tuned in to see PGA golfers strive to achieve this new and grand honor – the FedEx Cup. Explain that away any way you might want to, but the data is there; lots more people care enough about kids’ baseball to tune in their TV sets than care about pro golfers playing for some yearlong prize. And the reason is simple:
Tiger Woods was too “exhausted” to play that weekend.
In case you think I’m cherry picking the numbers, look back at the weekend before this last one where the PGA put on the Wyndham Championship without Tiger Woods. Ratings for that nail-biter of an event were 1.0 on Saturday and 1.2 on Sunday. You guessed it; Tiger Woods was too tired to play in that one either.
Pardon me for being snarky here, but if Tiger Woods had managed to suck it up and play in either of the past two week’s tournaments, his caddy would also have been there to carry his bag. Now tell me why the golfer is too “exhausted” to play more than three weeks in a row when the caddy – the one who actually carries the bag around the course instead of strolling along with only a water bottle in hand – would have been able make it around the course four times? Just asking…
The idea that a sport will be a fan-favorite because lots of people play it just doesn’t wash. Of course, lots of adults play golf and love to play golf. The same is true of kids who play soccer and parents who are involved in the game of soccer through their kids’ participation. Those participatory situations do not necessarily yield huge and loyal fan bases. MLS TV ratings are measurable if David Beckham is playing; otherwise, they are minuscule. Golf ratings are measurable if Tiger Woods is playing – or it is one of the four “majors” –; otherwise, they are in the range of NHL playoff games.
No one would try to explain the huge popularity of NFL football or NCAA football by citing the millions of adults who actually play football on a regular basis – because far more adults play golf than football. But when it comes to fan interest and fan loyalty, football is king and golf is bupkes…
The PGA Tour will wither and die on the vine if Tiger Woods is hors de combat for a year. Commentators can try to make you care about other golfers, but when it comes right down to what matters – who tunes in to watch the matches and the commercials that go with it – the audience isn’t there. Absent Tiger Woods, the PGA Tour is a yearlong set of regular season NBA games. Yawn!!!
On another subject, ESPN has produced a show called, Unsettled Scores: Who Killed Bison Dele? It will air for the first time on ESPN2 on 31 August at 1930 EDT – and probably will be rerun at least a dozen times if ESPN is true to its history. In case you forgot, Dele was an NBA player whose catamaran floated into a harbor in Tahiti in 2002 with no trace of Dele or his girlfriend or the captain of the boat. Dele was one of those “free spirit” athletes whose life was unusual enough that anything is possible with regard to his disappearance. He’s one of the folks about whom abduction by space aliens might not be all that far-fetched. Watch this program if you want, but take heed of a comment from an ESPN spokesperson who said that if this show is “successful”, then ESPN will consider producing additional shows about mysterious circumstances involving sports figures. And if they do, here is the potential “camel’s nose in the tent”:
Will ESPN consider doing a program wherein dedicated and focused detective, OJ Simpson, is hard at work tracking down the real killers?
Speaking of athletes who were “free spirits” and who did not come from the same mold as many other athletes of their time, the Orange County Register reported that Todd Marinovich was arrested and charged with felony drug possession and resisting arrest after he was chased and captured skateboarding around 1:00AM on Newport Pier in California. Believe it or not, Marinovich is now 38 years old so one might be inclined to wonder what the hell he is doing on a skateboard at 1:00AM; the fact that he had drugs and drug paraphernalia on his person at the time of his arrest is no longer shocking. To reset the scene here, Todd Marinovich was raised to be a top-shelf quarterback by his father back in the 1980s; his father gave him all the nutritional supplements and the time in the film room and the workout regimes needed in order for him to be successful in that endeavor. His father also forbade him to eat things like cheeseburgers and never taught his son to deal with the challenges of life as an independent adult. So when Todd Marinovich got even a whiff of “independence” he went headlong into things like drugs.
Todd Marinovich’s NFL career was with the Raiders – can that be a shock to anyone? In 1992, he led the Raiders to three victories and then threw 3 INTs in a game against the Eagles and was never heard from again in terms of NFL football. Today, he is arrested and charged with felony drug possession; that’s not good. Even sadder is that he was skateboarding in an area dominated by 7-Eleven type stores at 1:00AM at age 38. How the mighty have fallen…
Pacman Jones first thought that he would spend his yearlong suspension from the NFL as a pro wrestler. Somehow, the Titans were able to convince him – more likely the team convinced his agent and attorneys – that such an undertaking would be a violation of Pacman’s NFL contract and would result in the forfeiture of “whatever” from that contract that is in abeyance at the moment. So now, Pacman Jones is contemplating an interlude as a “hip-hop artist”. Let me be clear here; I have exactly no idea what a “hip-hop artist” is. But just in case this short-term career endeavor doesn’t work out for Pacman, I have an idea that might keep him busy in a very constructive manner – and might actually make him appear to be socially constructive the next time he and Commissioner Goodell meet to discuss his future within the NFL:
1. Seek out agricultural areas in the US – or in the world at large – where drought conditions are bringing difficult times and stress to the people who live there. Think Darfur in the extreme case.
2. Go there and “make it rain”.
Last weekend the Syracuse Chiefs – the AAA farm team of the Toronto Blue Jays – played a game against the Ottawa Lynx. In that game, the Chiefs committed ten errors in a nine-inning game. I’ve been to lots and lots of baseball games in my lifetime from high school games through the major leagues. I’m certain I’ve never seen one with ten errors by a single team; I doubt that I’ve ever seen a game of any length where both teams combined to commit 10 errors. Did they put butter in the Chiefs’ gloves that night instead of Neets Foot Oil?
Finally, here’s an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding Pacman Jones:
“To hear Pacman Jones’ spin doctors tell it, his NFL ordered hiatus isn’t a one-year suspension, it’s a make-it-rain delay.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…