[dropcap]P[/dropcap]eople’s views of situations in life are understandably shaped by context. Feelings on a given matter will depend on the level of interest therein. For example, in relation to the two abiding passions in the life of yours truly, nothing stirs the emotions in a positive manner more than the purr of a combine harvester in the height of harvest season or, in times not too long past, Micheal O’Muircheartaigh in full flow had a similar effect.
You see, part of the whole sporting experience from a viewing perspective – if one was to title it thus – has always been that, over time, an affinity of sorts is acquired with those who are imparting details of given happenings. Whether that be, say, Con Houlihan’s linguistic artistry of yesteryear or Sir Peter O’Sullevan rhyming off the finish of a race or John Motson’s unique slant on Match Of The Day or Ian Dark during his tenure as Sky Sports boxing broadcaster..
Now, to some golf may be something of a difficult craft to take to, never mind reach great levels of animation about. Such circumstances have, it must be said, been offset by the influence of Rory McIlroy in recent years. Like it or not, Tiger Woods at his zenith was also of incalculable value to the popularity of the game. As were the prevailing economic circumstances during times of greater general prosperity a decade or so ago.
With their evaporation, however, has come a decline in the uptake of and interest in golf. Even though along with McIlroy, other younger players of supreme ability such as Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth and Keegan Bradley will no doubt have reached out to a percentage of youngsters who will have been driven to take up the game. The crux of golf’s problem, though, is that the percentage of new devotees coming aboard has been in steady decline.
You’ll note, too, that McIlroy is the only one from anywhere near these parts in the above list. That’s instructive, especially when taken against the backdrop of the BBC having lost coverage of the Open Championship to Sky Sports from 2017 onwards. To understand how gravely this asinine development could affect golf, all one need do is look at the manner in which top exponents of the game have reacted to it.
Often, top stars in their chosen craft can with credence be accused of being removed from reality. In this instance, mind you, doesn’t the fact that McIlroy and Lee Westwood have been so vehemently opposed to the move say enough? Simply as its most likely that’s where both men had their interest in the game fostered – watching the Open Championship on the BBC.
As was sort of alluded to earlier, most sports command a commentator or media correspondent universally acclaimed as “The Voice” thereof. Admittedly a hideous acronym but one not difficult to understand given the impact the individuals concerned bring to their area of expertise.
Peter Alliss is, to me, most definitely golf’s delegate in the pantheon of celebrated sports broadcasters. In fact, he is, it’s ventured, the main reason many ordinary folk felt such a connection to the Open Championship and, by extension, the golfing world on a broader scale.
Alliss has been broadcasting at the Open since 1961 and his collaborations with Alex Hay left an indelible mark on those of us fortunate enough to have been around for even a fraction of them. The veteran master of the microphone has indicated that the BBC’s last hurrah will most likely see the curtain fall on his remarkable career.
With it will go an entire era in the sport and it’ll be a poorer place for that. Future generations may have to quote the lyrics of the famous – or infamous depending on your viewpoint – ‘Smokey’ hit. No, they are not about to be put here, you know the one to which I am referring!
Such an occurrence would be sad indeed. Alliss, 84, admittedly couldn’t go on forever and may have been into the back nine of his broadcasting days. However, the feeling is inescapable that his route and conveyance to the departure lounge has been needlessly and damagingly hastened.
All this at a time when golf – and specifically those in charge thereof – should be stretching every sinew, maximising every avenue, wherefrom an increase in the popularity of the sport of which they are custodians can be garnered. Cutting swathes of the population off from the game or accruing financial gains by placing impediments upon those to whom they are trying to appeal to.
Those charged with the governance of the game may see themselves and the sport gaining much – financially and otherwise – from the new arrangement. What they’ve lost may only become clearer with time.