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Saturday, March 28, 2020
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Newsflash – relentless adverts are ruining televised golf

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Look, I’m not one to complain. I consider suffering in silence among the most noble of acts; comparable to rescuing a cat from a tree or giving up your bus seat for an old lady.

Ah who am I kidding? I’d happily give up my seat for an old lady, and I’d consider rescuing a cat from a tree – it would depend on the tree though… and the cat… – but suffering in silence has never been my forte.

I love a good whinge and luckily, I have a platform on which to do so.

So here goes…

I stayed up to watch the Presidents Cup last night. Hardly applause worthy, though I do live in a time zone an hour ahead of Ireland and I did have to get up early to make it to the airport on time for my all expenses paid golf trip to Turkey. Ok, now I’m sensing that your sympathy may be in short supply, but stick with me, for this is something that affects us all.

At approximately 2330 hrs (my) local time, Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann hit the first tee in the opening match of the Presidents Cup.

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Hardly competitive since its inception, the brainchild of the PGA Tour is interesting nevertheless because of the implications that it has in relation to the granddaddy of all team golf, the Ryder Cup. An easy American victory cranks up the hype machine ahead of the following year’s battle with Europe, and anything but an easy US win is good television. You might say it’s a win-win situation for impartial viewers.

But this year there was added incentive. Tiger as playing captain – let’s face it, for someone famed for his selfishness, team golf has never been tailor made (pun half-intended) for the 15-time major champion – Royal Melbourne as a wonderful deviation from the rinse-repeat target golf we see every week, and the jet-lag factor for an American team arriving on the back of an unnecessary week (by PGA Tour scheduling) in the Bahamas, meant that I thought there was a serious chance that the Internationals might spoil the party.

One of the most common arguments against televised match play is how to keep viewers entertained between shots. Reasonable people accept that advert breaks are a necessary evil. It’s how broadcasters are able to fork out the large sums required to gain the rights and to produce the telecast. This I expect. This I can live with.

What I can’t live with – at least can’t live without complaining about – is failure to show Woods and company’s driving on the second hole, instead joining them as they prepare for their approach shots. I mean, as the group walked off the tee box, there had been 14 shots hit in anger in the event and TV had already failed to show four of them.

Of course, with five matches on the go then they need to be selective about what to show. But there was one match on the course. One!

Show the damned thing. Since Justin Thomas got the show on the road, adverts outweighed shots by 3:2.

I already know that SkyTrak is a realistic golf simulator/flight scope, that Idris Elba is excited about Sky’s Christmas movie premiere schedule and that John Lewis are ¾bringing people together again. I know because it is rammed down my throat every time I switch on the TV.

But would it be too much to ask for a little bit of golf in between the soul-destroying marketing slogans, the corporate jingles and the relentless repetition. Oh God, the repetition.

The only saving grace is the knowledge that the yanks have it worse. On occasion, when my definitely not illegal streaming service feels like playing up, I switch over to the American broadcast. American advertising is more prevalent, is much louder and a whole lot dumber. A less politically correct person than myself might say it’s representative of the nation, but I would never say that.

What is scary though, is the copycat nature that permeates British and Irish culture. If that’s what America is doing, then it won’t be long until we’re doing it too.

The BBC’s weekend coverage of the Masters was advert-free golf’s Alamo. Peter Alliss’ wit and charm may not be what it once was, but his soft tone accompanied by Ken Brown’s on course antics, were a welcome refuge for weary travellers wilting under the strain of corporate bombardment.

Alas, like General Custer under siege by heavily armed banditos, so the BBC collapsed under attack from Rupert Murdock’s high finance department.

Given free reign, who knows where we go next. There is already some heavy petting between broadcast commentators and corporate giants. How often do we hear them talk about the Aon Risk/Reward challenge, or refer to a tournament by its sponsors name rather than the venue, ie. the Farmers Insurance Open or the Genesis Open. How long before they consummate the relationship and we start hearing “that sand-save was brought to you by National Savings Bank. Together, creating a vision” from Paul McGinley or “Great drive by Rory there, almost as great a drive as the new Lexus RX. Lexus, the pursuit of perfection” from Ewan Murray.

You might laugh, but it’s already happening on a smaller scale in the US and in Australia. And the Aussies are like the missing link between the Americans and us.

Like with government policy, each new venture is designed to create greater subservience, until we reach the point where something that would’ve been met with Bastille-like resistance in days gone by, will be accepted with a shrug of the shoulders and a “what-can-you-do?” attitude.

And maybe I will accept it too, but I’ll damn sure complain first.

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