Golf Is Not a Sport

June 19, 2000
(Mark this date, Tiger)

Begin rant.

Ugh. Tiger Woods just won some golf thingie at Pebble Beach. I think it's called the U.S. Open. Whatever. It's golf.

Problem is, Tiger won by a lot, apparently. He won, uhm... big. Really big! So that makes it some kind of deal.


I don't have a high opinion of golf. I'm a moderately interested sports fan. So you can imagine my pain when National Public Radio blasted some report in which yahoo sportswriters from around the nation compared their latest suckupboy du jour to athletes who've achieved significant milestones. One of these losers said something like:

"What Tiger did yesterday, you can only compare it to things like Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series. Or Steve Young's six touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Or Mark Spitz's seven gold medals in the Olympics. But the comparison doesn't really work -- Tiger did this on his own; those guys had support."

First of all, you kinda sorta kinda have to forgive sportswriters. They're often effective with prose in a sharp but simile-dependent way. And when they stray from their similes -- ("he's like Milwaukee's David to New York's Goliath, people! The stadium's suddenly as quiet as outer space, people!") -- they tend to stray into the absurd. It's like, without "like" or "as" inserted after every third or fourth word, these writers don't know what to say. The above statement is a prime example. But that's not my point.

Before I get to my point, let me quote a golfer:

Paul Azinger, the 1993 PGA (snicker) champion, said, "Tiger Woods is probably the greatest athlete in sports today -- in all of sports."

Sounds like Azinger is a cracked with delusions of having something important to say. He reportedly followed that sentence with "I'm still the king of 1993, and Tiger will never take that away from me! Wee!" (Not really.)

More likely, Azinger's is publicly surrendering -- with Tiger around, he'll never, ever have a chance to be "champion" of his game again. (I remember saying something similar when Ken started beating me in badminton. The bastard.)

But again, this is not my point.

Oh hell. Even as I write this, some pansy-voiced guy -- the kind of dude who wears Polo, rocks to Kenny G and watches the Golf Channel religiously -- has gotten on the air and is declaring effeminately, "Everyone is talking about how Tiger is the Michael Jordan of golf? Well, I think Tiger is the Michael Jordan of all sports? He's rockin'!"

Stupid yuppie.

Makin' Muskles
Tiger Woods, not breathing hard,
showing off his fab physique

The Point
Tiger is not Don Larsen. Tiger is not Steve Young. Tiger is not Mark Spitz.

Tiger is certainly not to be compared to Michael Jordan. So fuck off, caller.

Why? Tiger is not an athlete.

Golf is not a sport. Golf is a game. A sport can be a game, but a game is not necessarily a sport.

So What's a Sport?
Professional sports require sweat, baby. And movement. And skill. And some sort of intelligence (or at least, an understanding that makes people wonder how you do it). And you've got to mix all of it together in one package. And you've got to be breathing hard at the end of the game. And when you kiss that trophy, you had better be panting hard enough to fog up the silver, and wet enough to leave face prints.

Not that a game doesn't require intelligence, or movement, or skill, or even sweat. But a game rarely requires all of these qualities, and never demands them all at the same time.

Poker requires intelligence and skill, but not movement nor sweat. Freeze Tag requires movement and sweat, but not skill nor intelligence. And golf? Golf requires skill and movement, but not intelligence, and certainly not sweat. Golf is just outdoor pool, and pool's a game, no matter what you say.

Golfers never breathe hard at the end of a game. Golfers only breathe hard when they walk to the next hole. Pro golfers don't even carry their own clubs. Jesus.

And when a golfer wins a trophy or whatever, that trophy stays clean. Very indicative. I hear the tiddley-winks championship trophy stays clean, too.

Oh hell, now some representative for the Professional Golf Association (some dude named "Mitch") is on the radio, saying, "I call it the god-given sport. You don't have to be tall, short, strong, whatever. Anyone can play it!"

Yeah, right. Never mind that it's one the most expensive games to play, and not a lot of poor or middle-class people are roaming public courses or private clubs. Real democratic, that golf.

Ain't he excited? No.
Tiger Woods, not breathing hard,
not fogging up the silver,
not sweating up the trophy

The Public Ain't Fooled
(For Once)
One thing's true -- you can blame anything about public perception on the media, and you'd probably be right to do so. We only spout off about what we "know," after all, and because the media feeds us everything we "know" about current events in the world, we often believe whatever stories the media wants to sell us.

Sportswriters and sportscasters would have us believe golf is not only a sport, but a sport we ought to pay attention to. And when that well runs dry, they'll try convincing us a sport like rock climbing is something we ought to watch for hours on end. Soon, we'll be loafing entire weekends in front of the tube, our asses getting pimpley from sitting in front of the tube as baseball leads into golf leads into rock climbing.

"ABC's Wild World of Sports will bring you rock-solid rock climbing! Dan 'Danger' Davidson faces the up-and-coming challenger Rick Rachet in a winner-take-all contest that will determine who. will. be. ranked... NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD! This, right after this down-to-the-wire golf game! You can't miss it -- world-class rock climbing! DYNAMIC!"

But I digress.

Anyway, many people recognize that golf is not a sport, no matter what the sports pimps -- who manufacture "big stories" when there's nothing really happening -- say. And even those who do call it a sport often recognize that a pro golfer can't be compared to a pro hockey, football or soccer player.

If you care about these things, (that's Sports Illustrated and CNN mishmashed together) asked readers whether or not Tiger could be compared to other sports heroes. The results were a pretty resounding "Hell no -- he's a freakin' golfer."

Sometimes, I love people.


Tell Me if You've Heard
This One Before
(Hint: So What?)

Don't trust the media. They're trying to sell you a story, and are more concerned that you pay attention to their latest big headline rather than pick up something of value from their work.

I used to listen to Jim Rome, a sports-radio personality. Back in the day, before he went nationwide on big scale, he would point out everything I've pointed out -- there's a difference between pro sports and pro games, namely football and hockey as compared to golf and car racing.

A couple years back, he changed his tune, and now all he ever talks about is "what a man" Tiger is. "Tiger is a man! Don't let anyone tell you different!" Whatever. I guess when it's between truth and cash, the American in us always wins out. (I wonder if he still rips on racing, though.)


The Challenge
Tiger is a golfer. Tiger is not an athelete.

Don't you dare compare Tiger to Mark Spitz, who had to destroy his body everytime he went for the gold. Or to Steve Young, who had to move, throw, run, all the while avoiding people determined to stop him. Or to Don Larsen, who creamed every batter as the world watched on. These dudes competed head to head against other people working hard to beat them -- and Tiger whacked a ball around the green.

Athletes compete against themselves and other people. Golfers compete against themselves, and have no real competition. That's the difference between a game and a sport.

I'm so certain that Tiger's not an athlete -- professional or otherwise -- that I'm 99 percent sure I'd kick his ass in a mile run.

Yep, that's right. I'm calling Tiger out. Now that's something to really woo about!

Lessee... the extent of my running experience, Tiger, is comprised of stints on track teams from the 6th grade to my sophomore year in high school.

(I quit after that because:

a) I wanted straight A's for once
b) I had a girlfriend (who dumped me soon after, dammit)
c) I hate running

But enough of my self-defense mechanism.)

Since then, I've basically run a few months at a time, followed by a year or two of not exercising at all. I'm now 28. As of this date, I've been running for nearly four weeks, and I'm telling you Tiger, I'd kick your ass in a mile race, and then some! You know why?

Because you're a golfer, dude, raised to play a game, a nonsport . That means you half-assed it in gym class (that's assuming you went to a normal school, the kind with teachers and stuff), and when you ran the mile for finals, you just walked or trudged, thinking to yourself, "Let's see that fat-ass gym coach on the green!"

Get in touch -- we'll make a media event out of it.

Nah, you won't. You'll just ignore me because:

a) no one cares
b) I'd be pretty expensive to buy off


End rant.

Except one more thing -- if you had any kind of shame or decency, you'd announce to the world that Steve Young would kick your ass in a fight, and that you're nothing compared to him. The fact that you are even mentioned in the same breath as Young ought to make you feel heady, lucky and thankful that there's the sports media whores are hungry for any kind of story. Okay, I'm done now.

-- Brent Johnson,
who understands the irony of
writing about sports, as if
they really mattered.
June 19, 2000

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