I drove past Beaver Island state park last night as was shocked to see only one car in the parking lot. I remember playing a round of golf and getting stuck with a below grade golfer. It was a Tuesday night and there was a bag line. This was also in the heyday of Tiger's career in 2007. I remember watching this 'smo' run up to join us. Myself and my golfing partner are pretty solid and remember shooting a 38. Not that Beaver Island is a great test but still a solid score. I used to be a 2 back in the day before travel and five kids. I am probably a 12 to 15 today.
We are on the second hole and it is a very long par 5 and as we approach the tee we see a group of four standing on the tee box. A threesome not more than 200 yards out and two more groups ahead of them. Any golfer knows this is a headache and this will be a long long round. I am OK with it and does not bother me. The phones are not ringing, no missed flights, or the rental car giving me a Yugo Scrayaself car. But this is where the 'Smo" who has cut off jeans (I believe they are called jorts) and a tank top grabs a Bud out of his bag cracks it open a blurts out "It was never like that until bleeping Tiger Woods!" After that insightful comment he grabbed something to smoke out of his bag that did not smell like tobacco.
As misplaced as his racist comments were he was actually correct. When Tiger was hot golf was huge. Courses sprang up across America (and Western New York) as well as retail stores. Fast forward and Tiger has yet to find the dominance he had over the world of golf and excitement has been tremendously tempered. Tiger changed the game of golf. The PGA flourished with increases in sponsorship, increase in prize money, TV rights, and packed courses for every event. The problem is once Tiger faded no one grabbed the torch and golf is fading. Tiger also changed the actual course of golf as well. Training and being a fit athlete is the norm now, changes to equipment to reduce the amount of bite and backspin, elongating courses to Tiger proof, and a much better athletes taking up the game. A sport in 'Merica is only as good as the amount of viewers and the revenue that can be generated.
Conversely, look at the NBA and what Michael Jordan brought to the table. The NBA was far below the big two. The NBA and the NHL were fighting for the scraps of the NFL and MLB. The NBA would have the finals on tape delay. The NBA was a niche sport. Well no longer. It was not all Michael Jordan but his Bulls made the NBA season and especially any playoff game a must watch. Michael Jordan, a basketball player, is the biggest athlete to come out of the USA. Think about the past, it was Babe Ruth and baseball that had the largest draw. It sure helped the NBA that players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James were able to pick up the Jordan torch and keep the NBA in the top three. Watch TV today and count how many baseball players are pitchman for companies. Aaron Rodgers - State Farm; Payton Manning for Poppa John's, Mastercard, Buick; Tom Brady - Uggs; Phil Mickelson - everyone; LeBron - Nike, Powerade, McDonald's Baskin Robbins, Samsung, Dunkin Brands, Kobe Bryant, Nike, Smart Car, Coca-Cola; Kevin Durant - Foot Locker, Gatorade, Sprint; Drew Brees - ATV, Wrangler, NyQuil: Blake Griffin - GameFly: Only one MLB player in the top 50 of 2013 highest paid athletes and that is Derek Jeter.
This brings everything back to the Mack effect on Buffalo. The Bulls never received so much organic traffic like what the combine, draft hype, draft day, and Mack actually putting on pads did for the program. It would have been great if only a portion of the Mack media appeared before the Ohio State game last year. Granted it was the coming out game for Mack but the foundation was in place. Still, with the pregame concerts and the expectations of the Bulls, the home games had an announced attendance of 24,013, 20,952, 23,602, 18,707, 22,918, and 26,226. Besides the Ohio State and Baylor game, the away MAC games had attendance of 14,722, 14,197, 15,036, and 9,895. Does UB have a LeBron who can take the momentum Mack built with a winning culture and keep New York growing? New York has scheduled an easy out of conference schedule (nothing is every easy or sure victory), besides Baylor, and the MAC portion of the schedule has UB ducking good teams this year with the exception of Bowling Green. Good concerts, even though country, wins, and a break out performance by a Bull and it is time for this team to start gain traction in the Sabres and Bills dominated town.