The Fine Line Between Desperation And Authenticity In Sports

I wrote in the latest Golfweek about the importance for golf to remember the fine line between desperation and authenticity in promotion of the sport.

The confluence of recent events--from Henrik's sore rib caused by the HSBC stunt, to the suddenly iffy future of the NFL, suggests golf needs to sell the values that got the game to age 500 (or so).

For a perfect example of how quickly can sour when desperation takes hold, check out Ben Rothenburg's NY Times story on the ATP Tour trying tweaks to tennis via its NextGen event.

If you like the sport at all, you'll be intrigued by the ideas (pace of play, technology) and less inspired by the motivations (millennial attention spans, etc...). But as with so many of golf's stunts, organizers got carried away and the tennis portion of the experiment was forgotten following a draw party boondoggle.

Instead of drawing chips from a bowl, organizers instructed the young players to select a model who would then reveal a letter, A or B, on her body to determine each player’s group.

The first model selected hiked up her dress and pulled her garter to reveal the letter A. Another instructed a player to remove her glove with his teeth.

The tennis world quickly expressed its disapproval at the crass sexualization of the event. The Hall of Famer Amélie Mauresmo called it a “disgrace,” while the French player Alizé Cornet mocked the regressive start to a showcase of innovations.

“Good job ATPWorldTour,” Cornet wrote on Twitter. “Supposed to be a futurist event right? #backtozero.”

An apology was issued and most didn't even up talking about the tweaks to format that included no line judges, shorter sets and a court presented without the doubles alleys. Desperation won in straight sets.