Monday, July 13, 2009

Dear Media: This Ain't Reality TV

In one of my last updates to my not-quite-live-blogging the final round of the U.S. Women's Open, I had occasion to ask,

When is the national media going to realize that sports are different than a reality tv show and that their job isn't to script an event but to report on it?

Whether it was Leonard Shapiro hoping for a Cristie Kerr win or Michael Arkush bemoaning a Paula Creamer moving day implosion, something fishy was in the air this week, and it wasn't just those doing the color commentary who were the source of it. Consider who among the following 3 pairs of golfers captured the imagination and attention of the national media in the Sunday game stories you read today.

  • Cristie Kerr and Candie Kung: the last leader in the clubhouse--and her disappointing bogey on the 71st hole of the tournament--were almost completely eclipsed by the focus on Kerr's struggles with her game.
  • Brittany Lincicome and In-Kyung Kim: the player who was actually tied for the lead late on the back 9--and who bogeyed the final hole to fall out of a tie with Kung--gets eclipsed by a player who made a charge early on the back but fizzled from 15 on.
  • Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato: both players made late birdies to become the 1st leaders in the clubhouse (at +4) to actually put a little pressure on those in the final pairings, but you'll only find out about 1 of them if you rely on the national media.

Yeah, yeah, beyond the fact that it's always the blonde American LPGAers who get the word count from the U.S. media, I get it that Kerr and Lincicome have each won a major recently and that Creamer may well be the best player on tour without one. Yes, Suzann Pettersen also made a late birdie to join Creamer and Miyazato as co-leaders in the clubhouse until Lincicome, Kim, and Kung surpassed them, so it's not just the Taiwan-born, Korean, or Japanese players who fall outside the media spotlight. And yes, I'll even confess to feeling the same things that lead to these kinds of oversights: I was disappointed 2 Sundays ago when Morgan Pressel's dramatic comeback on Eunjung Yi at the Farr came just short.

But a 1st LPGA win for my #11-ranked Super Soph is less of a story than my #2-ranked Junior Mint coming back from a mini-slump this season to get her 2nd career win and 1st major with a walkoff birdie on women's golf's biggest stage. And the fact that she beat Kung, Kim, Miyazato, and Pettersen is just as significant as the fact that she beat Kerr, Lincicome, and Creamer.

I'm off to take out my frustrations on the course--for the 1st time since last August, so I'm pretty excited. Maybe in the meantime someone in the national media will prove me wrong and find a compelling way to frame what really happened at Saucon Valley rather than focusing only on the news that's "fit to print" in their eyes. And maybe everyone will realize that the LPGA's future doesn't rest on one individual or nationality, that the point of sports is the thrilling competition itself.

Yeah, and maybe I'll break 75 on The Easiest Course in the World today.

[Update 1 (12:09 pm): Well, I couldn't even break 80 today (the rust on my 30-to-90 yard game was something fierce!), but I got to catch up with one of my golfing buddies from years ago and we had a fun 3 and a half hours. Nice to come back to find that Jay Busbee's got my back (and a link to a very good Brian Murphy piece)!]

[Update 2 (12:18 pm): Also a nice overview from Amy Ellis Nutt out of the Newark Star-Ledger. Have I misunderestimated the national media?]

[Update 3 (12:30 pm): But the basic question remains: will the national media be able to get the story right? My benchmark is whether they understand the tournament and final round as well as long-time LPGA bloggers Hound Dog and Bill Jempty.]

[Update 4 (1:15 pm): The smaller-market golf writers are doing a good job. Here's Mark Wogenrich out of PA's Lehigh Valley, Andrew Shay out of Bethlehem, and Gerry Dulac out of Pittsburgh. But Mike Kirn of the Philadelphia Daily News, Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe did just fine. Still, the SI guys only focus on Creamer's and Kerr's collapses--the rest is on who will replace Bivens. (More on that in another post.)]

[Update 5 (7/14/09, 12:30 pm): John Strege gets it right, as usual.]


Bob said...

Thank you! I am tired of the reporting you refer to, and of the biased attitude of SOME of the alleged "fans". Sitting in the stands at the 18th on Sunday, I noticed a couple in front of me stomp off as soon as it became clear the Ji's comments would be made through an interpreter - how stupid! Great golf is great golf!

Unknown said...

I know what you're saying... unfortunately it's kind of expected. I know it must have broken their heart to see Reynolds collapse in the last round. To be honest, as nice as she may be she seem to have all the personality of a door knob. Okay, that was a bit mean. I don't understand the perception that Asian players on LPGA have no emotions or personality. They have plenty of both, only if the media were to look a little.

I think you are right that future of LPGA doesn't depend on a single player or nationality. I think they're too hard trying to find the next Tiger Wood or Anneka Sorenstam. Somehow they think a great player dominating everyone else is the ticket to success. Actually I think the level of golf right now in LPGA is very high and taken to a new level with the intense competition of the many great player we have of all nationalities. I love it! They just need to learn to market the rivalries (even between the Asian player as it certainly exist.)

I do like Creamer but I don't think she can win a major until she can deal with her emotions and pressure. When she was pretty much out of contention in the fourth round, she carded 69. It was probably because she probably already given her hopes and just enjoyed herself. Which I think would also help Kerr... I don't really think she has learned that much from her "Zen Golf" teacher. If you have to think about it then it's not Zen. She almost seem to be relieve when Ji sunk the birdie putt on the 18th... all the pressure just lifted off her shoulders and she felt like a human being again and warmly congratulated Ji. If that can be her attitude, maybe she'll win another major in the future.

I was glad to see Ai Miyazato recover after the first two bad rounds and finish T6. I frankly think she hasn't won a tournament yet because of too much expectations from the Japanese press. I know they have high hopes for her but just lay off a bit and let her play golf and she will surely be in the winner circle soon. Maybe with the focus on Mika the pressure will ease up a bit.

As for the tournament, it was great ... so fun and intense. Even Kerr kicking the golf bag added to the drama. It was so human... as if she had to put a lid on all that boiling emotion. I definitely think the young guns are going to take over. Ochoa seem to have lost her way and the like of In Kyung Kim, Jiyai Shin and Lincicome are going to supplent her. Unless she can get her head straight, it may be a long time till another major victory... especially with all the young guns out there blazing away.

There were some disappointments, though. What happen to Yani??? I can't believe how she collapsed to badly in this tournament. She may need to toughen her mental game a bit. Same thing to a lesser degree for Na Yeon Choi (for this tournament, anyway.) Jiyai Shin was another disappointment ... even though she fought back with a -3 on the fourth day, I was hoping a better showing for her. Guess it just wasn't her weekend. Also, not sure what happened to Fudoh in the 3rd round ... definitely took herself out of contention.

Also of note was how many players withdrew. I don't recall seeing this many for a while. The course must have put a hurting on the ladies.

The Constructivist said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all. Given that I almost finished in the cellar for this week's PakPicker, I had plenty of disappointments this week, from Tseng and Shin (I picked them to go 1-2!), but also Brittany Lang, Lindsey Wright, and Kristy McPherson. (I was shocked to see Seon Hwa Lee WD--hope her back is ok for the European swing.) But plenty of nice surprises, too, from Creamer's comeback from her thumb injury and bad decision-making Saturday to Ai-chan's and Inky's unexpected top 10s, the resurgence of Candie Kung, and the (to me) very unexpected great play of Lincicome and Hee Young Park. I'd love to see Na Yeon Choi and Song-Hee Kim finally break through on the LPGA. They keep hanging around, so they're definitely overdue.

Anonymous said...

It is disapointing but unfortunately expected. It is especially unfortunate as it was a really compelling storyline anyway. Had Kerr, Kim, Creamer, or Petterson won this week they would have become #1 on the money list. I don't really remember the last time it was so hotly contested!

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, that's why I've been talking about a new Big 6 on the LPGA, but also suggesting that up-and-comers like Angela Stanford, In-Kyung Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Brittany Lang, Song-Hee Kim, Kristy McPherson, Lindsey Wright, and now Eun-Hee Ji are hot on their heels.

Everything's up for grabs--money title, POY, Vare Trophy--makes for very interesting competition with high stakes week in and week out (when they're playing, that is).

The Florida Masochist said...

In Kyung Kim would have climbed to #1 on the money list with a win sunday, not just the blonde contingent.

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, can't wait to see where Hound Dog ranks everyone. The final positions in my next Best of the LPGA ranking will be determined in part by his decisions!