Avoiding A Train Wreck

It was announced today that Johnny Miller and Sir Nick Faldo are going to team up to be the co-color commentators at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The Hyundai, you will recall, is the season-opening tournament exclusively for this year’s PGA Tour winners. They play it on the dramatic Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii. It begins in two weeks and runs from January 6th through the 9th.

It’s always fun to watch because of the dramatic elevation changes, the changing winds that make some greens drivable one day and driver, 6-iron the next. They always have the obligatory camera shots of the whales frolicking out in the ocean, the shot of the island of Molokai so close and yet so far and the surf breaking on the beaches with the frothy spray blasting high in the air.

So to this idyllic setting, throw into the mix two of the biggest egos in the game, Miller and Faldo. They’ve won eight majors between them and are largely acknowledged to be the two best on television right now.

As reported in a post on pgatour.com’s “The Tour Report,” Miller greeted the news thusly, “It’s great repartee when Nick and I are together. It’s kind of an older brother-younger brother dynamic. We’re not afraid to challenge each other.”

It’s hard to know just how much condescension was intended by the big brother/little brother comment and whether that’s the beginning of Miller granting no quarter.

To which Faldo responded, “I was really looking forward to a stress-free start to the new season. Now this news. Oh well, never mind. At least I’ve got two weeks in Hawaii watching the PGA Tour, and let’s just say some lively debate. Should be fun.”

It’s hard to know just how much dry, tongue-in-cheek humor Faldo is so famous for was intended in his rejoinder.

But then you have the President of the Golf Channel saying, “We’ll see how it works, what kind of high jinks ensue . . We’ll have to check if it’s safe to release these two into the wild.”

And then he goes on to say that Miller, “like any great analyst, lacks a filter between his brain and mouth so you never know what will come out — but you know it will be interesting.”

Now I take both of those comments to be his fervent hope for great television, that is to say, fireworks, that is to say, a huge “Clash of the Titans’” er, “Egos,” that is to say, a train wreck. And if that’s what this great possible pairing devolves into, it would be a shame.

It would be a shame because we already have too much food-fight reality television as it is. Our culture has become coarsened. We have the Survivor, the Bachelor and Bachelorette, all of the daytime court shows, Jerry Springer, The Big Break (golf hasn’t been spared), and…you get the point.

Wouldn’t it be something if these two great, highly intelligent, witty golfers brought the best of themselves to each day’s broadcast, not in an attempt to make themselves look good, but to make their teammate look good?

I know that golf is a lonely sport and champion golfers are bred with this fiercely competitive streak that compels them to crush their competition. The best of them—and these two certainly are in that category—can’t help themselves; destroying the competition mentally before cracking themselves is what they are trained to do.

But they are now professional broadcasters—yes, they’re still professional golfers too—and they should be able to create a shift for themselves to their new roles.

With their intimate knowledge of each other, wouldn’t it be great if they each fed the other one set-up lines or questions designed to make the other guy look like the genius he is? Wouldn’t it be great if the tenor in the booth matched the laidback tenor of the tournament? Wouldn’t it be great if their collective geniuses entwined themselves in such a towering, been-there-done-that, intelligent collaboration that we are all left marveling at each day’s end? And at the end of the tournament? And we are all left clamoring for them to do it again because our experience was so sublime? And we are all left calm and satisfied, rather than grated and agitated?

It would take complete trust of each other. It would take the complete sublimation of their own egos for the sake of the soaring insights of their partner. It would take joy on each other’s part at the success of their partner. And it would take certainty that he would be reflecting the same unselfishness back to him. As in golf, it would take not trying hard but just allowing it to happen. And it would take not keeping score of who’s doing best because they are both feeling that they are creating the best broadcast together. “Ham and eggin’ it,” they call it in partner golf.

That’s what teamwork is all about. That’s what the Ryder Cup is all about and both of them have been very successful operating in that supportive environment. Wouldn’t it be great if they could see that they could capture that same mindless, overwhelming, Ryder Cup euphoria in Maui? And be the greatest ever? Instead of just another down-culture food fight?

Let’s hope so.

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