This is part of a series of great golf arguments. We’ve asked SI’s Jim Gorant and Rick Lipsey to debate whether the silly season is super or superfluous. After reading their arguments, tell us what you think in our forum.
“The Silly season is dead.” That’s what my colleague, Alan Shipnuck, wrote seven years ago in Sports Illustrated.
Sorry, I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now. Neither do golf fans. Like it or not, the Silly Season isn’t dead. It’s thriving.
The Silly Season stretches no fewer than nine events from November to the middle of December. All of the competitions are televised, most of them on the major networks, and they are well watched. Not on the magnitude of the Masters, but hundreds of thousands of golf nuts tune to these made-for-TV golf boondoggles. The Nielsen ratings don’t lie, and networks don’t air things year after year if people don’t watch.
Most golf writers, however, have a vitriolic aversion to Silly Season golf. They lampoon it as fake and meaningless because the participants show up solely to further inflate their bloated bank accounts and egos. But golf writers just have their heads buried in bunkers.
After all, what’s wrong with playing for money and ego? Is that any different from what the PGA Tour has become? What sports has morphed into? Consider the Tour’s World Golf Championships events and the FedEx Cup playoffs. They’re not true competitions. They’re star-studded extravaganzas with limited fields, monster purses and guaranteed paydays that are usually won by the same cast of characters (Tiger, Phil, Vijay, et al).
What I like best about the Silly season is that the events are actually entertaining, as opposed to most Tour events, which are as exciting as C-Span. In the Silly Season, guys yuck it up on camera. For example, the banter between Arnie and Jack at the Senior Skins has been priceless. The guys often get really into the competition and show a lot of emotion. I’ll never forget Lee Trevino’s utter glee after making an ace at the Skins Game.
And fans get to see the pros have fun and smile, unlike regular Tour events, where the players are robotic. In the Father/Son Challenge, played over the weekend in Orlando, Vijay Singh teamed up with his son, Qass. In this tournament, Vijay becomes a different man, pleasant and cheerful. Singh called the 2003 event “the biggest thrill I’ve had in my whole career.”
The only possible beef you could have with the Silly Season is the shrinking presence of A-list stars. Tiger will play in just one event, his Target World Challenge (Dec. 13-16), Phil was done for ’08 after a two-event Asian swing, and Sergio also skipped them all.
But that doesn’t matter. There’s plenty of good stuff to sate us. The Skins Game was entertaining, even with Fred Couples as the headliner and a supporting cast of Stephen Ames, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich. The Merrill Lynch Shootout will be giddy and loose because the Shark, as always, is hosting, and the two-man teams include John Daly-Fred Couples and Woody Austin-Mark Calcavecchia.
And the rest of the Silly Season was, well, silly, which was fun for a change.