« January 2008 »


Traditions can be tricky. Every year, You Are Dumb honors Martin Luther King Day by punching "racism" into Google News and seeing what comes up. But this year, I had to modify the search a smidge. Because the last thing I want to talk about is the Democratic presidential nominees' exciting internecine struggle about racist or awkward language. So instead of "racist", I entered "racist -Obama", and every fucking thing was about golf.

Even if it weren't the most racist sport since the South African flaming tire ring-toss, golf would still suck. I have long maintained that the quality of a sport is directly proportional to the ratio of the size of the ball/puck/object of play to the size of the playing field. This makes bowling the greatest sport of all time, at least until foosball gets recognized by the IOC.

Until the invention of geocaching, this metric made golf the worst sport in the world. Acres upon acres of carefully maintained and groomed and locked away from society so that rich people can wander around looking for their tiny, tiny balls. And on top of that, golf has a glorious history of racism. Some would say that's not strictly golf's fault, but just an unfortunate coincidence, due to all the good golf courses being part of country clubs that just happened to exclude black people through the 80's and 90's, Some people also say slavery was just an economic thing.

But we're making progress. Now, when a golf announcer jokes about the sport's leading black player being "lynched in a back alley" by all the young white golfers he's beating, people actually notice and get upset. Even more impressively, they notice despite it being on The Golf Channel, which I assumed nobody watched. As a non-fan of golf, I slid past the Golf Channel so fast the infrared signal from my remote blinked in surprise. And if you -like- golf? Well, as the Sci-Fi channel and G4 prove, there's nothing more depressing to a fan of X than The X Channel.

But someone was watching when Kelly Tilghman made her unfortunate slip, and she got in trouble, and she apologized, as is the natural course of these things. And that's when, "covering the controversy" like a biology teacher at Liberty University, Golfweek Magazine went with a cover showing a swinging noose. Which, at the time I heard about it, I figured was either inspired, provocative metacommentary or an awful, tone-deaf choice from a guy who spends all his time thinking about golf.

And thanks to a post-getting-his-ass-fired interview with AOL Sports, I know which one Dave Seanor is. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Not so much that people were offended by the image because they knew where we wanted to go with it. But people raised flags that this could stir something up among a certain element of people who might read it one way or the other, and we tried to mitigate that, we thought, with the headline." - Seanor, in response to a question about whether anyone on staff thought a noose picture might be a bad idea.

Now, he's right about one thing. The right text could, conceivably, mitigate an image of a swinging noose. But it would have to be REALLY GOOD TEXT. So what was the headline Golfweek thought mitigated the image?

CAUGHT IN A NOOSE: Tilghman Slips Up, And Golf Channel Can't Break Free

Clearly I don't need to break this to the unemployed Seanor at this point, but that's not really good text. At all. It strikes me as at the very least a bit sympathetic for all those poor white people at the Golf Channel who are now "caught in a noose". But even if it were neutral, you need more than generic neutrality to when you're tossing a swinging fucking noose into the middle of an incident that, by golf standards, pales in comparison to Fuzzy Zoeller's "tell him not to serve fried chicken next year or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve." From, lest you forget, 1998.

The best thing about the Seanor interview is when the AOL guy asks him "What were you thinking?"* See if you can spot the crucial omission in his answer:

"It's an easy question for someone to ask who has never sat in an editor's chair or worked in journalism. We were thinking, as unbelievable as that might seem to people. Perhaps we overthought it in a way. We weren't trying to be sensational. It's interesting that a lot of the objection, 'Oh, they're just trying to sell magazines.' We're 99 percent subscriptions. We're not even on the newsstand."

Yes, that's right. He never actually said WHAT HE WAS THINKING. He wanted us to know he was thinking. And he wanted us to know that he wasn't thinking about sales. But when you drop the noose-bomb, you need to actually be thinking of what your really good reason is for doing it. Not just "thinking" in a general sense about cover aesthetics and the angle the rope should be caught in mid-swing. Even when you're writing about golf.

*Well, technically, he asks how Seanor would respond to other people who are asking "What were you thinking?", but that's such a ridiculously passive-aggressive form of journalism that I didn't think it deserved being in the actual paragraph.