Tuesday, July 20, 2010
What the Open Ratings Tell Us About Sports Fans
There is an interesting scene in "Tin Cup" towards the end of the movie when Roy McAvoy is making a charge in the U.S. Open. As he's playing, the action switches to that of a production van, with some sad men sitting in there making the action come to life on television screens around the nation. While the story is unfolding, a great story at that, the director says something I never quite got when I was younger -- "Another driving range pro, it's all we needed. It's heroes that I need. Not obscure driving range pros!"
When I was younger, I thought it was odd. "Why wouldn't people want to see this story," I thought. The problem is, I love everything about golf, no matter the name. While Sunday's final round of the Open Championship wasn't the most exciting, it still was major golf at the home of this sport, with a guy putting on a performance we haven't seen since Tiger Woods went around these links in similar fashion back in 2000.
But, what the "Tin Cup" director is saying is true now, and I understand that. Most people aren't going to tune in when the big boys aren't in contention. As you've heard by now, the ratings for the 2010 British Open were the lowest in 28 years, which is absolutely incredible if you think about all the added ways we have to watch golf, especially in our homes. The number, like salary for other sports, should probably be skewed, because every household now has a television in their homes that they could find golf on.
It's disappointing because it shows that golf might be the only sport where the underdog gets little love. At the World Cup, the Americans were loved because they didn't have much of a chance to get through too far, and that's why people embraced them. In the Cavs-Celtics series, people were pulling for Boston because everyone had already penciled Cleveland into the Finals. But, for some reason, when Tiger or Phil isn't a factor on Sunday, people don't seem to care.
Maybe it's because we follow an individual sport, where the personality of the player means more than the talent. If the golfer that is leading the Open is boring, it means a lot to the fan watching at home. We want fist pumps and high fives. We don't want wraparound sunglasses that hide the person that will eventually be our champion golfer.
It's the little things like that in golf that make it different from everything else. Louis Oosthuizen won the British by a million, yet most sports fans had something better to do on Sunday morning. Like the director said, golf still needs its heroes, even if they aren't really heroes in the first place.