Funny old world, isn’t it?
It’s a world where Average Joe can heckle Significant John in the most lewd, crude and reprehensible ways imagination and suffer no consequences - but when Significant John reports the behaviour or complains about it, he is accused of being a hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned snowflake.
Welcome to 2018.
‘Mob’ is the mentality and ‘Lite’ is the beer.
The right to be treated with respect? Apparently, that depends who you are and how much you’re worth.
Perhaps I’m generalising a little. Even so, if you are a keen follower of the PGA Tour, all of the above should strike a familiar chord.
Inappropriate fan behaviour at golf tournaments in the US is nothing new. What is new is the extent to which it is being reported. Already this year, several of the tour’s biggest names have spoken out against unseemly antics from the other side of the ropes.
Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and James Hahn have all called for action on the asinine element that has steadily infiltrated the turnstiles.
Hahn, above, is the most recent. Two-down to Jason Dufner with four to play at last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, a spectator (according to Hahn) yelled purposely on his backswing.
“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he later tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”
The responses he received to that tweet were so vitriolic he was forced to delete it.
Think about that for a second: a player suffers at the hands of a moron in the crowd, complains about it… and he's the one who gets abused? Pretty sure they call that victim shaming.
Anyway, at least the players can count on the support of the people running the tour, right?
In response to questions about its alcohol policy – reckoned, not unreasonably, to be the root cause of the boorish behaviour – the tour issued this short statement last week:
The PGA Tour has a detailed policy as it relates to alcohol sales and responsible drinking at our events. Of note, our policy requires tournaments to end sales of alcohol to the general public one hour before the scheduled completion of play, each day, which is consistent with other major sports leagues
Stopping selling alcohol an hour before the scheduled completion of play? What good does that do? By such times, people could have consumed their bodyweight in Michelob Ultra.
The tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, says he and his team are monitoring the matter. If you don’t know what that means, it’s more often than not management speak for “burying our heads in the sand and hoping that it’ll stop being a problem”.
Thing is, it is a problem.
Moronic, tasteless behaviour is by no means exclusive to golf. Not for a second am I suggesting that. It’s just more obvious at golf where the default behaviour is to watch quietly from behind the ropes and not scream and shout from the terraces.
Some of the worst things I’ve ever heard any human being utter have been at football matches. Golf is entirely more courteous by comparison. But it’s the fact that parallels are starting to be drawn that tells me there's a problem. That never used to happen because there were no grounds for making such an equivalence. Now, there are.
Are we honestly okay with that?
Vulgar remarks about players’ families and deliberately attempting to disrupt them mid-shot or mid-swing just cannot be allowed. No way. There's a line and that's miles past it.
Would you accept somebody standing over your desk making indecent comments about your partner or pulling the plug on your computer before you’d had a chance to save your work? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s abuse. It’s deliberate. And it has got to stop.
I accept that golf’s main tours have a balance to strike. They're in the entertainment business as much as the sports industry. They have a responsibility to their commercial partners to create an event that appeals to the public and looks great on television. But they also have a duty of care to their member players to create the appropriate environment for them to do what they do best: their jobs. I can't help but feel they're neglecting that responsibility.
You’ll notice that I wrote ‘golf’s main tours’ just there. Throughout all of this, I am, of course, talking about the PGA Tour. This is a geo-specific problem. It’s an American problem. It’s a PGA Tour problem. And it’s a problem that needs to be solved, one way or another, for the betterment of the bigger picture. I'm not here to be the 'Fun Police'; I'm here to say that there's nothing fun or funny about shouting Rory McIlroy's wife name at him relentlessly whilst he's trying to go about his business.
Ultimately, this is a matter of respect: the lack that some boozed-up ‘fans’ have for players; the right that players have to expect to be treated with some; and the extent to which the PGA Tour is losing it by failing to act.
How much further are they prepared to let it go?