Have you ever laughed at something and then your conscience questioned if that was appropriate? Here’s the scenario: I am driving to my office and for my daily dose of humor, I am tuned into Sirius/XM channel 100…or was it 101? I often teeter between the two like a laugh-hungry adolescent trolling for entertainment. Howard Stern says to Robin, “Let me play you a clip from this week’s golf tournament.” I think to myself, “Howard and golf? That’s a disconnect.” He rolls the tape. In it, I hear the familiar voice of Jim Nance or Nick Faldo or David Feherty or Gary McCord talking over a Tour player’s pre-shot routine. Then the sweet sound (and personally unfamiliar) of a purely struck golf ball, followed by an over-served yahoo who screams, “Baba Booooooooey!” (a reference to Howard’s long- time producer, Gary Dell’Abate). The commentators were baffled and chose to ignore it, making it that much funnier.
Yes, I am a Stern fan. Usually, I find myself glued to his show (except when my kids are in the car) and sometimes I laugh out loud. When it comes to humor, I’m a total juvenile in that way. I still laugh at potty jokes, prank phone calls and other immature, LCD (if you remember fractions in 4th grade math, that’s “lowest common denominator”) humor.
Back to the comment, I know that yelling at a golf tournament is irreverent, obnoxious and shows a lack of couth. It flies in the face of golf’s steeped traditions. After thinking about it some more, though, I realized my position may be as polarizing as Howard himself. I think yelling at a golf tournament could be good for the game and here’s why:
The steady decline in golf’s participation has the industry scrambling for answers. Theories abound—too time consuming, too difficult, too many other entertainment options—and most of them do have some merit. One thing is crystal clear: Golf has some serious work to do. The game needs to be relevant and especially with millennials. This is the demographic that, according to the National Golf Foundation, has seen a considerable dip in participation over the past 20 years. That is noteworthy, as historically millennials are in the age group at which people pick up the game. The NGF recognizes that currently 12 million millennials are sitting on the sidelines as they consider the game.
Here’s the catch: Most millennials look at golf differently than their parents. For them, it is less about swing mechanics or their score and more about another way to have a fun; it’s a social experience. Of the 18-34 year olds that play golf, 50% only average 6 rounds per year. I’m guessing anything that helps them remember that golf is actually a game where you can laugh with friends, can only help the cause.
Howard Stern packs a powerful punch, especially with the male demographic of 25-44-year-olds. According to Bloomberg Business, when Stern moved to satellite radio, he brought 20 million listeners with him. Forbes Magazine reports that Howard has 1.7 million listeners a week. To me, I see those numbers as an opportunity to move the needle. With so many millennials considering the game, fun, funny exposure when you least expect it could tip the scales in golf’s favor.
Think about how you started playing. I’d bet that a friend or family member invited you to come out and have a good time. Certainly you did not formulate your opinion of the game based on your score, but it was more likely to be based on your experience.
Would I ever yell anything after a Tour player strikes his ball? No. Do I think it’s funny when I hear this on TV or the radio? Yes. And if others do, too, golf just received an unlikely bonus.