In these days of sheltering in place, social distancing, and the death toll from Covid-19 rising, often it seems sports doesn't really matter. Sure it would be nice to have a ball game on, especially over Memorial Day. In the sporting world, the three-day weekend's marquee event is the Indianapolis 500. Even if you don't normally follow the sport, it's fun to check out. None of that this year, of course. Instead, we had, and a lot of us watched, including for some reason me, we had nationally televised exhibition golf.
Yep. Eighteen holes of four guys whacking a ball with a metal club, getting in a cart and driving a few hundred yards, and whacking a ball with a club again. In the rain, too, I might add, and at times a downpour. Now of course we are over-simplifying here. Golf is more than whacking a ball with a metal club, and the four guys we're talking about are not just any neighborhood country club schlubs. There names are Tiger, Phil, Peyton, and Brady.
Honestly, it would have been more appealing if it was just Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson one on one, but golf is played in foursomes, so they added some flavor. I wish the pairings were different, but the always genial former quarterback Peyton Manning was paired with Woods, and the 'Golden Boy', former New England Patriots and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady teamed up with Mickelson. It was match play, and for charity, and it was wildly successful on all counts.
For some reason, the match was televised on as many channels as there were players (the Turner networks of TNT, TBS, TRU-TV, and HLN). Golf Week reports an average of 5.8 million viewers tuned in, calling it the most-watched combined golf telecast on Cable TV (how many others have there been?). It also raised 20 million dollars for Covid-19 relief, with some auctions still to follow. It also provided a rooting interest for a lot of people.
The shot of the match was by Brady. On the par-five seventh hole at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, and about 150 yards away, while being trash-talked by Turner's Charles Barkley, Brady fourth shot backspun, and bounced in. Woods and Manning would win by one hole, but had a three-hole lead early. In match play, 11 of the 18 holes resulted in ties, which is a little difficult for the novice fan (like me).
The event lasted five hours, and I do admit to fast-forwarding through some of the middle holes, but it was live competition, and very entertaining. I was rooting for Phil, and Peyton, and kept forgetting that they weren't on the same team, but that's okay. Even had sports been going on as usual, this might have been a great diversion, but now things go back to normal. Whatever that is.
Baseball update: I'm really starting to accept that baseball would be better off as a sport without season. That's not going to happen. They are going to play, but for how many games and in front of zero people? According to reporting, the past week has been negotiations between owners and players about safety and logistics. They are supposed to get down to financials this week, with some expected haggling. June 1 is a week from today, and it wouldn't surprise me if some sort of agreement was at least close by then. They are still talking about the start of a 'spring training' in mid-June, and a brief 80-something game season to start around the Fourth if July.
Virtual Memorial Day: With large gatherings still prohibited, this year's Memorial Day ceremony in Grass Valley, would have been canceled this year, but the radio station I work for came to the rescue. There was still no live event, but a program, very similar to what would have been done at the city's Memorial Park, was broadcast live on KNCO. Program Director Tom Fitzsimmons organized the whole thing, and local veteran Will Buck, C-W-2 Air Force Retired, was the emcee. Vignettes, music, and other speeches were recorded, and there was even a playing of Taps and a gun volley and salute at the end. The program lasted an hour, but was a sterling example of community radio at its finest.