Monday, November 10, 2014

Saturday Night Live

Live from Shanghai!

When I was growing up, most jokes about China involved pulling the skin around your eyes back to mimic slanty eyes.

Times have changed a lot since then and in 2014 when people joke about the Chinese it usually has to do with them being the fiscal overlords, of us. The tables have turned. Who is now the butt of the jokes? It's us.

However unfortunate that may be, the outlook is still good for American golf fans in this new global balance of power, if it'll mean more late-night live action on TV. Last Saturday night with bedtime approaching I sat down on the couch to wind down before bed. Surfing channels, I happened upon the live broadcast of the final round of the WGC HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, China, which (thanks to some heavy palm-greasing no doubt) is now an actual, official PGA TOUR event. Bonus!

I had not been following the tournament nor had any idea who was playing or who'd been contending but I was glad to come across it. There is a rule in our household: no violent, upsetting or even overly dramatic TV-watching before bed. No horror movies, no "Homeland", no "Law & Order", not even local nightly news (which is often the most ghastly program of them all!)--nothing to induce bad thoughts and not-so-sweet dreams. Around here if there's going to be any TV before bed it has got to be fare that's lighthearted, inoffensive, bland. Live golf--perfect for this niche. I haven't been this psyched for sports on a late Saturday night since those old WWF "Main Event" shows on NBC.

I put on the PJ's and settled in to watch. The final round action ended up being plenty entertaining, with some big names from the West--Watson, Fowler, Kaymer, etc--battling it out in a dramatic finish, but also it was interesting just to listen to the various sounds emanating from the Chinese galleries.

Golf, especially big-time professional tournament golf is still new to these people. This WGC tournament, probably the biggest golf event in Asia, was only established in 2005. In the last few years the Chinese public has gotten some flak for being ignorant of golf spectator etiquette. Round-eyed pros taking their talents over there have grumbled at various times over camera clicks at the wrong time, gallery movements at the wrong time, cheers at the wrong time.

Whitey need to give these people a break however. They are still getting the hang of this golf thing. And they seem to really love it, and that counts for a lot. Compared to us, the fans over there are quite expressive. They react to shots with more raw emotion and vested interest. Marginal shots, missed putts were met with bitter, disgusted outbursts: Ai-yaaa! Compared to the mild groans you hear from American galleries, the Chinese sound like they really take the bad ones personally.

When a player would hit a good shot, especially a big drive, the reaction from the gallery wasn't so much a cheer as one of genuine awe: Waaaahhhhhhh!!! Howls of delight when an approach shot ended up near the hole. Sometimes the reaction to certain shots sounded like straight up confusion: Ohhhhh? Lots of muttering too.

The players inside the ropes probably found all of it grating, but I think it's cool. The crowds really sounded like they were enjoying the action and all its ups and downs. Viewers of U.S. tournaments practically have to mute the TV nowadays for all the lamebrain stuff being shouted out. Hearing the sounds of the authentically impressed, the emotionally involved, the appreciative Chinese galleries, reminded me that we could re-learn a thing or two, and also that in another part of the globe, golf is novel, cutting-edge and on the rise. Let's face it, they have the right idea and soon enough they will be kicking our butts at this most likely. So let's not even fight it. The next time you hit a bad shot, don't hold back: Ai-yaaa!


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