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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones