Catbird Seat: "Priorities"Amid all the talk about the PGA Tour - how much money those at its summit bring home in a year - and how it remains relevant in a time of economic difficulty for so many of its fans and sponsors, a story arises that puts things in perspective.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Amid all the talk about the PGA Tour - how much money those at its summit bring home in a year - and how it remains relevant in a time of economic difficulty for so many of its fans and sponsors, a story arises that puts things in perspective.
I should say this in the interests of full disclosure: Phil Mickelson is my favorite golfer. I’ve admired ‘Lefty’ for many years, and for the longest time I regarded him as the Minnesota Vikings of the golf world. He was blessed year after year with amazing talent but was never able to make it work out.
Then he won the Masters. Then he won it again. Now Lefty is near the summit of the world of golf and I don’t think there are too many people who would begrudge him his place. And, since the Vikings still haven’t won anything, the analogy is now useless. Happily for him.
He grips the club hard, he hits the ball hard, he takes chances and sometimes things don’t work out. When they don’t, he still finds a way to smile. He golfs like the rest of us live.
Last week’s story about Mickelson’s wife, Amy, being diagnosed with breast cancer made the headlines and generated a lot of buzz prior to this week’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Obviously, there is nothing in itself that is intrinsically unique about a story like this.
Breast cancer is a scourge. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 40,000 of our wives, sisters, mothers and daughters will pass away from it during 2009. Yet when a celebrity fights that most personal of battles, the results touch many lives.
The tour has rallied around the Mickelsons and it was perhaps the ultimate twist of irony that the tour played in Memphis at the St. Jude’s Classic.
The PGA Tour has donated $1.4 billion to charities, and St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospitals have been perhaps the highest profile recipients of some of that money. It was a reminder of one thing the PGA Tour does very, very well. It raises money for charity.
Big-time sports have felt the pinch in today’s economy. To use NASCAR as just one example, major sponsors have had to make cutbacks – and so have Toyota and GM. NASCAR itself suspended all testing at its sanctioned tracks for this season.
European subscription broadcaster Setanta Sports teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, with the rights fees it pays to leagues in England and Scotland considered a lifeblood for many teams.
Contrast those stories with soccer team Real Madrid’s payment of approximately $110 million to purchase the contract of Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Then they reportedly offered the 24-year old a contract yet unsigned rumored to be worth close to $30 million per season at its end. So you get the idea that some people think sports has still gone over the top in this day and age.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see someone do something nice for someone else. Yes, the PGA winners’ checks are still very large, but they aren’t guaranteed. You have to perform to get paid – that’s the way golf has always been.
And while the other major sports contribute to charities and communities, the PGA has the image of doing it right. Good for them.
So while Phil Mickelson was trying to rediscover his game in time for the weekend ahead, we were reminded that there are things in life that are more important. Sports can be good for that.
They can refocus us. They can rally a community, a state, or in some special cases, even an entire nation. Regardless of the economy, we still watch sports, we still get involved and we still care about the outcome.
Yet last weekend, the PGA had its priorities straight. Mickelson played. Charities received money. Breast cancer research received another series of high-profile endorsements it will continue to need until the scourge is beaten.
Oh, and Brian Gay played a great tournament, winning just over a million dollars. That’s all well and good too – but the priorities are in the right order.