Now that the social media swooning has quieted down from the four-day Snapchat and social media advertorial delivered by Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas, I’ll bite.
It wasn’t that cool.
At times, the behavior exhibited was boorish, unbecoming of pro athletes who do so much to inspire kids and reckless to their physical health.
Projecting a little, this hyped series of “Snapped” videos spoke to golf’s embarrassing desperation to be liked by a younger generation, fueled by corporations who want to reach demos that the sport has almost never delivered. As someone who has subscribed to the narrative about the next wave of stars—nicer, more social media friendly, more grounded—the “Snapped” antics were kind of cute on day one. But by day four of the drunken behavior, the celebration of the next gen’s legacy suggested a peculiar precedent has been set.
Reading Mike Stachura’s GolfDigest.com piece on the normalcy delivered in last week’s Snapchatted vacation from the game’s young stars, I was taken aback by this:
But the Snapchatification of the trip, the exposure of the lives of Fowler & Friends in what appear to be unguarded moments, makes us wonder if we are seeing a sea change in the attitudes of top young players today, particularly top young American players. Having recently read Wright Thompson’s remarkable Tiger Woods profile for ESPN, it reaffirmed not just how lonely Tiger Woods was at the top, but how alone he seemed to willingly become. This is not the sense we get from the spring-break breakdown Fowler has been sending out from his rickiefowler15 account.
Actually, the sense I got right off the bat was of a promotional nature. Justin Thomas’s Tweet thanking Bakers Bay developer Mike Meldman and the Casamigos tequila that fueled some of the behavior confirmed that the location in question certainly wasn’t opposed to the millions in free advertising delivered by four days of social output. They might have even provided some services on the house. And frankly, I say good for these young men for enjoying their good connections, time off and access to fine tequila.
But four days with multiple examples of childish excess and questionable decision making? Don’t expect everyone to like it and definitely do not get touchy when some suggest you are no longer role models for youngsters.
From a historical perspective, the repeated suggestion of a generational difference between the #SB2K16 lads and previous golfing greats is alarming. Wright Thompson’s 11,000 words on Tiger, released as the kids were living it up in the Bahamas, devoted months of a talented writer’s time to finding out why Tiger behaved the way he did. The article was therapeutic for Tiger admirers who bought into a lifestyle and the imagery he put forward, allowing them feel better about themselves for being duped. Because the great golf wasn't enough, apparently. Why else would anyone spend 30 minutes reading about Tiger not returning to his dad’s unmarked ash grave in Kansas and give two hoots?
Many were invested in Tiger and he made them feel bad for liking someone who wasn't "normal", therefore they look for a cleansing of psychoanalysis to feel better for buying in. Just as many lived vicariously through Snapchat videos last week to have their idea of conformity rubber stamped or their devotion to this strange game deemed normal because our young stars whooped it up in the Bahamas.
Which brings me to the real concern in the hype over Snapchatted vacations. Again, not to pick on my colleague Stachura who was just one of many intrigued by the Bahamas behavior, but he writes:
Exorbitantly wealthy, they still seemed normal, less processed and robotic, more human. Maybe it’s because the backwards caps and board shorts came without corporate logos, but it was like seeing Batman without his cape and tights and realizing that Bruce Wayne knows how to have a good time, can dance and sing karaoke and hey, maybe he can invite me over the next time he parties.
So let’s say this fall we have a player who is more of the loner, iconoclastic variety vying for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick. Say, a Patrick Reed or Bryson DeChambeau or, gasp, a non-youngster like Charley Hoffman. Or a hologram of a cranky-as-ever Ben Hogan (hey, anyone who can make putts!).
Will last week’s outpouring of love for the more “human” generation--of the appropriate demographic of course--force a captain’s hand to pick the conforming, social media fun-loving young “guy” who was hazed by his peers on social media over the player who doesn’t want to play by the modern media rules?
Will we start holding it against golfers—historically a sport of lovable loners, weirdos, nuts and iconoclasts—when they don’t share key details of their lives, take off their shirts and act silly? Will a captain have his hand forced by golf's desperation to be loved by those wanting it to look and act younger?
I hope not.
**Haters, we batted this around on Morning Drive today too. Enjoy!