The Loop

What I wish I said on Fox Business

August 20, 2014

Yesterday I received the honor of appearing on Fox Business Network's Varney&Co, where I was interviewed by Stuart Varney for two minutes and 36 seconds.

Despite the comfy black car the studio sent, I was flustered for several reasons. First was waiting outside the wrong entrance in the noon sun -- my fault. Second was the makeup person telling me to go to the hair person, who told me there was nothing she could do, which could only be interpreted one of two ways. Third, when I finally got on set, Stuart asked if I was old enough to be on the show. I fumbled some mild retort, and then we segued into a lively discussion about golf. Cathartic to finally hear my lips speak the few points I had bottled in my head. But then I realized we weren't filming; this was just the commercial break before the interview when Stuart sizes you up.

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The above clip is worth watching because Tiger Woods gives the most open and thoughtful interview he's given all year. After Tiger, I come on, and the banner underneath reads "Is There Hope for Golf?"

I sure wish I had a mulligan to answer that one. So here goes.

Who says golf needs hope? People whose central experience of the world comes from looking at data on computer screens don't always have reality pegged. We sometimes forget how useful it is to go outside and look around. Each time I've been out this summer -- and I'm sure most golfers can relate -- I've seen so many people playing, young and old, that I actually wished there were less people playing. Whenever I've procrastinated about making a teetime, it's been a pain to get out. I didn't get into two tournaments that were oversubscribed. When rounds are down, weather is usually the biggest factor. Just because a few companies aren't continuing to squeeze greater and greater profits, doesn't mean the sport needs to be "saved."

No one asks if there's hope for football or baseball. These sports are only for young men (Little League's Mo'ne Davis the fantastic exception), and usually only for a few years versus the lifetime that golf offers every person. Yet since these sports attract enough people to stay inside on the couch on weekends and be fed commercials, they're perceived as healthy.

This week the PGA Tour FedEx Cup kicks off at The Barclays, a four-tournament race that will award $67 million in prize money to pros. These same pros are also compensated, and handsomely, by equipment companies for the patches on their hats and sleeves. These companies make money by selling golf equipment to average people, so obviously there are quite a lot of people playing golf.

Golf is among the most ubiquitous sports played and watched every weekend in America. It's thriving. Maybe not as much as projected two decades ago, and possibly slightly less than a few years ago, but nothing of this earth is meant to have perpetual, uninterrupted growth.

"But you need the spark, you need the star quality, you need someone who's like 'whoa, that guy is really, really good,'" Varney prodded.

Maybe not. Tiger Woods was certainly that person, but his magnetism only attracted more masses to watch golf, not play it.

Golf doesn't need hope. The game is a fun, maddening approximation of flight that will continue to lure addicts who value a challenge and large chunks of free time outdoors. The enormous concentration of capital presently tied up in the professional realm will filter down to the local golf course as needed.

Adam Smith's invisible hand has a golf glove on it.