4. Earlier in the week — and doesn’t it seem like a year ago? — the PGA Tour announced its new, long-awaited domestic media rights deal. The nine-year agreement is with long-time Tour partners CBS Sports and NBC Sports, with the addition of ESPN to the fold as well. How will this deal impact the Tour and the viewer?
Zak: There will be more golf than the PGA Tour fan/viewer is interested in watching. (This might already be the case.) The game will be gambled upon by millions, and more efficiently than ever. In the end, money will pour into that industry, and it will create good demand for the Tour that wasn’t there four years ago. BUT, to the earlier point, if you’re not a gambling fanatic, I don’t know that we’ll necessarily flock to MORE GOLF MORE GOLF MORE GOLF.
Sens: The gambling wave is coming for sure. But I wonder how ready the Tour really is for the full impact when live wagering takes deep root. There are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to ensuring the integrity of competitions. Or at least the perception of that integrity. When every shot has money on the line for someone other than the player and their caddie, a Baba-Booey blurted in someone’s backswing is going to raise all kinds of questions that weren’t in play before. And that will happen. Not a question of if, but when.
Shipnuck: It’s definitely a good thing to have ESPN in the fold. The most troubling aspect is that the Tour is now going to oversee the production, which means more sanitizing of the product. Will the networks even be allowed to show controversial moments? Will there be on-air discussion about thorny issues? There could be a substantial chilling effect, which doesn’t serve the viewer.
Dethier: It means, big picture, more stability for the viewer. Most casual golf fans love the routine of flipping on CBS or NBC on Sunday afternoons and watching a horse-race finish. Even as our entire viewing landscape changes, golf will stay the same. Golf’s not generally on the cutting edge of radical change, so this seems about right.
Bamberger: I think the Tour was fortunate to get the length of the deal it did, because the way we watch is changing so fast, who knows what it looks like five years from now, let alone seven or eight or nine.
5. In one of the least buzzed-about Tiger Woods stories in recent memory, the World Golf Hall of Fame announced that Woods will be inducted in 2021. What can the Hall of Fame do to generate more excitement around its inductees?
Zak: Have a wider array of voters and publish the results, a la baseball. Our own Michael Bamberger is on the panel, and I didn’t even know about it! Maybe that says something about me, but really I’d like to see the debate on who’s in, who’s out be more of a story. Barry Bonds feels slighted, and he informed the media of that. I want the best golfers in the world who aren’t in the WGHOF to make their thoughts known, too. That’ll make us talk about it more and amp up the excitement.
Sens: Wait a little later in a player’s career. Sure, golf doesn’t have the same kind of hard-stop retirement as other sports. But at least go for a little bit of delayed gratification. Hall of Fame inductions in other sports have more built-in excitement because they bring stars back into the spotlight after they’ve vacated the stage. Hard to get too excited about Tiger giving a Hall of Fame acceptance speech when he still has a good chance of doing something much more captivating on the course.
Shipnuck: Be more selective and announce only every three years. The inductees have become increasingly watered-down. Billy Payne? GTFO. Retief Goosen? Really good player but exactly not a legend of the game. If the inductions were held less frequently, there would be time for truly worthy inductees to accrue.
Bamberger: I agree with all of the above. The Hall went from 50 to 45; I’d have suggested going UP to 60. Would increase the importance of a senior career. How about ONE inductee every year. JUST ONE. A female player in year one. A male player in year two. A contributor in year three. One would get some attention, in the debate, in the announcement, in the induction.
Dethier: Not to oversimplify things, but Tiger making it to the Hall was such a mortal lock it doesn’t even bear mentioning. We do plenty of celebrating of the guy’s career as it is, and we’re eagerly awaiting updates on his health and his next performances. I’m far more interested in the other inductees than Woods’ selection. Maybe take a cue from the other leagues and wait three years after a golfer quits playing the PGA or LPGA full-time.
Golf fans are looking at a minimum of four more PGA Tour-less weekends. In lieu of watching golf, how would you suggest they spend their time?
Zak: This is a layup for me! Season Two of A Pod Unlike Any Other begins Monday with Tom Watson’s riveting 1981 victory over Big Jack and Johnny Miller. We rewatch the final round of Masters broadcasts for you and break down the historical relevance, the kooky outfits, the underrated moments of failure, etc. It’s all in the purpose of loving the Masters, and right now it’s about all we’ve got.
Sens: Play more golf. Responsibly. Follow public health guidelines but get out there when you can do it safely. It’s good for the courses. And for your state of mind.
Shipnuck: Yeah, just leave the pin in and avoid handshakes and I think golf is a great option. Hopefully many/most courses will be able to stay open. Golf also has a long literary tradition so there are tons of good books out there to read. And a Pod Unlike Any Other is definitely a must.
Dethier: For starters, order Michael Bamberger’s book “The Second Life of Tiger Woods.” But that’s not out until the end of the month — until then, I’d recommend catching up on more than a month’s worth of Muni Mondays! From a Phil Mickelson junior haunt to a product of the Great Depression to the best public par-3 course in the world, they are some of golf’s best goodness. Public golf: it’s where it’s at!
Bamberger: Can’t tell you how much I agree with Dylan. So true, but did you not learn at Williams College or on your path there not to end sentences in prepositions? Play, read, watch. Walk, be outside. Turn off your screen. Work on your grip. Leave the pin in.
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