“There’s a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights. There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights. There’s a Scout troop short a child, Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild; Car 54, Where Are You?”
The Car 54, Where Are You? television series starred Joe E. Ross, the Borscht-belt comic who played the dim-witted and slovenly Gunther Toody. His painfully shy partner Francis Muldoon was played by Fred Gwynne, who went on to find fame in the role of Herman Munster.
LIV is the name of the new golf tour that’s making such a fuss
The Roman numeral for 54 is written as LIV, signifying the number of holes played in LIV tournaments. The traditional style is 72 holes played over four days but LIV events last only three. I was surprised to learn this word is pronounced liv, as in Ullman. I think they missed a good opportunity to pronounce it live, as in live bait or live from New York, it’s Saturday Night.
LIV hired Ari Fleischer to serve as the emcee of their first press conference
You may recall he was once a White House press secretary. LIV is funded by what is as close to a bottomless pit of money as you are likely to get. They call themselves “golf, but not as you know it.” The news surrounding them is about political, ethical and moral issues – and all that lovely money. LIV is a public relations strategy aimed at improving Saudi Arabia’s image as try to be another Dubai.
LIV executives hope Fleischer will get them past things like the moment their blabbermouth star attraction called them “a bunch of scary motherfuckers.”
Whitewashing is a way for public relations hacks to cover up and gloss over the ugliness that lies beneath
Sportswashing is its first cousin. Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics were meant to show the world the superiority of the master race. Nazi-haters everywhere rejoiced when track and field sensation Jesse Owens foiled Der Fuhrer’s plans by winning four gold medals.
The LIV tour is attracting players by paying outlandish sums of money
- Recruiting bonuses. LIV paid hundreds of millions of dollars in sign-on bonuses to fading stars for their perceived ability to draw viewers. They paid their top attraction $200 million to climb on board. Their second choice got $150 million.
- Every event pays appearance fees. Golf events outside the U.S. have long paid the biggest stars appearance fees just to show up. Those with sharp agents get fuel allowances for their private jets, too.
- Oh yeah, the prize money. LIV’s eight tournaments each pays out $20 million or so in prize money that gets divvied up between only 48 players.
- Everyone who plays is guaranteed a minimum of $120,000 no matter how poorly they play. That means if you stink so bad you finish in dead last in all eight tournaments, you’ll take home more than a million dollars. LIV’s first tournament concluded yesterday with Charl Schwartzel winning $4,750,000.
LIV promised radical and disruptive tournaments unlike any we’ve ever seen
Their tagline is “Golf, only louder.” Most of their show was the same old televised golf, but some things looked different on the live stream.
The first thing I noticed was where traditional televised golf posts players’ names and scores on the right side of the screen, LIV puts it on the left. Big deal. LIV’s graphics are flashier, noisier and move around a lot, drawing the eye. They struck me as annoyances that distracted from the golf.
See those little colored squares with squiggles too tiny to read? Later I discovered these were the logos of the teams that had been formed for a tournament-within-a-tournament. This I came to realize has to do with gambling.
Having golfers being part of a team while they are playing for individual honors is something new. Here’s what’s odd about LIV’s teams:
- Teams only last for a single event.
- Each new event forms new teams with cutesy names (Punch, Smash, Stinger) and logos too small to figure out onscreen.
- Unlike other team sports, players don’t wear a team uniform.
- With four-man teams scattered across 18 holes, teams do not play together, as you might think. This means there are four times as many opportunities for LIV to flash the leaderboard and jiggle some graphics. In the world of serious bettors, this moving up and down of tiny colored squares is called action.
For some reason, the names of the golfers on the screen aren’t even names. Who the heck are H.DUP, T.PTT and P.MOD? Someone thinks having to decode players’ names is what golf viewers want.
LIV announcers have been instructed to keep bragging, keep exaggerating, keep saying how great this all is. LIV’s lead announcer is new to golf, but he knows how to pump up an audience as well as any veteran game show host. Most importantly, he’s a Brit, and television executives on every network love to listen to Limeys, Aussies and South Effrikins talk.
LIV curiously used some of their barrels of cash to buy not just an American announcer, but one who spent years toiling in a golf wasteland without being good enough to be called up to the big leagues. I wonder if he was first choice and if not, how many network announcers turned down the offer?
And just as the sideline reporters on basketball and football telecasts are mostly attractive women, so is the case for televised golf. LIV went the U.S. networks one better by adding an Asian woman, probably to round out their appeal to their global audience. Unfortunately, she hasn’t learned how to conduct an interview yet.
The Brit and the American get to say all the same things third-tier golf announcers say, only louder
Watching on Friday and Saturday was like being back in high school. It was painful to listen to the LIV announcers sneering about how lame the old way of tournament golf is and how dull and boring. Worse yet, they beat the isn’t-all-of-this-too-marvelous-and-thrilling drum so hard it seemed they must be trying to convince themselves that this humdrum event was massively exciting when it was anything but. The shills were so relentlessly saccharine, I felt as if I was at an Up With People concert. So great, so much fun, so exciting – so mawkish. Just like forced laughter, forced enthusiasm has the opposite effect on many.
Television likes to show close competition for the win
The most exciting finishes in golf come neck-and-neck between two or three players down the stretch just like horse racing. Most tournament golf has players who are contending for victory in the last few groups, saving the drama of a live sporting event for last. In LIV golf, all players start at the same time and are spread out all over the course. With 18 different start and finish lines, there can be little of the head-to-head competition that provides most of the excitement of watching tournament golf.
While I was watching a lengthy and protracted ruling, I wondered why LIV didn’t do something really radical about it. Here’s my suggestion:
LIV golf has grandstands and hospitality tents, just like most golf tournaments. Golfers whose shots have gone astray are permitted to move to a spot that is more convenient – without penalty. This has to be done within the rules, of course, so officials are summoned, discussions held, options reviewed and decisions made. Zzzz.
Shake up things this way
Add some real fun. Play the ball as you find it, the first rule of golf and the only one you really need. Exceptions are made in the world of televised golf because those pesky tents, skyboxes and luxury suites so often get in the way. This ignores the fact that the golfer got himself into trouble and should be the one to get himself out.
Eliminate all free drops
Have LIV golfers play the ball from wherever it ends up. Rules that allow players relief from temporary or permanent immovable instructions is old fogey golf. Players faced with impossible situations because of obstructions can always exercise their right within the rules to add a penalty stroke to their score and take a do-over. Playing from behind the hot dog stands would be loads more fun and viewers would get to watch daring escape shots and predicaments made even worse.
One of the great scenes in film is the 37-second “two yoots” scene from My Cousin Vinny, with Fred Gwynne playing the judge to Joe Pesci’s Vinny Gambini. The next best scene is Marisa Tomei’s “Oh yeah, you blend.”