Liv and Let Liv – Fred Dobbs

As we all know, the information superhighway is rife with sloppy writing, emotional subjectivity, and misinformation. That’s our world, but the advantages of the Web certainly seem to outweigh the disadvantages. I am definitely getting a little worn out with the countless articles and op-eds about LIV Golf presented by ignorami–including in the mainstream golf and general press.

Wearing my “arrogance hat”, here are some thoughts:

There is a lot of logical talk about the fact that the Saudis bankroll LIV as a sports washing campaign. For this discussion let’s stipulate that in our black and white world, the Saudis are “bad guys”. It also should be acknowledged that PGA TOUR sponsors do a massive amount of business with the Saudis, and we all saw our President crawl over to Riyadh and get shot down on his request for significantly increased oil production. Hence, I rate this topic neutral. The U.S. government, our richest corporations, and many others prostitute themselves and their enterprises with bad guys from time to time.

Jay Monahan has been overt in the most pejorative way in calling LIV an “exhibition”. That’s the pot calling the kettle black. Once you get past the AJGA, virtually all of competitive golf on the national and international level is a professional exhibition with paid actors–even collegiately. The NFL is an exhibition… MLB… NBA… PBA… the National Pickleball Championship. Some are just bigger and better than others. The TOUR provides a powerful force of suspended disbelief with respect to this topic–to the point where it’s easy to buy into the fact that this is pure sport–but pure sport doesn’t compete with other leagues by offering bigger and bigger payoffs.

I definitely am in suspension of disbelief with regard to the TOUR, and the DP–and that will never be the case with LIV. I don’t track all the NASCAR title sponsorships but recall once there was a Winston series at the top and a minor Busch series. Maybe that’s a good analogy. LIV is the Busch League–and entertaining at that. I just can’t figure out why the TOUR, the DP, the R&A, and others of the golf establishment feel so threatened by this. 

If I was commish I don’t think I’d ever talk about it–I’m not sure why Monahan is so into giving LIV all that free PR. It appears he’s scared down to his socks. But he’s the king and his kingdom is and likely always will be massively dominant. And, so far, no player who has joined LIV matters to me. The chances of LIV overtaking the TOUR brings a vision of flying pigs to mind. In this case, I’ll worry about the TOUR when Rory joins LIV (who would you rather root for–Rory or Brooks, Rory or Sergio, even Rory or Phil–who more than once has gotten tied up with some pretty shady gambling folks).

I just spent three days watching the Wyndham event–and the absolutely pristine excitement of watching young Tom Kim win, gain his TOUR card, make the Fedex Playoffs, and perhaps launch a storied career. That ain’t happenin’ at LIV. That said, let’s not discount the positivity of LIV in raising up the Asian Tour and the potential of perhaps LIV and the Asian Tour evolving into one of the “big three”. But we’ll be long gone before they manage to buy their way into the history books with the TOUR, the DP, the USGA, Augusta, and the R&A.

Don’t hang this on Greg Norman. He’s not really much more than the Saudi’s top “sporting lady”, and no better than their second choice at that (kudos to Jack for not grabbing the cash). Like most really rich guys, Norman’s a slave to dough. But I can see how $100 mil in the pocket would make it easier to embrace the positives of LIV. 

I did spend some time with Greg a long time ago, in a business relationship. We spent a day on a soundstage in North Miami filming. He was #1 in the world at the time. One of his conditions was that we provide a studio in south Florida where he could land his helicopter—he was unwilling to drive an hour from his home. He brought his head pro from Medalist GC to carry his bag. But in the shoot, Greg was very down to earth and it was a fun day. I’m not sure it would have gone as well had we not paid him over $500k, hired a production crew suitable for the Olympics—with winners of 14 national Emmys–and even engaged Julio Iglacias’ personal make-up lady.  

But I digress.

My point is if half the world bows at my feet and I’m being paid infinite money, I could easily turn into a diva. I have only positive thoughts toward Greg and since I’ll never walk a mile in his shoes that almost definitely won’t change.

I’ve very much enjoyed the first three LIV events—watching the majority of the Web feed. The whole operation is still quite sloppy but they’ll figure it out. And, contrary to some folks’ statements, I’ve seen indications that LIV will perform some potentially lovely charitable acts. 

So what if they have been able to grab more sporting ladies off the various pro tours and even the amateur ranks—there are plenty to go around. I look at it as a separate product. But it’s the TOUR and the DP that represent the venerable game of golf, with its history and traditions—in spite of the fact that the TOUR leadership sucks up a massive amount of cash in providing wonderful careers to their seemingly infinite number of almost exclusively white Vice Presidents. A little sport is going on here as well.

To what degree should a for-profit sports entertainment entity concern itself with geo-political issues? Personally, I see no problem limiting this concern to how it would affect profitability. We have politicians and governments that control the rest. I own a small golf simulator company. If the Saudis wanted to buy a bunch of them from me I would take their money–within legal bounds. I’d use it to pay my mother’s senior living expenses and help out my kids–maybe buy a new hat. 

The Saudis might be the guys with the pantyhose over their heads and the bag of burglar tools but I’d be the one walking off with the dough. If Jeffrey Dahmer had offered his victims’ families a hundred mil each–I’d have encouraged them to take it.  

Btw, that’s all Greg and the other sports did. Guys like Norman and Mickelson have been grabbing the dough with both hands for decades. Personally I thank them for all the excitement and entertainment they’ve given me over the years at their own expense of potentially warped values. I can’t criticize any of that stuff–and I don’t think that anyone with the possible exception of Jesus, Mother Theresa, and Ghandi should have justification to criticize them.

The rest of us, we’re all sports.