Thursday Thoughts: April 24, 2014

How Did I Miss This? Drew Magary’s “At Least The Tiger Woods BS Machine Is As Healthy As Ever” at Deadspin is a great read.  Here’s a sample.  Go read all of it:

During major broadcasts, you will still hear that Tiger is “in the hunt” even when he’s hopelessly out of the running. You will still see his name on the ESPN.com headlines ticker when he places 56th. Nike signed Woods to a contract extension just under a year ago. It behooves all of these people to convince you that Woods still has a good shot at breaking Nicklaus’s record when his performance and his injury history say otherwise.

Josh Sens vs Dan Jenkins: In 1985, Sports Illustrated informed Dan Jenkins — now in the World Golf Hall of Fame for his reporting on golf — that he would no longer be reporting on golf for them (see Jenkins’ new His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir for details).  Now, how will SI handle Josh Sens in the wake of his $15 billion dollar nonsense?

Brooks Koepka:  Brooks Koepka got through Monday qualifying and  can earn unlimited PGA Tour exemptions (Golf Channel) with a respectable showing this week in New Orleans.

Turning Tide: Another sportswriter heads out to sea. Howard Heavner: “Tiger Woods Is he finished? Not as long as the sports media can prop him up. I still say that when Eldrick started weight-lifting and bulked up that one year he was never the same.”

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The Making of a Tiger Woods Myth, or The Fifteen-Billion Dollar Meme

You’ve heard it by now: Tiger Woods being injured will cost golf $15 billion.  Oh, wait, could cost golf $15 billion. Josh Sens wrote it, attributing the number to — at least in part, it would appear — Brad Adgate, “senior vice president and director of research for Horizon Media, a New York-based media services company.”

I reached out to Adgate via his Twitter account, asking him: “The $15 billion number for Woods is if he never returns, or just this year? Can you make your methodology public?” I’ll let you know if I hear back from him.

Remember what I wrote when I first saw the Sens-Adgate figure on Monday? I quoted Churchill — “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” — then listed the other “journalists” who were already repeating the $15 billion meme. At the time there were only six or seven. Truth be told, I wondered if I were getting ahead of myself; maybe the golf media wasn’t as inept as I thought; maybe they would ignore the number that seemed to have appeared out of thin air.

I listed these: CBS Sports, Bleacher Report, FanSided, and Sports World News. I also listed Sports Illustrated, a Sens employer. Another SI writer produced an article referencing the number; as well, SI produced a video wherein a panel discussed the number.

But that wasn’t much, really. Maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Hardly. Do a google search now on “Tiger Woods $15 billion.” Now we find stories at the International Business Times, Yahoo, RealClearSports, among many, many others. And it’s just getting started. The Wall Street Journal website, for crying out loud, has a link to an article on the $15 billion meme.

(Kudos to Geoff Shackelford, who wrote, “[T]his really makes no sense as far as I can tell.”)

One of the stories originated at Benzinga and was written by Tim Parker. It includes this: “but industry analysts say that Woods’ long-term absence or his retirement could be a $15 billion blow to the $68.8 billion golf industry.” Is the “industry analyst” Sens? Is it Adgate?

A careful reading of Sens’ comments leaves some doubt. Did Adgate simply toss out an offhand soundbite about a 25-30 percent ratings drop translating to similar percentage losses across the board (to paraphrase Sens’ article)? The funny thing is, you can easily compute 25 percent — the low end of the range — of 68.8 in your head; it comes to 17.2, not 15. Did Sens arbitrarily drop 17.2 to 15 billion? Did he get advisement from Adgate?

This is extraordinarily shoddy work; that it is being repeated by so many in the media speaks volumes about 21st century journalism.

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Tiger Woods Isn’t the “Needle Mover” You Have Been Led to Believe

Coming Soon!  An examination of the chart that busts the myth that Tiger Woods is an unprecedented “needle mover.”

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Lanny H Needs Your Help

No, this isn’t a fundraiser.  What I need is for someone to tell me where this idea that Tiger Woods “made golfers rich” came from.  By every measure I’ve been able to find, golf purses rose faster before Woods arrived than after.  It’s not even close.  If anything, Woods needs to thank Norman and Faldo for making him rich.

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Tuesday Thoughts: April 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Agendas:  Golf Channel has not been able to get enough of bashing the ratings CBS got for the Masters.  It was a boring, runaway win for a not particularly popular player, but that’s never mentioned.  No, the reason for the poor ratings is because “Tiger wasn’t playing.”  Golf Channel has cherry-picked numbers in a dozen ways to show how “horrible” things were “without Tiger.”  However, when it comes to their programming, it’s a completely different story.  They tell us, “Arnie Becomes Most-Watched Original Film in Golf Channel History,” and that it “got off to a record start last night.”

You’d never know, not from Golf Channel’s reporting, that Arnie drew only 471,000 views (and it got worse, with 341,000 and 320,ooo the next two nights), whereas the “awful ratings” Masters drew “only” 11 million.  Let me see if I got this right:  11 million is really, really bad; less than a half-million is really, really good.  Gotta love Golf Channel logic.

CNBC, Golf Isn’t Your Business:  CNBC’s Darren Rovell already showed us he doesn’t know the difference between rating and audience size.  One of his CNBC stablemates provided us with his own unintentionally funny analysis last year concerning Tiger Woods’s “comeback” among sponsors.  Brian Shactman tells us Woods’s “image gets a mulligan.”  And:

When it comes to his corporate sponsors, it appears that sticking with Tiger may pay off, after all.

[D]irectly on the heels of Tiger’s win this week, Electronic Arts seems to be stepping up its ad campaign for “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14″, splashing its commercials all over the web.

Seven months later, Electronic Arts dropped Tiger Woods.  Sticking with Tiger?   You mean sticking it to Tiger.

Winston Churchill v Josh Sens: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  Just as true today as when Churchill first said it.  Case in point:  Josh Sens (a veritable idiot, see here) wrote that Tiger Woods not returning to golf would cost the industry $15 billion.  Sens then tells us that scalpers saw prices for Masters tickets decline when Woods dropped out.  So, let’s see, ticket scalpers are part of “the golf industry” now?  Then Sens reaches for the headline porn:

Adgate and other analysts say it’s impossible to a put a precise price tag on Tiger’s absence. But if we do the math and arrive at a ballpark number in a golf industry valued at around $68.8 billion, it pencils out at roughly $15 billion. Gulp!

Sens says it’s impossible to make such an estimate but then prints one anyway, using a shockingly high $15 billion figure.  That’ll get some headlines!  Now, we don’t get any kind of explanation for how that number was arrived at, but, in 21st century media, where sports writers are dumber than trained monkeys, they all start repeating it.  Do a Google news search on “Tiger Woods $15 billion.”  You already get: CBS Sports (Kyle Porter, very disappointing), Bleacher Report (par for the course; they’ll probably run three such headlines), FanSided, Sports World News.  The list will only grow.  In fact, now Sports Illustrated is referencing the imaginary number created by… Sports Illustrated — a sign of just how far that magazine has fallen.

Jordan Spieth:  Jordan Spieth, at OWGR #7, is now ranked higher than Phil Mickelson. He has 25 times more OWGR points in 2014 than Tiger Woods. Only three players in the entire world have earned more points this year.  Can you guess them?  Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, and… Patrick Reed.  So Reed is no worse than Top Six if we just consider his 2014.  Remind me why the golf media saw it necessary to mock and savage him for saying he considered himself top five?

Backward, March!  Ten minutes into Monday’s Morning Drive, the panel starts talking about… Tiger Woods, Kuch’s win having led to Ryder Cup talk.  GC displays the current RC standings.  They list players 1-9, then they skip to player 47, Woods. (Makes you wonder how player 10 feels about such a thing.)  MD then tells us Woods and Kuchar were a team in last year’s Presidents Cup matches, then show the two shaking hands in a fancy (okay, stupid) fashion after a putt. They show it three or four times, then they show it once more in slow-motion, zooming in on Woods’s face.  Golf Channel is really struggling to move on.

Worth Reading: I don’t agree with everything in this op-ed, but it makes points the Tiger Woods Only media need to hear.

 

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David Duval on the Media: “Bunch of Damn Idiots”

Check out David Duval’s Twitter comments regarding the media (Denver’s CBS affiliate) last night.

Here are the highlights:

  • Bunch of damn idiots
  • Really good at twisting things
  • Clowns
  • Jokers

Golf Digest has another, from a tweet now gone from Duval’s Twitter account: “stupid.”

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Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
– Charles Mackay

What a pleasant surprise I got this morning while drinking my coffee and reading the morning news. Yet another sports writer has left the herd: Simon Briggs of The Telegraph in London has written a brilliant takedown of the recent Tiger Woods puff piece by Jake Simpson at The Atlantic.

Particularly heartening to me was the fact that Briggs refuted a piece for which I myself had already begun writing a rebuttal. More and more of us are shaking our heads and rolling our eyes at the offal writers like Simpson are shoveling out.  I smiled when I saw one of Briggs’s counterexamples is near-identical to one of mine: he references the prize money growth at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, whereas I referenced the prize money growth at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

There are dissimilarities, of course.  For example, Briggs calls his piece, “Tiger Woods’ absence leaves golf in great shape,” whereas I titled mine the more direct, “Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?”

Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?

My first question: Did Jake Simpson really get paid for writing this article? My second question: Does The Atlantic no longer employ editors and fact checkers?

Five-second article summary: Simpson is upset that golf is moving beyond Tiger Woods (who fell well short of Gandhi, not to mention Jack Nicklaus), so he’s going to kick and cry and say golf will suck and die without Woods.

Simpson should win a prize because, by my count, his is the 1,000,000th such article written since Thanksgiving 2009.

Let’s take a look, starting with this:

Golf pundits can debate whether Woods or Jack Nicklaus was the better golfer for the next 100 years, but there’s no debating who was the most influential golfer of all time. When Woods turned pro in 1996, the total purse at the Masters was $2.5 million and the winner got $450,000. The purse for this year’s Masters was $9 million, and Watson’s winning prize was $1.62 million.

Okay, that’s eighteen years. In those eighteen years, have we not seen across-the-board corporatization of sports with attendant monetary inflation? Let’s take a look at a comparable event in another sport, the Wimbledon tennis tournament. First prize in 1996? £392,500. First prize in 2013? £1.6 million. Well, gosh, that means tennis’s premier tournament increased more than golf’s premier tournament during the Tiger Era. Why, that doesn’t fit the Tiger Woods Made Golfers Rich narrative at all.

Then consider this: In the 16 years prior to Woods, the Masters first prize grew from $45,000 to $450,000. Pretty easy to do that math, right? It grew 10x, or 900 percent in those 16 years before Woods. Got that? In the 18 years since, it grew 3.56x, or 246 percent.  Adjust for inflation and prize money rose 425 in the 16 years before Woods, only 140 percent in the 18 years after Woods arrived.

Then there’s the offhand remark — it must be true, or Simpson wouldn’t have mentioned it so casually, right? — that Woods has been more influential than Arnold Palmer. Well, we just showed Tour prize money increased more following Palmer’s arrival than Woods. And participation rates? Forget about it! Palmer caused millions of Americans to buy clubs and head to their local munis. Woods? Not so much. In fact, participation rates have actually dropped during the Woods Era.

Which brings us to this:

And other than Woods, no non-white U.S. golfer has become a global star—a definite impediment to spreading the historically lily-white game among minorities.

With an obvious intent to be inflammatory, the writer links to a five-year-old USA Today article that states no African American golfer has made the tour since Woods joined it. Which, while true in 2009, is no longer true, as, in 2011, Joseph Bramlett earned his Tour card. As for women’s golf, Cheyenne Woods gets more media attention than almost any other professional golfer.  Interestingly, this USA Today article Simpson uses to call golf “historically lily-white” points out that in 1975, the year Tiger Woods was born, there were eight — yes, eight — black golfers on tour.  Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound at all “historically lily-white” to me.  (Not to mention one of golf’s biggest stars at that time, Lee Trevino, is Hispanic.)

Note that the author who incites with “lily-white” sees nothing wrong with the xenophobic “no non-white U.S. golfer has become a global star.” Not knowing what he means by “non-white” — does he? — I can only wonder if he thinks Hispanics like Sergio Garcia, Fijians like Vijay Singh, and Asians like Ryo Ishikawa are somehow not legitimate global stars because they are not “U.S.” enough for him. Xenophobia on parade.

There’s more. Try to follow this logic. First Simpson tells us:

For starters, [Woods has] brought in younger fans through his sheer cult of personality on the golf course.

Then:

The cohort of people playing golf, too, is aging, and none of Woods’s potential successors as Undisputed Best Golfer in the World has ever matched—or even remotely approached—Woods’s appeal to younger fans.

From the Wall Street Journal article Simpson references, we learn:

According to the National Golf Foundation’s most recent participation report, the number of golfers age 6-17 dropped 24% to 2.9 million from 3.8 million between 2005 and 2008.

During those years, 2005 through 2008, Woods won six majors, and an astonishing 25 of 55 PGA Tour events. Yet, golf participation rates dropped among those aged 6-17 by 24 percent.  So, Mr. Simpson, can you tell me again how Woods is bringing young people into the game?

Much has been made of the lower television ratings for the Masters this year.  We are told over and over the reason is that Tiger Woods didn’t play.  But, contrary to that claim, some of the highest-rated golf events of all-time didn’t have Tiger Woods playing in them, so maybe there’s more to the story than that. Maybe a not particularly popular player ran away from the rest of the Masters field. Nah, it couldn’t be that, could it?

Simpson also repeats another talking point making the rounds when he tells us it was the “smallest Masters audience” since 1993 — oh, what a coincidence, right before Woods started playing! Of course, he conveniently neglects to mention that there were 70 million fewer people in the United States in 1993. (Credit Simpson with at least distinguishing between rating and audience size terminology; Darren Rovell doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the distinction.  He tells us, “Masters ratings worst since ’93.”  You’d think a television man like Rovell would understand that rating and audience size are not at all the same thing, but he writes, “All are potential reasons the television ratings for Saturday and Sunday of this year’s Masters were the worst in more than two decades.”)

Then Simpson gives us this, a fine example the modern sportswriter’s ability to wed creative fiction with illogic:

Perhaps learning from Woods’s overly candid interviews early in his career, Spieth and his team have already crafted a public persona designed to keep his private life very private.

They have? Forgive me, but I thought the lengthy television segment about Spieth’s relationship to his younger sister was about as revealing and open and intimate as it gets.  To support his strange contention, Simpson equates Spieth apologizing via Twitter for some pouty on-course behavior with tight control of his private life. Huh?  Does anyone have any idea how to connect those two dots?  I sure don’t.  What’s more, I looked back through Spieth’s tweets and found this one: “That was a terrible, self-centered interview by Calipari after the game. Anyone else agree?”  Sounds openly opinionated to me.  Hard to imagine “Steinie” tweeting that one out from Woods’ Twitter account.  Like I said, fiction and illogic.

So, there you have it.  That was my offering.  Read Briggs’s and compare it to mine.  I think mine’s better, but it’s possible I’m biased.  Whose is more important?  Briggs’s wins hands-down.  He shows those at the very top of the sports journalism hierarchy are no longer automatically putting the Approved Tiger Woods Narrative above the truth.

Let’s hope some of our prominent sportswriters on this side of the Atlantic will follow suit and reacquaint themselves with the truth.  The truth would be a welcome element in American golf journalism, don’t you think?

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