September 26, 2016

THE KING OF COMMODIFICATION:

One More Reason Arnold Palmer Was the King : He wasn't just golf's greatest ambassador -- he was its foremost salesman (Geoff Shackelford and Joe House, 9/26/16, The Ringer)

The tributes are flowing and so are the tears. Arnold Palmer meant everything to golf. But few realize what he meant to the business of sports. More than Michael Jordan, Phil Knight, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and even more than his highness, King LeBron James of Cleveland, Palmer was invaluable to translating not just his game, but all games, into our daily lives.

His passing at 87 on Sunday evening has already elicited the always-awkward declaration that golf would be nowhere had Arnold Daniel Palmer not come along. It's a silly suggestion: Bobby Jones got Warner Bros. to fund a series of films at the start of the Depression, not long after he'd experienced the same ticker-tape parades and Time magazine covers that Ben Hogan would enjoy during the 1950s. Walter Hagen convinced America that pro golfers were more than just gambling degenerates. And Sam Snead showed people that golfers were athletes long before Palmer and his forearms started slashing at the ball like no one had ever seen.

The genius of Palmer was less in winning seven majors, 62 PGA Tour titles, and 10 times on the senior tour -- a circuit he validated with his presence -- but instead in combining the best attributes of his golfing predecessors with a saintly charisma that few humans have ever exuded. Someone else might have come along to revolutionize the sports business. But they didn't.

And so yes, he made a fortune off his epic charm and his even more epic blend of masculinity and sensitivity. In attacking golf courses, signing more autographs than anyone else alive, and cashing in on off-course opportunities to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the King still always made us feel like he was looking out for our best interests. Arnold Palmer reaffirmed our faith in sports as American life at its best, at its most interesting and, yes, its most profitable (at least among ventures not involving the shuffling of paperwork).

Something was lost when we separated the monetary value of athletes from the actual value of their performances.

Posted by at September 26, 2016 1:25 PM

  

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