“The Match” is back.
As if having one of golf’s greatest and one of its most entertaining golfers wasn’t good enough, this year’s rendition will include the NFL equivalents of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tom Brady will team up with Phireside Phil, and Peyton Manning squads up with Tiger Woods.
The teams make sense. Obviously they had to split up the pranksters, Peyton and Phil. I don’t imagine the rate of play would be high on their priorities. On the flip side, as educational as following Tiger and Brady would be, it’s probably a good idea to mix them up too. I imagine they would give us a healthy blend of self-deprecation, and their own version of HBO’s The Art of Coaching with Saban and Belichick.
Fans love hearing athletes talk. That’s why there are compilations of Carmelo Anthony and his infamous rebounding catchphrase. It’s why we laugh when a hot mic picks up Richard Sherman telling a receiver, “Y’all weak. We eat y’all.” Of course, as are most things on the golf course, the trash talk is a little more subdued. But this is what sports fans want. We want to be in with the players. We want to know what’s in their head before they take the shot.
You always hear announcers claiming you get a “front-row seat” while watching sports from home. How about a seat in Tiger’s cart? How about listening to Phil and his caddy work out if he should hit a bomb or lay up? Even better than that, you get to see them making side bets, laughing at each other, getting angry at bad shots. You get to feel some of that pressure from the comfort of your own couch.
Although it is a charity event (no green jackets will be handed out), elite competitors never fully turn off the switch. Add two more athletes to the equation and the competition ramps up. Tiger and Phil have been going at it for over 25 years; Manning and Brady close to 20. On the surface it looks like a fun event, but don’t think for a second anyone is taking it easy.
Now, I don’t have a clue how good either Brady or Manning are on the links but you have to think they wouldn’t subject themselves to 18 televised holes unless they could hold their own. Can you imagine the pressure of golfing with someone on Tiger or Phil’s level? I sure wouldn’t want to be the one to slow them down. If I wanted to really simulate golfing with them I’d go under some trees and have my dad yell at me. It’s not about my horrible golf game; it’s about the viewing experience of a lifetime, and possibly a future avenue for sports.
If golf, one of the most notoriously strict games, can allow this kind of in-depth viewing, why can’t other sports follow? You could argue the pace is much slower in golf. Golfers have time to think before they speak. This would be harder for basketball where players are constantly on the move. The NFL might appear difficult as well, but please recall all the statistics that went around last season about how much football we actually get to watch, as opposed to commercials and in between play activity. Baseball took a step forward last season, going so far as to interview players as they played.
These super-mic’d events (“The Match,” the MLB All-Star Game, etc.) haven’t been the most formal competitions, but it isn’t out of reach.
Just like Clay Davis told Stringer Bell, “Crawl, walk, and then run.”
A guy can hope, right?