Sad to see Seve’s will imposed on EurAsia Cup hard sell

Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 06:00

It’s interesting to speculate on the depths of pre-tournament profile this week’s EurAsia Cup would have plunged towards were it not for the late Seve Ballesteros. But an otherwise banal piece of corporate opportunism that no one gives a good goddam about is actually making news on the back of aggro within the legendary golfer’s family, including over that age-old familial doozy, the will.

Not that those charged with bigging up the EurAsia Cup will care about the how: all that matters is that already in this piece, there’s been a couple of mentions of the latest ungodly Ryder Cup spawn, the EurAsia Cup: that’s three – score!

In a world where people have careers defined by product mentions, that really is a score. Context is mostly irrelevant, unless it involves Nazism, paedophilia, or STDs. Otherwise, all that matters is profile. Consumer awareness it’s called; here it’s all about a lot of dull people in suits fretting over the potential market share of a lot of dull players in polo-shirts.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, the EurAsia Cup – four! – is European golf’s new bit on the side, designed to be a Europe v Asia Ryder Cup-type thingy that clubby types in a vast bi-continental consumer paradise can get sweaty over during that unhelpful lull before the real stuff kicks into gear next month.

Graeme McDowell is going to play it, so that’s the Irish box ticked. Jiminez has the Spanish market; Donaldson can cover the Brit portfolio, Dubuisson the French, in what will be presented as some pan-European expression of common identity crusading east to Kuala Lumpur where Euro-golf will batter the yellow peril into submission: wrap those blue flags around you, everyone.

The only problem is there’s already such an expression of inter-continental ballistic putter-rattling. It’s called the Royal Trophy – nope, me neither – but apparently it’s been on the go since 2006 and it was very much a pet project of the late Seve, possibly the most charismatic and free-spirited man ever to flail in a bunker but who, even almost three years after his death, still can’t escape the grasping clutches of suits on the make.

You see the Asian Tour has had its inevitable split and the European Tour has elected to cosy up to the fresh new tournament rather than its fading older sister. It even claimed earlier this year such a move has the support of the Ballesteros family. But not all of them: some are opposed, arguing Seve was vehemently against any copy-cat of the Royal Trophy.

A final ‘sayonara’ to dignity
So in a final “sayonara” to dignity and decorum, they released a letter written by Ballesteros less than a year before his death where he argued such behaviour “would certainly not meet the standards of morality and fairness which are the trademark of our sport”.

You read that, and think of the frightened man fighting brain cancer, and the incalculable impact that man had on an entire sport in his pomp, all that raw excitement generated by the sheer effervescence of his game and a natural, effortless charisma, behind which the entire apparatus of back-scratching, genital-neutral, press-release, lawyer-speak has rolled in with all its big-money smiles designed to disguise how everyone is simply after the main chance.

Maybe there is a consumer demand for the EurAsia Cup. After all, every other kind of convoluted team structure has been inflicted on what is a robustly individual game.

Riding on the coat-tails of the Ryder Cup has come the Presidents Cup, the Seve Trophy, the Royal Trophy, the Dunhill Cup, a World Cup, all of which survive, maybe even thrive, in a digital media world where genuine, take-sides, Jesus-I-hope-we-beat-these-bastards fervour is becoming increasingly rare and irrelevant in the face of insatiable scheduling priorities.

Since one of these sideshows bears his name and he clearly felt something for the Royal Trophy too, Ballesteros was no bystander in this faux flag-waving expansion, but his enthusiasm was genuine.

Seve didn’t like the Yanks, never forgot a slight, either real or imagined. When he lined up in the Ryder Cup, it mattered to him, and it mattered so much and so obviously it somehow transmitted itself far beyond the others around him and poured into a simmering anti-American pot of resentment that might not have been rooted in anything real but still had enough about it to make what happened compulsive viewing even for those of us who don’t know a foursome from a four-way.

He was always different, though, Seve: an emotional character in a game where emotions are the enemy. If there’s a colder, more gimlet-eyed pursuit in sport, then it’s probably played on ice. There’s no accident about it being the game of business: hard-arsed executives summing up the percentage calls, looking first and last at the bottom line.

Did Seve really think a call to sentiment could trump the balance-sheet logic of this thing? And did some of his family really think an attempt at emotional blackmail would do anything but drum up colourful copy for a dull event?

Vast new Asian audience
Because on paper, the EurAsia Cup probably does make a kind of augmented-reality, advertising-awareness, brand-audited sense: look at the depth of that peak-time market audience after all. Ultimately it’s all about tapping a vast new Asian audience not yet completely saturated by golf tat. Get the right telly on board and it’s a runner.

Sentiment can’t compete with that. And maybe no one giving a damn about the EurAsia Cup doesn’t matter either, when profile gets to be more important than the sport.

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