I was surprised at the voicemail that clocked in at over two minutes, the angry gentleman going off on Phil Mickelson, how he had cheered for him for 30 years and never would again, his dismay at the outright greed displayed by the man, already wealthy despite gambling losses and willing to toss his legacy to the side to play against lesser competition for millions of Saudi-backed dollars.
Willis Cowlishaw turns 96 next week, and he usually doesn’t get so worked up these days.
Yes, a lot of folks are angry about greed in sports, and it’s not solely related to the has-beens and never-weres along with a few still promising Tour players chasing those LIV dollars that Greg Norman is so proud of. It’s all over the sports landscape these days. If they can remake 1986 release Top Gun then surely it’s time to do likewise with 1987′s Wall Street because the whole “Greed is good, greed is right” speech feels in touch with these times.
At my alma mater, the Great Sark was supposed to bring titles or at least compete for them, not lose to Kansas. In his second year, he may not deliver a championship but thanks to NIL, he has put the Longhorns in luxury vehicles. Running back Bijan Robinson now drives a Lamborghini. Quarterback Quinn Ewers, who mastered the NIL game in terms of making money at Ohio State without throwing a pass, is now driving an Aston Martin in Austin. The Horns may not rule the Big 12, but at least they’ll look sharp pulling up to the frat house party after that loss to Alabama on Sept. 10.
Money is the king of the modern sports debate.
Is Jalen Brunson worth $20 million a year? (Yes, although it limits the Mavs in a big way).
Is Dak worth $40 million a year? (Perhaps, but they are pinching pennies on wide receivers again).
Is Marcus Semien worth $25 million a year? (The last 10 days it’s a resounding “yes” after 40 games of a big “hell no”).
It’s like there is this enormous ball filled with cash floating over the sports world, ready to spill at all times, only no one is dying in these squid games.
The out-of-control money is not confined to the field. After Tony Romo got roughly $1 million per week to growl his way through a three-hour football game on CBS, Troy Aikman cashed in similarly at ESPN. Naturally, Tom Brady doubled both with a reported $37.5 million per year deal to broadcast games if and when he retires.
We know how silly all this is, that if Aikman and Joe Buck at a collective $33 million per year were given a steady diet of Vikings-Jaguars, Monday Night Football’s ratings would tank anyway. Don’t worry, they got better games. But in Brady’s case, the man who became a modern day Joe Montana at quarterback better not duplicate his idol in the broadcast booth or Fox has just flushed away a fortune.
Heck, some of us on this side of the media business see ESPN’s Adam Schefter getting a reported $9 million and start to think, “If only I had actually broken all those stories Jimmy Johnson was feeding me at the bar in 1993. I thought it was off the record!”
The truth of the matter is that we spend a lot more time being angry about money than we do being happy we have it. Our salaries are perfectly fine until we hear the guy in the next cubicle is making an additional $20,000. All of a sudden we are incensed.
It’s all about the Benjamins. Can it be any surprise that the best boxer of the last 20 years was known as Floyd “Money” Mayweather?
Still, I don’t think any of this gets our goat the way these golfers have. It’s not simply the fact they all feign utter cluelessness when asked about the Saudi regime they are helping to legitimize. At the press conference before the first LIV event, each golfer who spoke sounded more idiotic than the one who came before.
Graeme McDowell said if he can do something to enhance the Saudi image, he’s happy to help. Then, when players were asked if they would play in a tournament funded by Putin, Ian Poulter said, “That’s speculation, and I’m not going to comment on speculation.”
It was Poulter’s way of saying: “How much is Good Ol’ Vlad paying?’’
It’s a shame no one asked McDowell, raised Protestant in Northern Ireland, if he would have played 20 years ago in a league funded by the Irish Republican Army. Curious if McDowell would have continued with his “we’re not politicians” line of deflection.
I shouldn’t say they all feigned cluelessness. When Dustin Johnson is at the mic, there is no feigning.
The fact our government does business with Saudi Arabia and our president may meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man believed to have orchestrated the hit on journalist Jamal Khashoggi, certainly clouds the issue.
While not diving too deep or defending anyone here, politicians are inclined to do questionable things on one hand in order to gain favor on another (lower gas prices anyone?). In this case, golfers who rank second (Mickelson), third (Dustin Johnson) and 10th (Sergio Garcia) on the all-time money list aren’t looking to do more than line their own pockets, although they all talk fondly of “growing the game of golf.”
Those who defend these golfers jumping ship remind us that NBA players make a lot of money off China, not exactly high on the human rights list. While the league’s attachment to China should continue to be questioned, basketball players don’t decide who the NBA does business with or which companies sponsor their teams. If Steph Curry left Golden State for $100 million to go play in a rec league funded by the Chinese government, these people would have an argument.
No matter where you stand, there’s no doubt these defections will have a profoundly negative impact on the PGA Tour. You can’t lose Johnson, Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and surely many others to follow and pretend this LIV Tour does not exist.
Some of us just don’t like change. Some of us also dislike unbridled greed on the part of the fabulously wealthy. But none of us should have been surprised by any of this. After all, we are approaching the 50th anniversary of “Deep Throat” telling Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to “follow the money” in a DC parking garage.
Yes, it was nice to hear Rory McIlroy at the Canadian Open saying, “Any decision you make in life purely for money usually doesn’t go the right way.”
But Rory is the exception. And many of his contemporaries are deciding that more than competing on the best Tour in the world and defining one’s legacy, money is the one and only king.
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