#DigSportsDesk - The Lede

Golf at Rio '16: What a Shame

In October of 2009, I pictured this month’s Sports Illustrated cover with grandiose visions dancing in my head from memories of a February, 1991 cover depicting Michael, Charles and the Mailman with Magic and Bird - the Dream Team. 

My imagination, dancing from those memories, conjured up a special meeting in New York City with a few cases of cold suds and a few industry friends. We’d take-over a conference room at Sports Illustrated and SI-writer extraordinaire Jack McCallum would be holding forth, along with the creative minds of Chris Stone (now the head honcho), longtime basketball scribe and author and former Vermont Frost Heaves GM Alex Wolff, legendary writers like Gary Smith, Steve Rushin, Leigh Montville, and Ian Thomsen along with award-winning photographers Walter Iooss and John McDonough.

From the NBA’s side, we’d toss in Brian McIntyre, Russ Granik and Rick Welts, for old times sake, as they were among the architects of the “original” Dream Team. Kim Bohuny, a scratch golfer out of Furman and a longtime NBA-USA Basketball-Goodwill Games executive would be asked to put on both her basketball hat and golf visor, for which we would reward her with a bottle or two of Silver Oak.

From the world of golf, we’d need some creative genius and no better place to start than with David Feherity, commentator, talk show host and former pro golfer. He’d be joined by Golf Channel cohort Tommy Roy, the executive producer on the PGA Tour but also a contributor to the NBA on NBC. Add in the great Bob Condron, formerly of the USOC and currently the venue chief for golf at Rio 2016, along with golf course architect Gil Hanse as the majordomo for the return of the sport of golf to the Games. We’d toss in Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery for some sporting perspective and humor, and top it off with the brilliance of Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus to be sure everything was as copacetic as a Bill “Bojangles” dance marathon.

The issue at hand and nearing deadline would be the proper naming and headline writing of my imaginary (but just recently received) “Double Issue” Olympic Preview of Sports Illustrated, once king of Olympic Games coverage. The assembled group would discuss the options.

Fast forward  -- In the July 25-August 1st edition, seven United States Olympians graced the cover. It was fine. There were stories on Simone Biles, the new Queen of women’s gymnastics, on Usain Bolt and the "next gen" of track & field athletes, on the most decorated Olympian ever in Michael Phelps. His USA Swimming teammates Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky had their S.L. Price moment, right alongside a Price-penned “back-of-the-book” piece on the “Refugee Team,” a group of Olympians competing without the backing of a country to call home or a flag with which to march into the Olympic Stadium.

There wasn’t a single story on GOLF.

With the sport of golf teeing it up for the first Olympics since 1904, I envisioned an issue filled with profiles on the greatest active golfers - the “Dream Teams” of Dormie.

Let’s take a quick look at who could’ve graced the “Golf Plus” SI cover of a lifetime.

USA

Tiger Woods

Phil Mickelson

Jordan Spieth

Rickie Fowler

Spain

Sergio Garcia

Miguel Angel Jimenez

Ireland

Padraig Harrington

Northern Ireland

Rory McIlroy

Darren Clarke

South Africa

Ernie Els

Retief Goosen

Louis Oosthuizen

Australia

Jason Day

Adam Scott

Germany

Bernard Langer

Martin Kaymer

England

Lee Westwood

Justin Rose

Ian Poulter

Luke Donald

S Korea

KJ Choi

Japan

Hideki Matsuyama

Fiji

Vijay Singh

Sweden

Henrik Stenson

And, that’s just to name a few of the sport’s greatest active golfers. 

The SI Cover could’ve looked a little like the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, although I’m not a sure we could replace only four Beatles. We might’ve needed eight or ten silky psychedelic suits to do the sport and its global appeal justice. They could’ve all gathered around on the Zoysia grass with a few flowers to add some color. Peter Blake and Jann Haworth would be much obliged by the newfound work and a hefty Time, Inc. payday.

Of course, the pundits would’ve been conjuring and criticizing an Isiah Thomas-like conspiracy theory snub-fest, fueling enough debate to knock The Donald off the boob tube for a night or two, and we don’t mean The (Luke) Donald.

The gripes? There'd be a few.

Where’s Jim Furyk?

Where’s Colin Montgomery, that old crank from Scotland, the birthplace of the sport?

How come there are no golfers from Canada on the cover?

Tiger’s washed up and can’t play anymore (Remember the Larry Bird critics?)

Instead? We give you Golf in the 2016 Summer Olympic games.

Thud! What a waste of a sport.

Just as sure as the IOC reinstated Baseball and Softball for the 2020 games in baseball-loving Japan, you can bet your Callaway Great Big Bertha that golf will get the (sand) trap door at the next world congress of sporting corruption. Hospitality and event planners for 2024, you can kiss your birdies good-bye.

It could’ve been great. It could’ve done for golf what the Dream Team did for basketball in 1992. 

But, oh no, only a handful of the best golfers in the world wanted to play. 

If it were the ’92 basketball players balking, it would’ve been a public relations nightmare for the N.B.A. and, the likes of Ben Simmons, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming and Tony Parker might’ve never seen United States soil, never mind NBA stardom, worldwide fame and fortune. But, this summer, golf is being given the benefit of the doubt and a free ride, PR-wise, as health threats from the terrible Zika virus and the outdoor nature of the game have swayed public opinion of the sporting slight to say, “Well that’s alright with us”

Rightfully, we should point out and give proper credit where it is due to the likes of Kaymer, Stenson, Rose, Fowler, and Harrington. High-fives to Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson of the USA, Graham Dalaet and David Hearn of Canada and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, just to name a few of the men’s golfers scheduled to compete. And, the women of the LPGA deserve much credit as their showing is strong, but sadly, far less impactful for the overall growth of the sport.

Just think of what could’ve been as we all planned the cover and penned the new name.

What would your suggestion have been for the headline of the Return of Golf to the Olympics issue?

Sadly, we could only come up with - “What a Shame Game.”


Dear Donald ...

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The United States Postal Service has a clearly stated motto and a lofty goal to live up to, especially in these challenging times of budget cutbacks and outlandish political promises. Despite the near 50-50 split in political beliefs in this country, a nearly sure-fire guarantee is dropping a letter in the mail with a “Forever” stamp properly attached and having that letter promptly delivered to its addressee, no matter who appoints the Postmaster General.

This past week, there must’ve been an exception.

It seems a letter, an actual letter - typed, double-space - must’ve been misaddressed and it ended up in our fan services mailbox. It wasn’t on “official” NFL stationary but, instead, it had a strange substance, resembling Wite-Out, on cheap, less-than-paper-thin letterhead. (Campaign cost-cutting, we’re guessing?) We could barely make out the address. The chalky Wite-Out gave way, not to a Park Avenue address, but maybe, somewhere in the 700s of Fifth Avenue in New York.

Regardless, it read in part:

Dear Donald:

It’s been a while since our last communique, 1985 to be exact. Between 1983 and 1985, we exchanged quite a number of pleasantries, usually via letterhead of our respective law firms. You and J. Walter gave us quite a scare, back then, when you were throwing dollar bills around like you used to do at “Scores,” and you signed Dougie and Herschel to those ridiculous deals in hopes of impressing Wellington, Jerry and even Don Shula. You were quite a trip back then, all glitzy but no substance. We should’ve known better.

That was about three or four NFL Commissioners ago, God Bless Pete Rozelle. We’ve learned a lot since then, especially as it relates to protecting our shield, our sacred brand.

For it is that important subject in which we write today.

Your parade through the Republican Party, much like the way the New England Patriots clinch the NFC East every year, was really something to marvel at, old friend. During the primarlies and the GOP debates, you came up with some of the best nicknames since Dick Ebersol and the guys plastered “He Hate Me” on the back of a jersey. We particularly liked, “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted,” and we’ve considered licensing those from your organization come 2020. More on that at a later date.

The topic at hand are these Presidential debates you speak of.

It seems a couple of the dates fall on the same nights when our network partners televise our games. Of course, nowadays - unlike the ‘80s when we last communicated - we play on nearly every damn night of the week, so the chances of not having a conflict with one of our games is pretty slim. 

The Commission of Presidential Debates checked with us about a year ago, by the way, long before your name was even mentioned as a possible candidate from the Party of Lincoln and Palin. We promised them a little help and suggested a Monday Night in September when we scheduled the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Not a soul outside of Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada will give a hoot about that game, and we figure you can carry those three States, even if you were stupid enough to nominate a running-mate as homophobic and anti-women’s rights as Mike Pence. 

The second date is an October Sunday Night when we have a doozy on the docket, the Green Bay Packers vs. the New York Giants, but again it’s a night where fans from New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin are most likely to tune-in. Now Donnie-boy, you know you have no chance at all to carry New York and New Jersey, even though that’s home turf. All native New Yorkers and most from Jersey see right through your act, just like our pal Mikey Bloomberg. And Wisconsin? My goodness, you might’ve had a chance in Wisconsin until you came up with that “not quite ready” baloney on the sitting Speaker of the House, right as he was facing a primary. So, chalk up any chance of swaying those cheese-heads. But, rest assured, you might get those six Electoral votes from Nevada unless you try to get back in the Atlantic City casino business, and we all know that story. He he.

The last date the Commission put forth was a Wednesday night, October 19th, and, as of today, we don’t have plans to do a Wednesday Night Football package, at least until Disney panics and realizes they’re losing a bunch of cable subs and tries an old-fashioned TV-only property of Wednesdays. We’ll keep in touch on that.

The veep debate, by the way, falls on a Tuesday night, so no problemo there, but we might suggest you try to move that potential fiasco to about 4am on a Saturday morning. That guy Pence keeps on contradicting your so-called policies, don’t ya know. You say, “No Paul Ryan,” he says, “Yes, Paul Ryan.” You say, "the hell with McCain,” and he says, “I love McCain.” You say “Pota-toe,” he says “POTATE-o.” It’s getting comical, really.

So, with that in mind, we thought we’d write a little letter - picture it being written to the tune “Take a Letter, Maria,” okay? Your smokescreen on rigged debates and rigged elections is not playing well with the very “American people” you always quote as though you know. You claim to know what they’re thinking or how they’re living. And, you just plain don't, Donnie-boy. We know those people, Donnie, we serve those people and, trust us, you are not representative of the typical American person. 

In closing, you are hereby on notice to "cease and desist" from connecting the NFL, NFL games on TV and the scared NFL Shield (notice the Cap S) to anything to do with your campaign for President of the United States, or in the future, for any campaign for Dog Catcher. Don't use it as political capital or for negotiations, and defintely, make that, most definitely, do not use it as an excuse for your sorry-ass, disasterous campaign.

Best regards,

 

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