Pay up, pay up and maybe then they'll play the game

It has been a habit to deplore in this space the commercial momentum that has made the impulse to take up sport very often the impulse to make more money than people get for running countries.

It has been a habit to deplore in this space the commercial momentum that has made the impulse to take up sport very often the impulse to make more money than people get for running countries.

Happily, things have changed a great deal since professional games players were denied the right to be considered like any other star performer and be paid accordingly. More and more, however, the good fortune of sports stars who have sweated their way up to prodigious salaries leaves some of us yearning for a time when reputations were determined solely by performance.

So much of the loot pouring into sport today has become available to the players themselves that the emphasis on remuneration practised with tenacity by newspapers, television and radio is, I suppose, inevitable.

In golf it is unavoidable. Rankings on the European and US tours (together with selection for the Ryder Cup) are based on prize money, which now dwarfs any amounts that the most illustrious of Tiger Woods' predecessors could have imagined.

As a result of his victory in the NEC Invitational Championship last weekend, Woods, in just four years as a professional, took his career earnings (more than $7m this season alone) to $21m worldwide and will soon overtake Greg Norman, the only player ahead of him.

As Woods hurried through gathering darkness to complete Sunday's final round, the pitch of Sky television (and doubtless that of the American host broadcasters) was that he had a busy day on the morrow beginning with a golf clinic organised by one of his sponsors, then a flight westwards to play a challenge match against Sergio Garcia.

Shown here in the early hours of Tuesday morning, it was apparently one of those made-for-television events with both players miked up so that viewers could listen in to conversations about tactics and club selection.

The question to be asked here is: "Why?" It didn't matter who won (Garcia one up) and proved nothing. The answer, of course, is money.

We should remember in trepidation that no decent ethic has evolved to ensure that sport does not fall completely into television's grasp. You only have to ponder the fear for a moment to infer what it implies; a sporting structure so tailored to the needs of an all-devouring eye that it will become unrecognisable.

As I remember it now, before the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, a tentative attempt was made to bring Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett together in a series of races over various middle distances made cosmetically acceptable by a full field of runners. The stirring legitimacy of their Olympic duels, each winning the other's main event, put paid to the idea.

Four years later, a race was shamelessly staged in London to renew the rivalry between Zola Budd and Mary Slaney. A blatant stunt for which they were handsomely rewarded, it flopped, to the satisfaction of athletic purists.

There is nothing new in the sporting stunt. Men against horses, fighters versus wrestlers. Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King patted tennis balls at each other in the biggest floating hustle of all time. Riggs, beneath the banner of male chauvinism, was shot down in flames.

A lot of people took it seriously, though. Larry Merchant wrote: "Before the largest audience ever to witness a tennis match, or a circus, 30,472 in the Houston Astrodome and many millions on television, in thirty six countries - Billie Jean King reduced the oiking Bobby Riggs to a ham sandwich. She ate him up and picked her teeth with his racket".

In whatever shape or form, I am vehemently opposed to a notion of sport that would have immediately appealed to Phineas T Barnum.

The problem is, how do you discourage games players from yielding to lucrative propositions put by sponsors and television companies who are more interested in exposure than the game? In fact, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else, should you try?

Well, back in 1974, an example was set in golf that may have escaped the attention of Woods and Garcia.

When Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller were offered $1m, winner take all, to play over 18 holes they promptly turned it down. To their endless credit, both felt that it was not in the best interests of the game.

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - Lewes / Brighton

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

PE Graduate?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Are you a PE graduate looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£90 - £135 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Key Stage ...

Humanities Teacher

£100 - £150 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Permanent Teacher of Humaniti...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?