On May 29, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens donned her most impressive polyester power pantsuit to join other sports honchos in handing out crystal tornadoes at the second annual SportsBusiness Journal awards ceremony in Manhattan.
While such participation is not in itself surprising, one must question whether said commissioner warranted taking part in any event honoring successful business achievement.
Bivens was not responsible for the guest list, nor was she involved in the brave, obvious and uninspired choice of naming a big-named franchise in a huge media market — the Boston Celtics — as the Professional Sports Team of the Year. The good folks at SBJ also went out on a limb naming Coke as best sponsor, ESPN best sports media and IMG best at client enrichment.
But I digress. I come not to praise the selections, but to bury the presenter.
If the good folks at the business journal — which in fact is a valuable yet expensive source of information — wanted to tap into the experience of a leader fearless enough to upset longtime sponsors thereby forcing their corporate contributions to the cash-strapped PGA, no better choice could have been made then selecting a woman willing to accept the resignations of the tour’s most senior officers less than a year after she took office — some of whom she herself had hired.
Bivens’ latest brainstorm, or blood-clot-induced stroke, is to encourage players to Twitter while on the course. According to Bloomberg News Service, Bivens said, “I’d love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round. The new media is very important to the growth of golf and we view it as a positive, and a tool to be used.”
The woman who announced her presence with authority at the 2006 Fields Open by trying to gain possession of all media photos taken and stories written at the event — which, naturally, blew up in her face when members of the press boycotted the event, thereby greatly reducing the publicity the LPGA had counted on — would also encourage her athletes to update their Facebook page while going all in at Texas Hold ‘Em or sending out gifts to would-be family members in Mafia wars.
Bivens went on to say, “For Morgan Pressel and Christina Kim’s following — her fans are 12-, 13-, 14-year-old girls and boys — they’re not waiting for the golf broadcast on Saturday and Sunday. They want to know what’s going on in the middle of the round. If we’re going to get out of the collared shirts and khaki pants and make golf chic, hip, happening, Christina Kim is exactly the kind of player to reach out and make golf a lot more relevant.”
Listen carefully and you can make out the laughter emanating from just about any place where Bivens’ White Rabbit-inspired delusions of rainbow bright marketing fail to find acceptance in the normally staid and successful golf community.
The USGA has maintained a full cavity-search policy when it comes to cell phones on the course, and outlaws the use of any device that may assist the golfer “in making a stroke or in his play; or for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play.”
Minute details like these are of little bother to the presenter in the Digital Sports Media category.
Such bizarre announcements have become commonplace for the commissioner of the world’s largest female sports league. This is just the latest since she tried to institute an English-only requirement for a business that has lost three tourneys and some $7 million in prize money in the last year. And just as she handled the language controversy, Bivens backtracked on Twittergate by suggesting she never suggested it.
Bivens posted her rebuttal on the LPGA’s barely usable website, saying, “Comments that I made in a conversation with a writer last week regarding the importance of social media and tweeting have been taken out of context. We have not discussed tweeting or the use of hand-held devices during tournament rounds with the USGA, or even within the LPGA, nor do we intend to. Our players will not be tweeting during the rounds of LPGA events.”
Well, that explains it.
One day — sooner rather than later — the organization's membership will figure out that the best way to make the game more “hip, chic, happening” would be to get rid of the woman who has not yet figured out how to market a sport with greater athletes and more eye candy than any time in its history.
Then again, maybe not.