In a takeoff of the old joke, I find myself asking today, "What if they held a Ryder Cup match and nobody in the United States really cared?"
Because that’s what it feels like after the Americans were once again walloped by the team from Europe on Sunday. That’s three in a row for the team from across the Atlantic.
And I really wonder what’s happening to this game that I have loved all my life, the game I gave up and the game I played last Friday after a break of three years, two months and about a dozen days.
I recently read a story somewhere about the executives in the world of bowling looking for a new scoring system to make the game "less boring."
I’m not sure that cure would work in the game of golf, but I think golf shares the disease.
Television ratings for golf are plummeting. The number of players taking the game up has dropped dramatically. The building of new courses, which was like a runaway car a few years ago, has now gone into the garage. Costs to play keep climbing, pricing a lot of people out of the market.
Make no mistake about it, and despite the protestations to the contrary from those who work in the industry, this is a game in trouble. It’s in danger of becoming a fringe sport, like tennis or skateboard racing.
Watching the Ryder Cup was instructive. The Europeans were filled with passion and esprit de corps. The Americans looked like their digestive systems were rebelling against some bad seafood. Even when an American golfer hit a good shot they looked like it was a walk in the park, like they expected that outcome. Someone named Patrick Reed seemed to be the only American with any obvious fight about him.
The fact that someone named Patrick Reed was the big guy for the Americans speaks volumes about the world of golf. I mean, who the hell could pick Patrick Reed out of golfers sitting in a clubhouse with a glass of scotch in front of each of them?
One of the biggest problems is that there are dozens of Patrick Reeds’ on our televisions every weekend and it’s pretty hard to get revved up watching a bunch of guys who can play great golf but who have no personality, no color, no individuality, no sense of humor, no nothing.
Here’s how bad things have gotten: I would rather watch a women’s tournament than most of these men’s tournaments. Watch the women play sometime. The smile when they hit a good shot. They acknowledge applause from the gallery. They act like they are all in this thing together.
Watch the Solheim Cup when it’s on. These women know what it means to be on a team. They cheer. They agonize over every miss and grin over every success.
The American men’s team is full of backbiting and criticism. Tom Watson, who was a great player, turned into some kind of mad professor during the three days of the tournament. His own players, along with most of the fans, have no idea how he made decisions about who was playing with who or when.
I don’t know how to fix golf. But I do think there are some things that could help.
First of all, let’s realize that television will call the tune. What TV wants, TV gets. And if the ratings continue to fall, the networks are going to grumble even more than they are now.
One thing that would help is to have a hero. Say what you will about the Tiger Woods saga, when he started to play the excitement about golf went sky high. Not just black people either. Everybody was interested in golf.
I would also take steps to make the Ryder Cup a true selection of the best players who are playing at the time of the match. I don’t know just what the numbers would be, but having this two year selection process is crazy.
And finally I would have more tournaments that are match play. I know there are a lot of purists out there, but when you watch match play every hole is like sudden death. It’s exciting.
All I know is that something has to happen before the decline in the game doesn’t turn into a sudden death, but a long lingering mercy killing.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.