At a ballpark, a fan can partake in the seventh inning stretch, the wave, talking crazy to the opposing team’s outfielders, the whole nine. A tennis match is something to respect to the fullest as well. The action is constant, and when the games are really good, a fan becomes engrossed and can have the time of their life.
Go to an arena for a basketball game, and there are traditions unique to a fan’s experience for that game. The same goes for soccer and hockey. Have you seen fans at soccer and hockey games? They help provide some of the most ruckus-filled, exciting, and intense settings in all of sports.
When a fan attends any of these sporting events, or when they watch them on television, or listen to them on the radio, a fan knows they are about to be treated to athletic excellence in some of its finest form. It's understood, either because one has played the game on some level, been exposed to players long enough to know they have to be in peak physical condition to compete, or from plain common sense.
The same can’t be said for golf, and that is exactly why it is not looked at in the same regard as the ones I listed, and it’s also why I don’t view golf as a sport.
Golf is arguably the toughest skill of all the activities under the game landscape. It’s a game that always requires constant work, patience, concentration, and even with that, it’s one that is pretty much impossible to master. Golf is hard as hell.
However, when I think of a sport, there’s not only degree of difficulty, but there’s also the ability to actively engage the audience, the physical conditioning aspect, the appearance aspect, and, to me, the most crucial aspect of all: crowd participation, or in the case of golf, a lack thereof.
Golf tournaments come on TV and they have about as much pre-game excitement as a bowl of Cheerios. Once the game is underway, it's still a task to become actively engaged. It lacks a passion, a pulse, a quality to keep my attention from beginning to end. Sure, it has the potential to get exciting toward the end, but that can be said for damn near anything.
On top of that, it doesn’t help that just about all golfers I’ve seen over the years look like dudes I’ve worked with. I don’t see athletes. Instead, it’s more like the man who comes by the house off the UPS truck to deliver a package, and while the driver may be in shape, he’s not looked at as the picture of peak physical condition.
Perception plays a vital role, and while some may not go as far as to wholeheartedly believe that “Perception is reality,” it isn’t far-fetched to suggest it is when it comes to this particular topic. Golfers may very well be physical specimens, and of course, someone will cite Eldrick Woods as an example, but there aren’t a whole bunch of Eldricks running around out there.
The final part, and arguably the most crucial as a sports fan: the crowd participation. Imagine this:
A player is fouled with no time left on the clock and is headed to the line with a chance to win the game with two free throws. His team is on the road, which can pretty much equal about 20,000 people screaming, ranting, holding up Acme brick signs, face placards, and everything under the sun to distract him.
They’re talking about his mother, his sister, and saying that they slept with his girlfriend back in undergrad. He is showered with chants of “OVERRATED,” “YOU SUCK,” as well as cuss words and phrases that I am leery of using on this blog. The place is sheer pandemonium, and he’s at the line doing his best to concentrate, focus, and sink the shots. The thing is while it all seems crazy, and it is, as a sports fan, it’s normal. You even manage to crack a smile during it all.
All of a sudden, the PA announcer’s voice comes over the speakers:
“Quiet, please. There must be complete silence while the player shoots the free throws.”
If something like this ever happened, basketball fans would raise hell. However, this is the atmosphere at a golf tournament. A player lines up for a shot, and fans are instructed to be quiet. That’s blasphemy. Imagine this happening at a football game during a two-minute drill, or in soccer for a penalty kick, or a baseball game during a 3-2 count in the ninth with two outs and the winning run on base, just ready to take off. You can’t imagine it, because it’s the dumbest concept of all-time, yet it’s one that’s prevalent in golf, but this is supposed to be seen as sport? Hell no.
You can’t make noise, can’t have your cell phone on, and can’t even take pictures during a golfer’s swing. I wish someone would tell a fan they can’t take a picture of Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage before he takes the snap, or a fan can’t yell at Cliff Lee as he’s loading up to throw some heat over the plate. Folks can say golf is a gentleman’s game and try to sell that wolf ticket all day long, but it'll just be a waste of time. One can be a gentleman or a lady to the fullest, yet they still like to cuss, talk crazy, and call our friends after a foolish play or an amazing one as well as before one.
Part of what makes sports so great is not just the action on the field and on the court, but it’s also that it all takes place with so much chaos around them and they still get the job done. How many times have you called up your boy or your girl and had a conversation about how Kobe made 20,000 people go from booing and jeering the hell out of him to being totally shut down and even being motivated to chant “MVP” in his direction? It enhances the experience of being a sports fan, creates memories, and makes an appreciation one has for the game grow even more.
Over time, I’ve had some radical views, and through the years, I have been willing to see the various sides of a given topic and even change stances, but this is one that’s pretty much set in stone. While golf has its audience, and their unique qualities that make it a respected pastime, it lacks crucial ingredients for me to truly look at it as a sport. It’s a game, a skill, a hobby, but a sport? No.