Sanctimony Comes To Golf

June 11th, 2022 No comments


With all of the ongoing vexations occurring in the world today, the latest headline grabber comes from the sports world.  As we all know, the world of ‘sports’ has changed dramatically over the last few generations, evolving from earnest competitions among talented participants to become grossly commercial endeavours pitting billionaires vs billionaires and their stables of ponies.  Sports is big business and most everyone in the world is a fan of some kind of sports activity.

Worldwide, but especially in the US, sports is not a pastime of leisure, or of dilettantes.  It is serious business as virtually every college and university in America has a sports program that is the farm system for players hoping to turn professional.  None of these programs would exist if not for the monetization potential of any particular sport.  I suppose the javelin toss and hammer throw could be the exceptions.  They’ve yet to make the televising of throwing spears or iron balls appealing to the masses…. but maybe one day.

There is no question that money is the lifeblood for sports; we’ve become accustomed to eye popping sums offered to professional athletes based on their perceived ability to fill a stadium, draw TV viewership or hawk products.

One of the few sports to have escaped (somewhat) this crass commercialism was golf. Sure, the players wore logo’d shirts and hats, but the players were always portrayed as gentlemen whose goals were loftier than just the prize cheque for winning a tournament.  It was good enough to be recognized as good.  Or it was… until money started to drive the game, which began with Arnold Palmer and ultimately with the monetization of Tiger Woods.  As the game changed from the genteel sentiments of Bobby Jones to the present day “Nascar-ing” of the sport, money has become the dominant influence of the game.  Forget Titleist or Callaway, the number one driver in golf….is money.

The recent uproar in the genteel golf world laid bare this reality as an upstart league, the LIV tour, backed by wealthy Saudis, sought to lure top tier players away from the long established PGA tour by offering eye watering amounts of money to play in their tournaments.  To illustrate the lure, consider that Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest in the history of the game, won 18 major tournaments along with 82 regular victories.  His total earnings for his career amounts to just over 120 million dollars.  Dustin Johnson, with only a fraction of Wood’s success was offered 125 million dollars, just to come over to the new league. I’m not going to judge Johnson’s sense of allegiance or values, but we all know, he isn’t going to win 18 majors and 82 tournaments in his career.  The same is true for all of the other notable names that have elected to forgo the PGA brand for the LIV offering.  In other words, these athletes are doing what every other athlete does in any other sport, they go to the highest bidder.  Money has affected golf; what a shock!

Of course the other criticism levelled against the defecting players is that they are supporting a regime which has an abysmal record on human rights.  Not only that, but the Saudis are the source of nationals responsible for terror attacks on the US.  None of those accusations are unfounded.   But as in most narratives, there is the other side of the coin.  Nike, one of the biggest sponsors of players on the PGA tour, (and in fact all sports) manufacture most of their gear in China, a nation which pays as much attention to human rights as Italian drivers do to stop signs.

You could argue that the big money paid to elite athletes sponsored by Nike are in fact off the backs of suffering worker bees oppressed in China.  It’s somewhat akin to the superiority that drivers of electric cars feel over petrol drivers, even though their electricity is made from burning coal.  If we’re going to demonize nations for their repressive actions, that’s fair.  It’s also fair to then point out the repressions in all nations, including the US and Canada, oft considered paragons of liberty.

It’s fair to say that the past two years have seen the most repressive human rights agendas perpetrated by these very nations that most vocally protest the deeds of the Saudis.  As of this writing, Canada for example, has yet to allow all of its citizens from leaving the country. Certain parts of the US still force people to inject harmful products into their bodies in order to work.  Bank accounts are seized over actions critical to the governments.  I don’t expect PGA players to refuse cheques issued by sponsors in these countries.

Both arguments against the defecting players are hypocritical.  No one amongst us would pass on an offer of significantly higher income for doing the same thing.  That is illogical. If we expect these guys to play for the love of the sport, then people should also be expected to work because they love accounting.  As for the association with human rights thuggery; have a look around; objects are closer than they appear.


The Seduction Of Convenience

May 19th, 2022 1 comment

The slippery slope began with the TV remote control.  When the television was first invented in the mid 1940’s it was a marvel of technology as an entirely new medium of mass information and entertainment was available to the public on a scale never before seen in history.  Whether or not this invention has been a net benefit to man is of course a subject of debate.

What happened soon thereafter was the constant refinement of the viewing experience both from the quality and range of entertainment to the actual mechanics of the new device.  The most significant improvement came when electronics manufacturer, Zenith, introduced the Lazy Bones remote.  Well it wasn’t quite as advanced as you’d expect since it consisted of a long snaking cable hooked up to the TV. This was as much a remote control as a 30 foot extension cord on the telephone made that a remote phone.

Still, by the mid 1950’s Zenith continued to evolve their device so that they used high frequency sounds instead of light to control TV’s.  This device made a distinct clicking sound which is why we still refer to TV remotes as ‘clickers’.  As we know, with the passage of time, these early devices have morphed into some very complicated controllers that are available today.

The main point of this invention was to confer convenience to the consumer.  If there is any one guiding principle of all inventions, this is the Holy Grail.  If you could sell something to cater to the natural laziness in people, you would become rich.  This is capitalism at its very core.

Necessity as they say, is the mother of invention, but necessity is also a function of propaganda.  That is to say, someone has to tell you that a ‘want’ is in fact a necessity.  That was the role of Madison Avenue, the home of the marketing houses in New York during the 1950’s.  Their job  was to tell people what they really needed…whether they knew it or not.

In the recent modern era, untold billions if not trillions have been made by companies and individuals capitalizing on this endless need for must have ‘conveniences’.  The idea of what is convenient has moved somewhat.  In the old days, a genuine convenience was to have a washing machine rather than to make a trip down to the river to beat clothes on the stones.   Today’s idea of convenience is to look on your phone for the nearest Starbucks to use their bathroom.

The constant escalation of ‘needs’ continues to drive all kinds of new devices to be foisted on the naïve consumer.  As we know, ‘apps’ are the modern exponent of laziness.  While there are arguably useful apps to find the nearest washrooms as mentioned earlier, there are apps to convey all manner of useless or trivial information to the mentally lazy.  You can find out what the weather is in Madagascar as well as their national flower.  You can determine what the local weather is, because looking out the window is of course too much effort.  You can determine if the “Influencer” of the moment has a new purse. You can compare your cat photos to those of other cat ladies.

We can have devices like Amazon’s Alexa which can turn on music for you at your home, because getting up to turn a knob is so 1950’s.  It (she?) can turn off lights, unlock doors or regulate the thermostat without you having to perform such onerous and menial functions. It’s like having your own servant without paying their union salaries.  While all this sounds idyllic, you’d better hope you don’t need to fix these things when they don’t work, because only 3 people know how to reprogram these things….and they all live in India.

We have apps to engage companies to send goods and services right to your door.  Need a tube of toothpaste? An amazon click can send one to you in an hour. Need Thai or pizza for dinner?  Any number of food delivery services can hook you up.

We even have apps to help with the most fundamental of things….meeting people.  Like everything else, you can dial in exactly your requirements for a social partner and not waste money on food and tequila.  We know that within a short time, even this will be obsolete.  Some may recall the prescient 1973 Woody Allen film, Sleeper, in which we are introduced to the Orgasmatron, which obviates the need for any partner whatsoever.  Talk about the invention of the future…

Modern society has already entered the age of laziness.  People will be able to live entire lives without ever having to leave the comforts of their home…or even of their couch.  Even if you were afraid of becoming a couch potato, companies such as Peloton will enable you to excercise with virtual friends… you never have to step outside.

The last frontier once creature comforts and conveniences are looked after, are thoughts and opinions. We are well along that path already since there are no shortage of outlets prescribing the right thoughts, values and opinions so that we don’t have to trouble ourselves with such picayune things.  Just pay up, relax and everything will be take care of; no need to do your own thinking.