Golf has needed ESPN but since losing or waving goodbye to the many golf properties they once enjoyed rights to, not so much.
ESPN the television network makes clear it needs golf once a year when the Masters rolls around (ESPN.com still shows great interest in and respect for covering the sport with their team of Harig, Sobel, O'Connor, Collins, Maguire, Wojciechowski, etc.). But as we saw with last week's no-golf Sportscenter in between live broadcasts and the round replays, golf seems to be an annoyance these days.
Still, the ignorance and disrepect shown by Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman takes things that may have the golf world no longer caring what the network thinks of our sport.
Let's get to the comments first as transcribed by Joe DePaolo (do watch the Mediaite embed as the tone is worse than the transcript.) Here is Stephen A lamenting the sportsmanship shown by Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose's:
This notion that we’re really not competing against each other. We’re really just playing golf and it’s really competing against the course. Nonsense. There’s a game to be played. Each of you go out there to do it. You’re trying to compete at a level that eclipses the individuals that are also on the course. Last time I checked, that’s competition.
He added: “I damn near told them to get a room. It was ridiculous, how they were with one another…I want to see you rooting for the other to fail.”
These comments were the most-noticed and they are silly given that Sergio and Rose did not walk arm-and-arm up the playoff hole. Even sillier when you have to know the heartbreak Rose the competitor feels in those moments and yet shows such respect.
Sure, there is a discussion to be had for players helping each other out by leaving balls down as backboards, or a softening of competitive edges due to the immense amount of money in the sport.
However, I feel the comments from Max Kellerman, Stephen A's colleague on First Take, speak to a lack of knowledge within the Worldwide Leader that is perplexing. He questions golf's "status as a sport" and then...
I would define a sport as a competition through which you accurately gauge the athleticism of its participants. And I don’t think that’s the case with golf. Among its many flaws…this ain’t Ali going at Frazier. They’re not throwing punches. They’re not tackling each other. They’re not in each other’s way. Golf is not a zero sum game. It’s more like a standardized test.
Needless to say we know some of the greatest athletes in the world have said they admire golf as a sport and have profound respect for their fellow athletes.
What's troubling is that a network we once relied on for balancing smart with entertaining coverage and for knowing where to draw the line on First Team All-American ignorance, even allows such an uninformed discussion to take place.
Mercifully, golf goes off ESPN's radar now until next year at The Masters. If there is a next year for ESPN.
**The Big Lead's Michael Shamburger points out that Kellerman needs to get a clue:
If Kellerman truly believes that golf is not a sport, I challenge him to head out to the driving range and hit 1,500 golf balls between Monday and Wednesday and then play four rounds from Thursday to Sunday and walk, not ride in a cart, but walk up and down the hills on the course as he chases his ball around. After that, get back to me on whether golf is a sport. Let me know.
Maybe you agree with Kellerman and maybe you agree with me, but what no one can deny is that it takes an unbelievable amount of skill and mental toughness to not only win a major championship, but also to win on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, European Tour and so on.