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Sports Overload

-or- do we need live flag to flag coverage of the professional miniature golf tour?

©02 The Media Desk

4 July, 2002

"Professional Mini-Golf??? You're kidding."

      No, the Desk is actually serious. There IS an infant professional miniature golf tour, and they will most likely be at least highlighted on cable sports shows when they have whatever passes for their World Series.

     And the Desk knows you are asking, "So What?"
     If ESPN or PAX-TV Sports or somebody wants to run coverage of it with breathless announcers analyzing a three rail shot under the coocoo clock to the pin, what's the problem? Most likely the Desk would probably give it a look-see as well.
     That's not the point.
     This is: Sports Overkill.
     We are inundated with sports to the point where there may not be enough audience to support them.
     It takes a fan base of from between a million and a half to around three million people to support a major professional team these days and make it profitable without taxpayer support. A little less for an NHL team, a little more for an NFL team. And even then the owner will whimper until he gets some sort of subsidy from the city or state.
     Most people can deal with two or three professional sports and support those teams. They are a Utah Jazz Basketball fan and go to several games a season. They watch the Denver Broncos on TV, and keep up with the Mariners because their sister dated one of their minor league players. But that's it. And that's enough. That covers the entire year giving them somebody's playoffs to watch every few months. Every weekend, somebody is playing somewhere. And if not, there might be an Indycar race at the Cleveland Airport which is a cool place to hold a race.
     They're not even sure who won the Stanley Cup this year. They have no idea when the British Open is played, they can't keep track of the Tour de France, Flushing Meadows is a feature on the New York map with no other significance. Pro Beach Volleyball is something of curiosity to them, NASCAR is a mystery 'go fast turn left', the Gravity Games are something the kids watch. They have never watched figure skating other than the Winter Olympics, and have no idea how the judges at the Summer Games can score platform diving, and just can't get into soccer.
     To them professional bowling is about the second dullest thing on TV, and they think the World Series of Poker is actually sinful.

     But they are missing kickboxing, tractor pulls, motocross, NCAA softball, and the Frisbee Dog Trials. Not to mention at least three kinds of horseracing, and the medival knight combat tournaments. Then there is windsurfing and extereme skiing, and the Iron Man in Hawaii.
     And we haven't even talked about celebrity obstical courses or the cowpie tossing world championship.

     The Desk has covered everything that can even loosely be called a sport, and has even stood in as ref or judge on occassion when nobody else was sure what was a foul and what wasn't and how far up the arm do you call 'hands'.
     See in some sports, football or tennis for instance, the line itself is out, if you hit chalk, its out of bounds. But in baseball, the line is IN. Also if a ball hits the foul pole, it is still a fair ball, and possibly a home run.
     And the Desk, for its part, enjoys watching almost anything you've ever seen written up on the Sports page, except for professional wrestling. How many sportswriters have been to a Big Ten football game and a monster truck race in the same day? Who else has covered a joust and a softball tournament in the same weekend? A high school football game today, a minor league baseball game tomorrow, and a NASCAR race the day after?
     The Desk, owing to its current work schedule, can't do the Sports like it used to. It didn't make it to a college football game last season for the first time in many years. But it still has an eye that way. It stays abreast of what's new and what's changed and what's coming.
     But the Desk is a Professional. It has been close to Sports Overload, but never suffered from it. One weekend it went to two live events, watched three football games and two auto races, a boxing match, and part of a golf tournament on TV, and still had time to write it up for a local media outlet.
     What about that poor guy in Charlotte wondering what happened to his basketball team? Or a mother explaining to her kids how the scoring in Curling works during the Salt Lake Games. There are people in Baltimore still smarting from the Colts move even after the Ravens won a Superbowl. What about them?

RELAX... and the Desk will explain it all to you.

     First, the Myth that EVERYBODY is a Professional.

     At the TRUE Professional Level, things are still thin. There are a few guys that pay their rent on the Professional Bass Fisherman Tour. But only a few. They are sponsored by boat and fishing pole manufacturers. The TV audience, while loyal and rather noisy at times (the Desk was in a bar in Atlantic City one time when a loud cheer went up from a crowd around one TV set. A local favorite had just weighed in and was ahead for the moment. That. Was a unique experience.) is not going to displace the Super Bowl for ratings numbers anytime soon.
     If you are looking to make your living playing sports, you should work on hitting the inside curve ball or nailing a good three point jump shot instead of hitting at least a leaner every time you throw a horseshoe at a post.
     Yes there is a professional version of everything from Ballroom Dancing to White Water Kayaking, but are those that do it, other than maybe the top three in the sport, who get the sponsorships and endorsements, earning their daily bread at it?
     Yes there is an audience out there for almost anything you can think of, and some of them will buy tickets or patronize sponsors to boot. But other than one or two big tournaments that rate coverage, where are their athletes the rest of the year? Can you earn enough to make your car payment for the month if you win the Gumboro Skeet Pro-Am? Or are they working a day job and racing recumbent bicycles on weekends?
     But how many people declare to the IRS that their sole means of income is from professional sports?
     So, we have to look at the working definition of Professional. And then it gets foggy. It's easier to define amateur. They are paying more, sometimes far more, than they ever win to do whatever it is. So we can define Pro by those grounds. Pros take home more than they pay. But even then it is confusing. Dick Trickle hasn't won anything substantial in years, but he is still a professional race car driver.
     So, the Desk supposes you can be a professional sports person if you call yourself one and have a heavy enough checkbook to make it stick.

     Next: the myth of Sports Overload.

     Not everybody watches football. Not everybody likes auto racing, fencing, judo tournaments, and bocci. The Desk knows people that only follow baseball, some can't get through a weekend without either watching or playing golf. They make a pilgrimage every year to the LPGA event that comes to the area and pay CASH for a ticket.
     And there are those, the Desk works with one, that doesn't pay attention to any sport unless his kid is playing.
     Some people go nuts for stock car racing. Others are so into basketball they have a Dream Team 1 and 2 poster above their bed.
     Which is why there is everything conceivable out there now.
     Whatever it is, somebody, somewhere will be into it, and they will need a new field hockey stick sooner or later, and the stick makers need to tell them what they've got. 'SHAZAM' a tournament sponsor is born.
     Eventually there will be a professional league, with sponsors, stadium deals, shoe contracts, and cheerleaders who do publicity stints at bank branch grand openings.
     So while you may not watch lacrosse, or synchronized swimming, or anything else under the canopy of 'the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat' the Desk and at least one or two people in Chicago do, and that's all it takes for some sponsor somewhere to pay to get it in front of a camera or to host an event someplace. The Desk and those three people from Chicago will show up, and the rest is history.
     The Professional Miniature Golf Tour is born.

Finally: Do we Need.... ...


     We Need air to breathe. Water to drink. Food, shelter, clothing, and things like that.
     Without air... Four, five minutes tops. You are done. Without the NBA, we lasted something on the order of four or five months without too much discomfort during their labor dispute.
     Water. You might hold out for almost a week, but you won't enjoy it. We'd gone from about 5,000 BC to just a few years ago without the professional bullriders on TV, humanity might survive if it went away.
     And the rest of it. The Desk has slept in its van, it's not sure, but it doesn't think the Eagles will let it sleep in their press box once the game is over.
     But it is a lot nicer to have the choice, even if you never act on that choice, of going to watch the Police Dog Competition or a street rod drag race next weekend isn't it?
     Run through the channels sometime. If every network is showing golf, which happened awhile back, you wonder if the world is coming to an end, but then up in the UHF channels New Jersey Network (PBS) is showing a tape delay of a rugby match. OK, panic attack over.
     OK, we don't NEED it, but we sure do appreciate it when it's a choice of either the polo finals or reruns of sitcoms and health food cooking shows.

     But do we WANT a choice of every sort of sport man has ever invented including jai ali and Sumo and extensive coverage, with interviews and tech segments, of the Nordic Combined?
     You may not. The Desk is basically indifferent. But that guy in Terre Haute that is stuck in his house with a broken leg sure likes having those choices instead of soap operas and game shows.

     And isn't Freedom and Choices kinda what America is about?


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