Live and Let LIV

You’re Arlo White.  For most of your life and career you lived a modest existence broadcasting football matches in your native England, raising a family and toiling in relative obscurity beyond the Pond.  At age 38 you’re “discovered” in the U.S. and you uproot said family and move across said Pond, becoming the voice of the Seattle Sounders, perhaps the closest example of civic passion and on-field success that you’ve grown up with in towns like the hamlet of Leicester you were born in.  You eventually get a chance to be seen nationally in the U.S. when NBC chooses you to broadcast some MLS matches.

Then when your network decides to acquire U.S. rights to the Premier League that you cut your teeth in, you’re the natural choice to broadcast those matches.  Sure enough, in a year where the World Cup calls attention to its superiority, those broadcasts develop its most passionate U.S. following ever and literally changes the shape of weekend mornings as a viable sports daypart.  You then get cast in a hugely successful comedy series for a global streaming giant that wins Emmys and now makes your voice as familiar as any who has ever been associated with the sport.

Now along comes an incipient professional golf tour, called LIV Golf, who wants to make you their global voice, offering you and said family more money than you’re ever likely to see from any soccer entity anywhere.  You literally could assure yourself and your family lifetime financial security.

One catch.  You have to accept the fact that the entity handing you said money is backed by Saudi Arabia, a country that, as Ari Fleischer pointed out in a recent grilling, champions the oppression of women, violates the rights of migrants, criminalizes LGTBQs, executes dozens of men including world-famous journalists who report honestly and bombs Yemen.

That was exactly the tone which Graeme McDowell had to respond to during a PR event which he and other top golfers, including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, attended to announce the kickoff of the LIV tour that officially tees off tomorrow morning in London, guaranteeing multi-million dollar paydays to a limited number of pros each week and having deep enough pockets where the need for a traditional media company to carry these events isn’t there.  And even if those media companies had interest, since most of the most likely suspects have involvement with the PGA tour, which has all but threatened they will pull their rights from any entity that supports LIV because of their stand on how Saudis conduct their lives, they’re not jumping at the chance to bid.

So, Arlo White, your tradeoff for becoming the face of highly charged political discourse is to be perceived as taking blood money and potentially relegating you back to obscurity–not that being a broadcaster in Chicago completely defines a witness protection program.

You’re Arlo White.  Be honest.  Be brutally, truthfully honest.  With that check dangling in front of you, what would YOU do?

Well, you might ask Johnson, who just this spring married his longtime girlfriend, Paulina Gretzky.  If that surname is familiar, it’s likely because of her daddy Wayne, arguably the greatest player in hockey history.  When he had a choice in where he would be employed as a sought-after teenage phenom he chose an incipient league, the World Hockey Association, who at the time would allow him the chance to make money for his family at an age when the established NHL would not.  Not exactly the moral dilemna that LIV presents, but clearly a statement.  His father-in-law chose the money.  And now, so too has Johnson.  One suspects if he did indeed check in beforehand what that advice would have been,

So, too, did Mickelson, who has been lambasted for his decisions by numerous journalists.  Again, when the life of Jamal Khashoggi is invoked, it’s understandable that writers would tear into someone who is choosing to accept money from a country that–allegedly–assassinated Khashoggi, one of its most impactful reporters.  Mickelson has already hundreds of millions of dollars professionally and has reportedly had significant debt from self-inflicted sources like gambling.  But he’s also had massive medical issues and according expenses.  You’ve likely never experienced his pain, physical or emotional.  So if you’re Phil Mickelson and LIV offers you the kind of money and scheduling flexibility to assure your own security in the later part of your life, let alone deal with your debt regardless of cause, what would YOU do?

When McDowell responded to Fleischer’s questions, he admitted he wished he could have the conversation he was pressed to have.  He skirted the issue completely, saying he’s just a golfer.

White is just a broadcaster.

Why, why, why do so many of us feel justified in ridiculing these fortunate, talented people for choosing a path that assures them security in a world that appears so deeply determined to isolate and polarize us on ideology?  Why, why, why does YOUR opinion, without the actual experience of that offer, do so many fans think said ridicule would actually matter?  And, honestly, how consistent are these people with their attitudes?

DeShaun Watson is now accused by 24 women of undesired sexual contact, which his lawyers and he have vigourously denied.  Yesterday, the New York Times reported that his former employer, the Houston Texans, enabled some of that alleged behavior by providing him with NDAs as well as paying for his membership at the spa where many of these alleged attacks took place.   The Texans did finally let him go, but the Cleveland Browns have rewarded him with a guaranteed $230 million contract and cast their existing enigma of a quarterback, Baker Mayfield, into professional limbo.

How many of these fans will stop following the Browns or Texans or boycott a media company for carrying their games?

The fact that the PGA Tour has placed such incredible pressure on its partners to cut LIV off at its knees has as much to do with their own perception of economic threat.  Losing these golfers to an upstart is no different than what happened to hockey when the WHA was established, albeit with far less political implications.  Intriguingly, the USGA, which controls the rights to the U.S. Open, announced it will allow LIV golfers to participate in their tournament next weekend.  For an entity that chose to embrace FOX as a partner, that;s hardly a surprise.

And as someone whose own life was changed by FOX, and who respects what they are able to galvanize in terms of audience and consensus regardless of my ideology, I actually can grasp a little of what has likely gone through the mind of Arlo White this week.

Our world is simply too complicated, too broken, too irrecovably divided and driven by too much passion on both sides of any debate to hope that there’s room for true compromise.  We can’t agree on gun control.  We can’t agree on face diapers’ worth.  We can’t agree on whether someone’s ability to throw a football supercedes his transparency with how he conducts himself with masseusses.

Yes, Saudi Arabia treats many, many people I’ve never met with brutality and disdain.  They especially treated Khashoggi horribly.  Well, respectfully, they never met the people in my life that abused me.  Personally, I resent them far more than Mohammad bin Salaan.  Sorry, woke nation.  That’s the way I roll.

Arlo White, congratulations.  I will actually check out tomorrow’s tournament on YouTube or Facebook and look forward to hearing you.  ‘Cuz I’m just a fan who likes golf.  It’s not my place to judge anyone for the decisions they make to better their own existence.  Dear God, I wish I had the same option.

Courage…

 

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