How is that front office men never conspire?
—Nelson Algren. Chicago: City on the Make.
The LPGA recently announced an event called the “Founders Cup,” to be held in March. Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek reports this latest cup “will be a charity-driven event in which players receive financial help for travel expenses, but don’t take home a paycheck.” Undoubtedly, the event will be spun as a kind of throwback to the early days of the tour, when—as the LPGA website puts it—players often “had to give up their practice round to mark the course, pound hazard stakes or write out local rules sheets” because the tour couldn’t afford staff.
On any other tour, such a move would be met with outrage. Pro sports labor battles are often dismissed as being arguments of millionaires vs. billionaires, but it’s likely that were somebody to try to get Phil Mickelson or any other PGA Tour star to play for free there’d be a lot of yelling. At some level, the broader American public understands that athletes are canaries in the coal mine—if athletes can get pushed around, how safe are you?
The response to the LPGA’s announcement however, is the dog that didn’t bark. No women’s groups, so far as I know, have said anything about the matter. Maybe this is because other women are, explicitly or not, buying into the “millionaires vs. billionaires” argument. Maybe it’s hard to sympathize with what’s perceived to be an elitist sport.
Maybe it’s because any sort of outcry about this event would be hard to get off the ground in Arizona, a state whose financial situation is even worse than the LPGA’s. According to Harper’s, “the situation in Arizona is arguably the nation’s worst, graver even than in California.” The state has privatized its capitol building, leasing it back from its owners. Arizona’s parks have lost 80% of their budgets, and some school districts are down to four days a week of instruction. Over 300,000 people have been removed from state health coverage.
That isn’t to say that the state legislature hasn’t been busy. One might think these laws would address the state’s finances. The legislature has responded to the state’s condition—by requiring the police to check immigration status (no word if they also required the police to adopt a German accent when asking about “papers”) and passing a bill that would require President Obama to show his birth certificate to state officials if and when he runs for re-election.
Another law “prohibits ‘intentionally or knowingly creating a human-animal hybrid.’” Arizona is a major ranching state, but presumably laws already on the books could deal with that one. But attempts along those lines might explain just how the state got such a legislature in the first place.
In sum, pronounces Harper’s, the Arizona legislature “is composed almost entirely of dimwits, racists, and cranks.” The type of people, in short, who are often aghast by the high salaries of athletes and entertainers, but never seem upset by the salaries of CEOs—despite the fact that according to many sources CEO salaries were around 40 times a worker’s salary in 1960, and now are around 300 times higher. But Hollywood—or pro athletics—is an easier target than Wall Street, one supposes.
Maybe the blame for these economic woes is much closer to hand, however. A recent story in The Atlantic describes how
a private-equity baron who divides his time between New York and Palm Beach pinned blame for the collapse on a favorite golf caddy in Arizona, who had bought three condos as investment properties at the height of the bubble.
“Blame the caddie” is, to be sure, a time-honored strategy; what’s astonishing is that it now can be adopted for situations of greater significance than why you mis-clubbed on the 18th hole to lose a four-ball.