Played this morning at Hampshire Greens; tee to green I was about as good as I could hope for; hit 8 of 14 fairways, 10 of 18 GIR but with a soul-destroying 38 putts. Played with three younger folks (including a woman who could flat-out hit the ball despite this being her first round of the year) and enjoyed their company. Nice to see folks in their 20’s and 30’s get out and enjoy this game including one of them who’d only been playing a year. If you’re reading this, stay at it and have fun. Hopefully I didn’t get in your way.
Hampshire Greens was in good shape despite the usual rollercoaster weather we’ve been having. It was a bit damp (it was drizzling for about half the round which didn’t help) but otherwise the course was playing fair. One thing that did help was playing from the green tees (it’s 6000 yards as opposed to 6500 from the blue tees) which meant I was hitting 9 irons and wedges into the greens rather than mid-irons. If you haven’t played Hampshire Greens it’s a decent track and definitely worth a visit. A few holes have homes in shouting distance (and not for anything, but while we were teeing off, I learned that MacKenzie is going to wear that dress to prom AND is going to wear the Jimmy Choo flats that mom got her…also, Tiffany was really mean to Brody at Amber’s party last night), so thanks for the update, young girl sitting on the deck who needs to learn volume control.
Significantly more troubling than my ongoing struggles with the putter was the PGA Tour’s response to Stephanie Wei using Periscope during a practice round at the WGC Match Play at Harding Park in San Francisco. If you don’t know, Periscope is a live streaming application for mobile devices that was purchased by Twitter. It allows you to live stream things to anyone who follows you through the application. If I wanted to, I could film my rounds and people could watch. Why anyone would want to is, frankly, a question best left to the mental healthy community. It got a lot of free publicity last weekend during the “awful human being v. slightly less awful human being” event that was the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match where many people were streaming the fight on their periscopes (figuring “just because I paid $100 to watch this garbage fire doesn’t mean you should”).
In short, the PGA Tour has a whole list of regulations about what you can and can’t do as a credentialed member of the media, and I suppose that, according to the letter of the law, that Ms Wei (who I’ve never met and am only marginally aware of her work) violated their media rights policy. During a practice round that isn’t televised. Specifically, she used the application to air a lighthearted discussion involving Masters Champion Jordan Spieth. Nobody could claim that Golf Channel or the PGA Tour were losing viewers by virtue of this being aired. However, rules are rules.
PGA Tour TV ratings are generally not particularly good compared to team sports, and for the tournament in question, according to Sports Media Watch it had the lowest rating since 2010 and the second lowest since 2001 (the final match featured Rory McIlroy). In short, we’re not talking about a major championship and we’re not talking about a highly viewed event. We’re talking about a practice round (and not for anything, but the PGA Tour has stopped admitting fans for practice rounds for most of their events).
A reasonable person would think that the PGA Tour would, in this instance, pull Ms Wei aside for a quiet word along the lines of “enjoy your work and thanks for helping to grow the game, but please don’t use Periscope without our approval.” Instead, the Tour revoked her credential for the entire 2015 season.
Not a warning, not a “don’t ever do that again” but they went straight to the proverbial death penalty for the equivalent of a parking ticket. I don’t think for one second that the PGA Tour pulls the credential of a “name” reporter (i.e. Doug Ferguson of the AP). This was selective enforcement at it’s worst.
I’m not really sure what this accomplishes. The TV demographics for golf are not favorable (in short, it’s old, white and apparently in love of medicare sleds, boner pills, and shitty beer). If the PGA Tour is serious about growing the game (and if they’re not then they’re in real trouble) they need to embrace new media and they need to embrace new voices (and not 20-something almost exclusively white male golf bros who yell “mashed potatoes” during tournaments- these people should be hit with a cattle prod and be fed to angry bears). It’s bad enough that NBC and CBS do not have a single woman on their coverage (Kelly Tilghman anchors Golf Channel’s Friday/Saturday coverage but haven’t seen her this year on NBC’s weekend coverage; CBS is an older version of “Stuff White People Like”), and among minorities, only Native American and Notah Begay (best known for being a teammate of Eldrick Woods when both were at Stanford) is non-Caucasian. You’ll find one minority in the Golf Channel studios (Damon Hack), and among women, the best of a short list are Judy Rankin (I’m sorry but she’s better than 99% of the men), Lauren Thompson and a very under-used Paige MacKenzie. I’m giving FOX a pass for now, but I will hope that they will do better than CBS and NBC when they cover the US Open next month.
Cumulatively, this is but another “you’re not welcome here” sign to women in sports. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen two high profile (and very talented) reporters (Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols) have their credentials revoked at last Saturday’s boxing match because they had the temerity to report on Mayweather’s pervasive issues with domestic violence against women. Earlier this week the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers thought that a video that displayed a man throwing his girlfriend to the ground because she cheered for another team was a good idea (the end of the video showed the woman using an ice pack on her head), and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman get rightly criticized for not being critical of Winnipeg Jets fans chanting “Katy Perry” at Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.
What happened to Wei isn’t domestic violence and I’m not equating the two. What I am saying is that we can, and should, do better. My favourite hockey blog Pension Plan Puppets have an article that might be the best thing I’ve read on the subject. I can’t recommend this article enough (their blog has female voices who, quite frankly, are damn good writers).
We need new voices in sports, and unfortunately, too often women are still being made to feel unwelcome in covering sports. It was wrong then and it’s wrong today. Whether it’s selective enforcement of policy, offense over honest coverage of an issue that merits it, over an overall culture that needs to change, none of this is remotely good enough and isn’t close to being good enough for a sport that needs to embrace new voices and new perspectives.
This isn’t about hiring women for the sake of hiring women. It’s about hiring people who are good at what they do and getting rid of the dinosaurs when they’re no longer good at what they do. It’s about letting the cream rise to the top.