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April 18, 2003
Volume II, Issue 8
Fringe Clippings
Got a really big bike?
Not only is Tiger Woods breaking records on the course, he continues to break them everywhere else an athlete may dare to tread. Tiger, Inc. continues to be golf's top money winner as well as the sports world's most lucrative endorsement money machine. This Saturday is the Tiger Jam Benefit concert in Las Vegas. One of the items up for bidding in the auction is the world's largest trading card, featuring Mr. Woods. The card measures 68 inches by 51 inches and is produced by the Upper Deck Co. Can you guess how much this will fetch? The Tiger Jam benefit features performances by Bon Jovi and the Goo Goo Dolls with monies going to Woods' foundation and children's charities in Las Vegas.
So, what is 1.1% of 36.7 million?
The National Golf Foundation recently published their "Golf Participation in the U.S., 2003," and the findings were less than encouraging for the industry. Overall golf participation is down 1.1 percent to 36.7 million. The report breaks down golfers into specific categories such as age group and rounds played per year. The most alarming number belonged to what they call "Best Customer" groups. This group consists of golfers who play 25 rounds or more a year and spend at least $1000 per year on golf-related expenses. That group was down from 9.8 million in 2001 to 8.9 million in 2002.
Ping's parent company, Karsten Manufacturing, was awarded $2.1 million in attorney fees last week after a heavily litigated court battle with Vardon Golf Company over a patent dispute. Vardon had brought charges of patent infringement against Karsten that had been cleared in a jury verdict last summer. The recent settlement hearing produced this opinion from the court: "The Vardon Co. was guilty of inequitable conduct before the Patent Office and vexatious litigation tactics."
Shuffle at the top
With his win last weekend at Augusta, Mike Weir moved into fifth place in the World Golf Rankings. Weir was not the only one making a move. Mickelson's high finish enabled him to move back into third which dropped Davis Love III to fourth. Vijay Singh (6), David Toms (7), Jim Furyk (8), Retief Goosen (9) and Padraig Harrington (10) rounded out the top ten. Fifth is the highest Weir has ever ranked. Incidentally, Tiger (1) and Ernie (2) are going to be tough targets to shoot down.
Paralysis by Analysis
CBS hits it fat
Covering a major tournament is an art form that can enhance the viewer's experience. Doing it optimally is never an easy test to pass, and the Masters represents the SAT of challenging tournaments to cover. However, anyone who has read this publication in the past knows that an increased degree of difficulty does not soften the critiquing process. Remember, these grades are never given &151; they always earned! Also remember that the critique is of the coverage, not the event. The Masters always gets an A+. As for the coverage on CBS...

Excitement: C-

With no airtime reserved for sponsors, how is it possible to not televise a shot every ten seconds? Golf is exciting when there is something going on, not when we hear the file footage "musak" playing with an azalea screen saver across our 50-inch plasma! We tune in for golf. Give us more golf!

Human Interest Stories: A-

Hard to screw this one up at the Masters with as many good stories as the tournament can produce. Tom Watson's caddie, Bruce Edwards, battling ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) was the coupe de grace. His grit and determination in the face of debilitating obstacles is amazing. The man takes 150+ pills as part of his daily regimen and still hoofed a 40-pound bag up and down those soggy fairways for 36 holes. I only threw in the minus to let CBS know human interest is great, but we still needed more golf!

Analysis: D+

With the exception of Mr. Feherty and Ol' Faithful Nance, the CBS broadcast team is in serious need of a Pearl Jam concert sometime soon. Or less Viagra — they seem a little to stiff to me. It's my understanding that Lanny Wadkins is quite the accomplished hunter. Isn't it opening season for some game animal somewhere in the world so he can go there instead?

Ratings attraction: F-

This is both slightly more simple and complicated than one might think. The reason that CBS gets a rating attraction F- is that when the numbers show that this Masters — despite all the media hype — performed poorly in the number of households watching the tournament, CBS controlled their own destiny. Every golfer in the world knew by the eighth hole on Sunday that Tiger had no chance of winning. And everyone knows (presumably even CBS) that when Tiger is not in contention that the ratings go down for that tournament. However, it is his mere presence in front of the camera that captivates a television audience hoping for some dramatic improbability. CBS stopped showing Tiger Woods after the eighth hole and did not return to covering him until his approach at the 18th. Suicide.

Again, all of us "in the know" knew he was finished. But if you keep the lens on him for a few shots here and there, you at least keep the audience that tunes in to see if something miraculous may happen. It's a business decision, and in this case a very questionable business decision to forget about the goose that is laying the golden eggs.

And, don't forget this little nugget: If the ratings turn out poorly, Martha (whose protest turned out flopping) could use poor ratings numbers as leverage in her cause. She might claim a moral victory by saying it was her protest that sparked the television audience into ambivalence. Note to CBS: That's what we call "hittin' it fat!"
Reading the Line
Weir-d day
In a quasi-tribute to "New Year's Bowl Day" loyalists everywhere, I "Armour All'd" up my favorite leather-backed Lazy Boy for Masters Sunday and got my favorite bacon topped food stuffs ready for an all day affair. My trusty (and sometimes smelly) sidekick Barkley the Springer Spaniel was hunting lizards in the living room and sending me those half head-cocked looks of, "Hey where's my tater skin?" All seemed right with the world. Just about an hour after that, Steve Williams handed Tiger his driver on the 350 yard third hole. In what could only be described as the worst decision he has made since his GQ article in 1997, I looked so curiously at the television set that Barkley felt compelled to throw me one of his dog snacks. From there the "dramedy" was skin-melting. Or maybe it was just the dog breath.

Eventual champion (and Michael Keaton look alike) Mike Weir was nothing short of Napoleon Bonaparte on Sunday. Marching his "Taylor Made" horses down the fabled fairways of Amen Corner with the greatest of determination. Len Mattiace, meanwhile, kept playing the part of mystical spoiler as he improbably made birdies from somewhere in downtown Atlanta. Phil Mickelson was — well ... again, Amy Mickelson's much-maligned and talented husband. Jeff Maggert. Ooofa. I am sure glad he won some money to pay for those therapy bills. And last, but certainly not least, "Fighting" Furyk put up a good number on Sunday. But only golf dorks like me will still remember his 2003 Masters placement five years from now.

Speaking of five years from now, anyone wanna bet how many Green Jackets "The Striped One" wins between now and then? I'll double the odds if you guess how many lizards Barkley catches in that same five years.
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there...
Approximately 25 people showed up on Saturday to stand with Martha Burke in protest of Augusta National and their lack of women membership. They were expecting 200. Martha, who has been amazingly enduring in her fight, could only muster about two hours of actual picket time. The Masters is now over and for the most part so is the NCWO fight. It really is too bad; Burke is a great sound byte. Then again so is Cookie Monster. Not to mention that he has redeeming social qualities, like teaching kids how to count and read.
Annika playing on the men's tour is truly one of the year's great stories, regardless of the outcome. Her courage and determination to succeed is what separates great champions from mere winners. Even great champions, however, commit the occasional faux pas. Following the Masters this past Sunday was a segment on 60 Minutes discussing Annika's entry in the Colonial next month. It was a feature primarily about what drives Annika and why she has decided to take on the boys' circuit. A feel-good special on Masters Sunday was the perfect complementary "fluff" piece that CBS needed to look good in the eyes of the feminist groups that have been vilifying the network for hosting the Masters. When asked if boredom was the impetus for her playing against the men, she replied by saying that it was tough to get motivated after winning 13 times last year against the ladies. Oops! Was that kind of like saying the LPGA is a little boring?

While she may be having a tough time finding motivation these days, I imagine that Se Ri, Karrie, Christie and the rest of the LPGA will just rerun their VHS copies of Annika's 60 Minutes appearance should they need a shot of motivation.
Happy Easter!
Editor, Off the Fringe

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