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The Olympics and Pity-Parties

Greetings Golfers,

The number one player in the world – Dustin Johnson – recently announced that he’s not playing in the Olympics. He’s more interested in the normal golf season.

Not exactly big news. Golf in the Olympics is not exactly the Masters. It can’t be. Only a few players can represent each country. I think America got a special exemption to have four players. England has two players, etc. Obviously it can’t be much of a field.

I used to love the Olympics. But, when it went from being the Mecca of amateur sports to allowing professionals … I lost interest. Professional sports already had their championships.

The reason we all loved the 1980 “Miracle” USA hockey team was that they were amateurs. Especially because they beat the “amateur” Russians. The fact that the Russians seemed to violate the spirit of amateur competition added to their status as villains.

So … it was smart to use the villains as the new model?

What I mean is, why open the Olympics to professional athletes? The beauty and charm of the Olympics was its purity … amateur athletics.

So did they think the constant “human interest” stories during the televised coverage of the Olympics made it ok? Actually, those non-stop stories are annoying. And, I’m a cornball who loves such stories. But, not when I’m trying to watch competition.

Televised golf has even jumped on this bandwagon. A few weeks ago, Justin Thomas won the Players Championship by one shot. His play during the last few holes flirted with disaster. I wanted to hear how and why he did what he did. So, right after his victory, they stuck a microphone in his face and the first question was about … Tiger Woods. Huh? Really? How insulting to Justin … and to the audience. But it got worse. The next question was about the recent passing of his grandfather. He couldn’t reply because he was so choked-up. Ugh. I could just hear some producer saying to the interviewer “Perfect – I got a great shot of a tear rolling down his face”. Talk about shameless exploitation.

High level competition is fascinating to watch. Extreme skill tested under extreme pressure is amazing and doesn’t deserve to be cheapened by sentimentality. That’s insulting to the contestants. Those who overcome especially difficult odds to reach such heights … deserve to be treated with the respect given to such achievement … not diminish it by cheesiness or pity-parties.

I hear from family members that shows such as “American Idol” and “Shark Tank” have devolved into sentimentality instead of the actual competition. If the focus is on their back-story instead of the competition … it’s insulting to them.

If the back-story is really compelling … they can go on “Oprah” … that’s what she does. But, if I want to watch high-level competition – sport or anything – I’m not tuning into a talk-show.

Dustin Johnson and his finance Paulina Gretzky are made for an “Oprah” type show. Fine. But he doesn’t need to play golf in the Olympics. And the Olympics doesn’t need him … or any other professional athletes.


Tom Abts
GM/Head PGA Professional
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