Friday, December 29, 2023

Blurred Lines

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Days after the last “View from the Bleachers” rolled off the presses and hit local newsstands, a sports bombshell dropped.  Normally when a seismic event occurs in the world sports shortly after submitting a column, I cringe and lament the lost opportunity.  This time, I appreciated the breather; this was a lot to process.   

Sworn enemies united, with no regard for the limits of the human imagination.  The script was straight out of Vince McMahon’s pro wrestling magic hat.  Hulk Hogan embraced the dark side.  Rowdy Roddy Piper stepped into the light.  Carolina and Duke, Ohio State and Michigan, and the Boston Red Sox and New Yankees merged to become one.  Batman and Joker joined forces; for good or ill it is not known.

The humorous grasp is a coping mechanism.  The PGA Tour’s decision to bury the previously assumed unburiable (not an actual word…English can’t even describe this) hatchet and merging with Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf is?  Shocking.  Infuriating.  Disturbing.  Sad.  Unethical.  Immoral.  Certainly, some of those things.  Perhaps all of those things. 

Brief history: LIV Golf was founded in 2021; events began in 2022.  Financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf was able to entice many of the world’s best players – Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, among others - to join, or stated more frankly, to defect from the PGA Tour, with irresistible, soul-selling financial packages. 

Soul-selling – an intentionally pejorative term.  Accepting checks from the current Saudi regime is a test of conscience, or evidence of a lack thereof.  The issue?  Unfamiliar with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record?  The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi?  Women’s rights?  Saudi’s ties to 9-11?  Get Google-ing.

Along those lines, several prominent golfers remained steadfastly loyal to the PGA Tour.  Tiger Woods was one.  The most vocal, though, was Rory McIlroy.  The war of words was no joke; neither were the checks the PGA Tour loyalists turned down.  And now the organization who they defended just wed the presumed enemy. 

Why did the PGA Tour yield?  The talking heads claim the unification will help grow the game of golf worldwide.  How quaint.  Also noted were on-going lawsuits and LIV’s near limitless ability to bankroll litigation in perpetuity.  Maybe that’s true.  Like Thanos, maybe this merger was inevitable.  What is certain is that both the PGA Tour and LIV are healthier financially as a combined force.  “Follow the money”, as Deep Throat said.

Since this column’s beginning many years ago, the entries connecting sports with a topical political issue have prompted the most comments.  In most cases, it was athletes or individuals expressing a political opinion; in others, I took some liberties to connect the sports and political dots.  The feedback ranged from spirited agreement, to passionate disagreement or an agnostic “stick to sports.”  This time is different: it’s an entire organization – the PGA Tour – eviscerating the imaginary line (yes, it doesn’t exist...never has) between sports and politics. 

With that welcomed time to process this merger, my thoughts are more reflective.  I don’t like it.  Never will.  I will consume golf differently now.  But the PGA Tour’s hypocritical okey-doke is just the latest evidence that most things in life come with irreconcilable conflict.  There is no perfect job or relationship.  Every product we use is uncomfortable for some reason – for the resources it requires, its contributions to climate change or the atrocious working conditions for the human labor that produced it.   No religion or religious purveyor completely walks the walk of the talk they talk.  Sports are littered with owners and players who are simply bad humans.  Capitalism itself rewards the most effective, not the most ethical or moral. 

The challenge, then, is to determine where to flex, where your passions lie, what your non-negotiables are and where your conscience becomes heavy – in other words, where the joy of sport (or whatever the topic) is overcome by the discomfort.  I know how I felt about golf before the LIV merger.  My opinion in future I do not know.  Right now, it makes me uncomfortable; the PGA-LIV Tour is a hard pass. 

No comments:

Post a Comment