Saudi Sportswashing

In an effort to improve its image on the global stage, Saudi Arabia is financing a new professional golf tour. Some PGA pros are signing on to the LIV Tour as a result of the Saudi’s bonuses and much higher tournament purses. Tuesday, Brooks Koepka received $100m to switch sides.

Professional golfers have never been on the forefront of progressive politics, but this is next-level selling out to the highest bidder regardless of their historic repression of their citizens; their ties to 9/11; their hacking of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi to death; and worst of all; despite no one writing about it, their brutal war against Yemen.

It’s worth noting the (dis)United States sells the weapons that Saudi Arabia uses against Yemen. And it’s worth pressing pause for a second and imagining what you and I would do if a competing employer offered to increase our pay by five or ten times?

Families of 9/11 victims brought moral clarity to the situation yesterday with a letter of appreciation for the PGA tour players who (so far) are refusing to aid and abet Saudi Arabia in its sportswashing campaign.

They wrote:

“To those many of you who chose to remain loyal to the PGA Tour — and did not defect to the Saudi Arabia-bankrolled LIV Golf Series — we thank you and the sponsors who support you. Thank you for standing up for decency. Thank you for standing up for the 9/11 Families. Thank you for resisting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to cleanse its reputation by buying off professional athletes. […]

“To those of you who have chosen what is right over blood money from a corrupt, destructive sports entity and its Saudi backers, please continue to stand strong. You inspire hope and conviction that our long journey to accountability and justice is in reach. We deeply value your integrity and your willingness to stand up for principle.”

This global showdown begs a question. “How much is enough?” Most of the LIV signees are multimillionaires many times over. For some, the answer appears to be, there’s never enough.

Winning Time

HBO’s Winning Time is the story of the Los Angeles Lakers 1979 season.

Apparently the Lakers hate it, but I dig it. The Lakers don’t like it because they aren’t making any money from it, they have no control over how the story is told, and it reminds people how good they were in past incarnations.

Also, Magic doesn’t like it because he has a documentary coming out that covers a lot of the same territory. And being famously surly, Kareem doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like much of anything.

I await each episode because I was living in SoCal at the time and a huge Laker fan. Apart from apparently exaggerating Jerry West’s anger management issues, the casting is outstanding.

Also, the attention to period detail is Mad Men-like, meaning off-the-charts.

At the end of a recent episode the Lakers have a day off. Laker coach Jack McKinney‘s wife informs him she’s taking the car and he should go play tennis with Paul Westhead, his ace assistant. After she leaves, the workaholic coach begins scribbling in his notebook, then suddenly heads to the garage of his suburban home to grab his racquet and shiny red Schwinn bicycle.

The next 90 seconds are shot mostly via drone. The successful but simple workaholic, the home, the street, the neighborhood, the sunlight, the Beach Boy music, the Schwinn all felt bizarrely familiar. I wasn’t watching someone else’s life as much as reliving my own. My dad played tennis most weekends in the 1970s in SoCal. He didn’t ride his Schwinn, but there was one in the garage. Long story short, the producers magnificently nailed the ethos of time and place.

One other less obvious thing to note. The fact that the Laker coach’s family only had one car speaks volumes about the NBA’s fledging status in 1979.

Highly recommended. As long as you’re at least 17 years old and not too prudish.