Monday, May 23, 2011

Golf and Trash Talk: The Next Royal Wedding? [Mondays with Gus]

If golf wants to take itself seriously and move up to the next level of popularity in this country, it's going to need to throw off the culture of being the gentleman's game. It can do this very simply by bringing trash talk front and center. Gentlemen aren't supposed to talk trash, but that's exactly what most sports fans want to see. The golf community doesn't come off to me as the kind of group that would accept a debate like this, but I think it's time to try to stir the pot. It's good for the game, and it's good for the fans.

From a business perspective, it's a simple matter of attracting a more diverse group of fans. Some people cannot get into golf because they see it as boring. Baseball gets the same type of criticism, and there is a similar answer: The people who say that simply don't play the game. Nor can most people play the game. 

Golf is expensive and time consuming. Most people in America can't cough up the thousands of dollars required for clubs, balls, shoes, green fees, etc. At least if people can't play the game (and how many of us play football regularly, but still watch?) they should be able to still get into it if golf wants to grow in popularity. The perfect way to do this is through trash talk, because to some degree everyone in America can relate to it.
Imagine if Tiger Woods, while in his prime, came out and started pulling out some Ali-level trash talk. What if he took it a step further and started talking trash about Augusta National and it's lack of black members? That's exactly the kind of thing that would boost ratings. Why do sports fans watch the Yankees and the Red Sox? Because everybody in America absolutely hates one of those teams (or both, in my case) with a passion. That's what golf needs. People screaming at the TV, not sleeping in front of it.

Not only does it make sense from a ratings standpoint, but there's also the actual trash talk itself to consider. There's the obvious material, like most golfers being white and all that. But, the beauty of golf and trash talk is that in golf you don't have teammates (usually). You can talk all the smack you want and not have to worry about how other people that have to stand up for you will respond. That's why Ali was such a great trash talker, and why people like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan never could talk like him. They have teammates to worry about. Sure, MJ and Tom Brady have their moments of smack talk, but nobody can even come close to screaming “What's my name, Uncle Tom?!” to another black man, like Ali once did. You can talk more freely in individual sports like golf because you are the entire team. It's not that you're on the best team, you are the best team.

There's something wrong with a sport when most guys that play it would prefer to smoke a cigar, drink beer, and be really nice and respectful to those around them. I'm not buying it. So, come on golf. What do you say? How about some trash talk?

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