The big bet of the Saudi Golf League is on gravity

As a general rule and as a matter of best practice of communication, it is not best for the most famous representative of a large new public effort to spend the days following his or her debut that you, in the face of that effort, actually believe that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were serious and The worst was both. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, for one thing, blurring the message, as well as the way genocide, state-sponsored violent crime continues to happen. Phil Mickelson must have known that this would happen when he took $ 200 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join the LIV Golf Tour, an initiative that exists at least in part to persuade people to associate the kingdom more closely with golfers and golfers. Snatchers and bone marrow.

It is now called sports washing, although it can also be called branding. The first word speaks of the ways and motives behind this effort, and of the bribery of oligarchs and dictators’ soccer teams and repressive states, and of the way to the Olympics or World Cup. But the common old “branding” may actually be more useful here, given that the term is broad and fundamentally value-neutral. Either way, the idea is to think of something less through implications and intimation and stagecraft. It’s not complicated at all. If you don’t like dictator-affiliated oligarchs or big financial swindlers, but like Chelsea FC or the New York Mets, you’ll see why exes can see an angle in spending their money next. At the highest level, this kind of branding can be seen as soft-power politics on the part of many repressive states that want to make it seem normal enough to host large television shows that the whole world enjoys watching; Franchise by franchise and oligarch by oligarch, it just looks like vanity. In the case of Saudi Arabia and LIV golf, this is obviously both.

Mickelson answered his question on Monday – the short version is literally “How can you live with yourself?” And for the longest time, Mickelson believed he was disrespecting the memory of the 9/11 victims who, with money from the nation, provided (at least) 19 snatchers who carried out the violence that day – as well as anyone. He said he had “the highest level of sympathy and sympathy” for the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and had no real reason to believe he did not. There is no reason to believe that sympathy and sympathy, or Mickelson’s blunt and incompetent correct assessment of the Saudi royal family as “scary motherfuckers”, is more important than what these particular scary motherfuckers offered him to play golf. Their new tour. The thing that unites and enlivens all of this is meaning; The question that arises in all of this is what kind of indulgence can effectively buy a nation and how much. This is a good question, although the answer is not really hard to know.

But if this has always been the case and it is already clear which is really important and which does not matter, or which is the most important anyway, there is still work to be done. It all feels like drowning, and it feels familiar. Mid- and late-career golfers who resigned from their PGA Tour membership to join the LIV Tour were asked how they felt about taking the money they were taking and considering who was asking and who was answering as much as you expected. Definitely answered. . Many of them claim, quite credibly, that they never worried about the money they got for playing golf.

But those who were prepared to answer it did a very good job of it and were able to do it with all their abuse and more clearly than Mickelson anyway. “I think we all agreed here, Khashoggi took the situation,” Graeme McDowell said before the first LIV event, the situation in 2018 where Saudi agents tortured, killed and dismembered a dissident journalist named Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate. Istanbul. “It simply came to our notice then. No one is going to argue this fact. We are not politicians. I know you hate this expression, but we don’t really, unfortunately. We are professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia wants to use golf as a way for them to get where they want to go and have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to be able to help them on that journey. ”

In some very obvious ways, there are basically no people in the world to weigh in on international issues more than mid-career PGA Tour golfers. In another more specific sense, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone better equipped and more equipped to wake up these particular chainsaws. The wide line of various retired golf icons circling the LIV and its surroundings that was fixed before its launch, which was something Saudi Arabia did wrong but trying to do better, is a classic sports narrative taken if not out of its full breaking point. ; In its generality, it is not the only one with which many of them were acquainted, but in which they themselves may at one time be briefly the main characters. Talking vaguely about The Good That Golf Doos is one of the default obligations of being a professional golfer, and one of the easiest to say that it rarely comes with follow-up.

More than that, though, these golfers have spent their working lives under, in the vicinity, and in the presence of luxury brands and financial institutions whose various sponsorships have been ubiquitous as part of the tour for so long that they do not register. “I’m a golfer,” Talor Gooch told ESPN’s Kevin Van Welkenberg in London. “I am not so smart. I try to hit a golf ball in a small hole. Golf is tough enough. I try to think about golf. “To be fair, it’s her job. But it’s a job she does when festooning Gooch brand accessories and logos that pay her for that privilege. , How they make their living.

And Mickelson and McDowell and Gooch and all the other tour players who resigned from their membership to join LIV, at the bottom, were just taking a good deal – LIV offers a bigger purse, and a less-than-demanding schedule and (for now) competitors. A low-demand slate. (So ​​far, most of the sponsors of those players have decided to stick with them.) Charles Schwartzel, who claimed the inaugural LIV Tour Championship, has not won a PGA Tour event in six years; He took home $ 4.75 million, more than any golfer’s single win.

“Instead of skating around, tell me what it is,” Van Peljen, a PGA Tour player, told Welkenberg. “Just say, ‘If I take money, I don’t care about other countries and other people, I care about my career and my family, and anyone who has not been offered this kind of money can’t relate.’ “


But if it’s hard to relate to golfers – and it’s always going to be difficult to relate to golfers – at some level, the rest is familiar. It’s easy enough to grasp the gambit of Saudi Arabia with LIV golf; The golfers who took their money are even more so. Whether it’s interest or profit or ratings or anything else, the Saudis don’t really need LIV golf to succeed in the way that the new Gambits usually try to succeed. It just needs to exist.

So it’s not a big deal that no one, at least not yet, thinks about LIV. Van Welkenberg noted that the tour gave tickets to his first event “anyone will take them” and that most participants spent their time in the fan experience zone. LIV promised a lot in its advertising for the event, which had a costly unusual power that landed between AG Atlantic City Casino and literally the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Watching Phil Mickelson’s 33rd finale or suddenly revealing himself as a real person by looking at the statue that suddenly popped up in your grill, even though the kids could draw their faces.

No or not all of these mammals, in the end, are both very important and not side by side. The golfers pay in any way, the state has so much to feed the addiction of the money that the world sends to the state. The point is for people to know; This, in a sense, serves almost the same purpose, as a serious and characteristically undisclosed act of diplomacy that the state provided the official room to touch Donald Trump in 2017. Other soft-power considerations in the game — it would seem that two of the five LIV events in the United States, including its $ 50 million championship হবে will be held on a Trump-owned golf course নয় are not difficult to rule out. Its shameless and blatantly false, perhaps, something like a dot. If you don’t need to drive somewhere, there is no difference between car and hood ornaments.

LIV Golf is an abstract product with an abstract goal মতো like the World Cup in Qatar or the Olympics in Russia, the goal is public opinion in a way that seems to ignore the real opinion or interest of the general public. But with all that open and public about it, the stakes are clear. The PGA Tour, as an organization, was vulnerable to such attacks as there are so many contemporary organizations-it was cheap and smuggled and secretly weak, and was fundamentally incapable of defending its existence without pointing to the fact that it already exists. There is some meaning – John Raham That said on Tuesday When he explained that the PGA Tour was what he and other young golfers had hoped for, if only because the best golfers played. But the fact that the PGA Tour has not been around for so long does not mean that it will last forever. If the best golfers in the world are still on the PGA Tour, then almost all the best payers will be on LIV. You can see how that stagnation will not last.

But LIV golf, at the very bottom, is not just a bitter unethical bet on the power of infinite wealth. So it is, however, but an accurate assessment of a larger cultural gravity, not only in terms of personal policy and the relative pull of wild resources, but also how the various forces that hold people here on earth work. It’s important to us, in a sense, that LIV golf sucks — where there are no spots and no stories, the best players are not part of it, that the people behind it are cruel and murderous reactionaries. But the larger forces are already at work, and the gamble here is that, ultimately, money will be more important – that, over time, fans will tend to favor people over money, and people will accept it. Just as this particular aspiration works in the culture of the moment, so too are some of the ambitious-9/11 or not, will you really get that money back?? Some of it is emotional-Are you a hater, or are you a champion who makes his own way and flies in person? None of this is unreasonable, but none of it is as unreasonable as betting. This is the darkest part of it: Not that it can be so cheap, but it can be so cruel.

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