Hacker TV

By: Bob Spiwak


It's January 10. There will be football galore. There will be the Mercedes tournament opening the season for "The Race for the FedEx Cup." I am already feeling slightly nauseous about the television golf today, but you can betcha I am watching the football.

I have played Kapalua twice. Not well, but then I don't play any course well. But I love the game. I wait for "That one good/great shot" that keeps us all coming back. Watching for a quarter-hour or so yesterday, the lovely Plantation course featured a lot of top-name pro golfers, a lot of electronic WOW gimmicks like putter lines, lines that follow the trajectory of a drive like a rocket into or out of the Gaza Strip. Ho hum. Yes, even without the line that followed Ernie Els' perfect drive I knew he would hit it well. Had he hit it badly, there would have been no line showing his trajectory. We were also enthralled by slow-motion replays of his swing, and the explanation of how nicely he kept his knees together.

All sports have hero followers. Golf as an individual endeavor differs from team sports, or even tennis, in that the camera is always on one individual. I can't identify with him as I'm muddled by the tips given by the announcers on how to properly manage the game. Good as they may be, or have been, these announcers no longer are, or have never been, heroic golfers. Watching team sports, one can at least see that some of the players are screwing up, perhaps awakening the Walter Mitty in us all by thinking, "I could have done better than that."

Not in golf. What televised golf needs is coverage for the everyman player, those of us who spend billions annually in lessons, contrivances and equipment to make us score lower. We are all Walter Mittys at heart, but in soul we know we will not get a whole lot better.

Why not follow the dew-sweepers, or the guys who are 7-over par after the third hole. How about an electronic tracker showing how the golfer hooked the ball across two fairways into a sewage lagoon? Or the guy who whiffed his drive? The fellow or gal who five-putted? (If it is a leader, or a "name" player, we will probably see that.)

The top 100 and some golfers whose position is based on how fat their wallets are, these warriors competing for the Holy Grail of crass commercialism, the FedEx Cup, are the cream of the crop worldwide in golf talent. The rest of us are the curdles in the cup. We need to see more of "us" on TV. I am not endorsing abandoning those who are competing among the leaders, but there are enough cameras out there to show us where the followers are and if they're not doing as well.

And wouldn't it be nice to watch a network golf tournament and see a guy whose pants are on the short side of the break, who is missing a few spikes from his shoes, who has no corporate logos anywhere in view, to see him take a mighty swing at a tee ball - and miss.

And we could say, "I can do better than that."

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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