Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why tennis is better than golf

   Later this week, millions of Americans will go crazy over the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Meanwhile, a relative handful will follow the U.S. Davis Cup team’s quarterfinal against host France.
   If there were any justice -- which, as any 6-year-old in this country knows, there isn't -- it would be the reverse. Tennis is a much better game than golf. Here's why:
   --Let's start with the obvious. Tennis is a real sport. You actually have to -- God forbid -- run for the ball. It's not sitting there all day for you to hit. No one in golf history has broken a sweat from exertion. Golfers wear slacks, for crying out loud. Golf is so grueling that guys in their 70s play in the Masters. The game undeniably requires great skill to play well. So does billiards. 
   Golf is more popular than tennis only because people don't have to be in shape to play it well -- not that there's a weight problem in the United States. Have you seen some of these pros? We're not exactly talking Arnold Schwarzenegger here. John Madden is more like it. The official sponsor of the PGA and LPGA tours should be Jenny Craig. Not to worry, though. If golf doesn't work out for these guys and gals, there's always sumo wrestling.
   --You get a beautiful trophy for winning the men's singles title at Wimbledon. You get a green jacket for winning the Masters. What does the Masters runner-up get, argyle socks?
   --Professional golf tournaments are numbingly predictable. First round: Two shots are hit before rain halts play. (Where do they play all these events, Seattle?) Second round: Joe Lardass breaks the course record to take the lead. Third round: Jim Brewski breaks Lardass' course record to take the lead. Final round: Brewski chokes away the title to somebody from Northern Ireland. 
   Tennis? Just when you thought Roger Federer was unbeatable, along came Rafael Nadal. Just when you thought Nadal was unbeatable, along came Novak Djokovic. And women's tennis is wide open. 
   --Recreational tennis players don't need to tell the world about their great shots. A golfer hits a hole-in-one through the windmill at a miniature course, and he's on the telephone to the Daily Bugle faster than Mark Calcavecchia can down a bacon cheeseburger.
    --You can play a vigorous tennis match in an hour or two. But you can read War and Peace in the time it takes to play a round of golf.
   --You don't need an area the size of Montana to play tennis. Nor do you need enough water to irrigate Saudi Arabia or enough pesticide to eradicate malaria in Africa.
   --You don't have to be Donald Trump to afford to play tennis. A used racket is cheap, a can of balls costs $2, everyone has sneakers, and public courts are free.
   --Just as golf is a pseudo sport, it's pseudo-global. Nineteen of the top 20 men in the world golf rankings are from English-speaking countries. Conversely, three of the top 20 men in tennis are. Russia and Serbia haven't produced many pro golfers lately (even though Russia is big enough to accommodate a course or two). Similarly, three of the four majors in both men's and women's golf are in the United States, whereas three of tennis' four Grand Slam tournaments are outside of it.
   --Tennis promotes gender equality; golf discourages it. Men and women play in the same Grand Slam tournaments for equal prize money, and they play together in mixed doubles and in World TeamTennis. Meanwhile, the Augusta National Golf Club, the site of the Masters, has no female members. The winner of last week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major of the year, earned $300,000. That's almost one-fifth of the $1,440,000 Charl Schwartzel pocketed for winning last year's Masters. Golf has one token mixed tournament. The Wendy's Three-Tour Championship in December features three players from each of the three top tours (PGA, LPGA and Champions).
   --Women's tennis is far more popular than women's golf. Can you name one LPGA player? Didn't think so. LPGA tournaments -- the few that are left, that is -- get lower television ratings than Green Acres reruns. Mr. Haney is more famous than Sandra Haynie. She's an LPGA Hall of Famer, by the way.
   --Tennis has produced social activists such as Arthur Ashe (black rights), Billie Jean King (gender equality), Martina Navratilova (gay rights) and Andre Agassi (education). Golf, like tennis, has many humanitarians, but what do Tiger Woods, et al. stand for -- besides lower taxes on their obscene prize money? These guys and gals make Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter look like Bill and Hillary Clinton.
   --John Daly plays golf. What a gem this guy is. Drinking, smoking, gambling, womanizing, overeating ... is there any vice Daly doesn't have?
   --Speaking of drinking, there's no "19th hole" in tennis. Alcohol is not part of its culture. Tennis players' strongest drink is Gatorade.
   --There's no "silly season" in tennis. There's no Viagra Merrill Lynch Verizon Father-Son Best-Ball Skins Game Shootout Match Play World Challenge in Sun City, South Africa.
 --Tennis has the best sports commentator on television: bright, candid, insightful, irreverent John McEnroe. Golf announcers, meanwhile, are great whisperers. 
  --Don't take my word for any of this. Those bastions of Americana -- Mark Twain, Andy Rooney, Dave Barry, George Carlin and Maxim (not in that order) -- have trashed golf.
   Twain called it "a good walk spoiled." Rooney once wrote, "Golfers are no more athletes than Bobby Fischer, the chess master." Barry noted that poker has more action than golf. Carlin growled, "Golf is an arrogant, elitist game, and it takes up entirely too much room in this country." 
   Maxim in 2006 put golf on its list of "the world's crappiest sports," calling it "boring as hell."
   As they say at the Masters, Amen (Corner).


  1. Good summary and true on all accounts about Tennis. It's a great sport, truly global in flavor.

  2. If golf is pseudo-global than so is tennis. Eight of the ATP Top 10 are from Europe. Of the top 20, two are North American, two South American (both from the two nations in those respective continents with the longest tennis history) and one Asian. The top 20 golfers are mostly European and North American, but there are several Africans very highly ranked.

    Meanwhile, although you use women's tennis to bludgeon golf throughout the article, you conveniently ignore that Asian women had won four majors in a row at the time you wrote this post and have now extended that to five straight. The top five lady golfers are from Taiwan, USA, Korea, Norway and China. Li Na is a nice story and all, but she's no Yani Tseng. The "globalization" of tennis has mostly meant the "Slavicization" of tennis -- it has crept eastward from western Europe, so that we call a sport that is dominated by players from a single continent "global". You criticize golf for not having "many Russians", but do not criticize tennis for not having "many Koreans." Neither is 'global' -- both are popular only in certain nations. But surely a USA-Western Europe-Asia-South Africa dominated game (golf) is more global than a Western Europe-Eastern Europe dominated sport (tennis.)

    I am a big fan of tennis, and I believe golf (like billiards and basketball) is a game and not a sport, but the globalization line just shows you arrange all the evidence to support your conclusion.

    1. how do you group basketball with golf and billiards?

    2. Nor did I mention that men's golf is so weak in Europe that the entire continent faces the United States in the Ryder Cup. How bogus is that?

      And if I were writing the column today, I could note that the top 12 women's tennis players in the world come from 12 countries (and four continents).

      If golf is so global, why are three of the four majors for men AND women in the United States?

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