Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where do I sit?

Paula Creamer's bag in the foreground while Paula putts during the Pro-Am at Seaview Country Club on Thursday.  Photo by me.

Two of the least spectator-friendly sports are taking place locally this weekend.

One, the Shop Rite LPGA Classic, has been going on for a week.  The other, the 28th running of the Philadelphia International Championship, takes place on Sunday.  It has changed sponsors more than most people change their heater filters.  So much so that I had to look it up.  It probably should have been called the "International Championship" from the beginning.  CoreStates bank and whatever other institutions lent their name to it had nothing to do with cycling.

Golf is a goofy sport to follow.  The courses are usually in the back woods somewhere, which means that spectators have to shuttle-bus in, as though they were being taken to another world - which is the reality.
Golf courses were made for golf, not for watching golf.  Spectators do one of two things:  They walk around with their favorite player from hole to hole (my choice) or they sit in one spot and watch the field play by.  Either way, you don't get a feel for the entire game because you're either watching someone who is playing their own game or you are watching randomly placed activities that have nothing to do with the tournament.

I'm a bit surprised, in the era of television, that someone hasn't designed a golf course for TV.  That is, elevated tees, depressed greens and places for spectators to gather around both with good sight lines and places for stands and ... money-making concessions.  I suppose golf is too far above the level of us ordinary people to even contemplate bringing itself down to us.

Bike racing is another weirdo.  You pick a spot on the course and watch 100 or so crazy peddlers whiz past in a couple of seconds ... and then settle in for another twenty minutes of nothing happening at all while you watch (if you're lucky) the rest of the course on a nearby TV.
I've been to a few of them, and I can say that, wherever I was I wished I was somewhere else.

The same can't be said for golf.  I follow Paula Creamer, and when I go to a tournament I walk with her group and I can honestly say that I've never thought, "Gee, I wish I was with [some other golfer] today."  I think, if bike race fans could follow one rider around the course it would make the experience entirely different, but they go too fast to follow, and we aren't allowed on the course anyway.

That's the deal with golf.  Spectators are sometimes right next to the player playing the shot and standing on the course.  It's the only game in which all of the spectators are that close.  Only a few people have court side seats to basketball or seats behind the dugout in baseball.  In golf, every seat is court side.

Thousands of people will descend on tiny Galloway Township for the LPGA and relatively tiny Mannayunk for the bike race tomorrow.  All of them will enjoy their day, but in both cases, participating in the sport is ultimately more satisfying than watching it from the sidelines.

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