Gerber's and Frank's zeal is understandable. Not since the Weekend at Bernie's movies have two guys had so much success dressing up a corpse and trotting it out for public consumption. But these guys must use a pencil with an eraser to write down their golf scores, because they're fudging these numbers. The Skins' ratings have dropped over the past few years, as the act has gotten stale. Still, it's no mystery why it remains important to the players, or at least to their agents. "Being chosen for the Skins Game is an acknowledgment that you are one of the best players in the world," says Pavin. "It's quite an honor, from that standpoint."
Adds Frank, "It's four individuals getting five hours of exposure on one of the most heavily watched golf events of the year. You can imagine what that means to the player's sponsors, what with the hats, the bags, the clubs...." And here Frank's voice trails off dreamily. Such flesh peddling once moved former USGA honcho Frank Hannigan to label the Skins Game "pornographic."
The most painful part of the Skins Game is watching the players try to yuk it up for the cameras. With all the phony backslap-ping going on it's amazing no lumbar disks were exploded.
"Oh, yeah, we are definitely aware we're wearing microphones," Pavin says.
As such, it's a wonderful opportunity to project a good-guy image. "It's important because the fans at home can hear you talking and see what you're really like," says Pavin.
Jacobsen's patter was as canned as a late-night talk-show host's monologue ( Chevy Chase springs to mind), and no wonder. He was given a mandate to try to be funny. "An event like this needs personality," Gerber said on the eve of the Skins, "and that's why Peter is so important."
Jacobsen, who has commented on nine Skins Games over the years in his guise as a broadcaster, tried mightily to breathe some life into the proceedings, but he was doomed from the beginning. Look what he had to work with. Pavin at times showed a light touch, but Watson and Couples were nothing but dead weight. On Saturday, Watson said, "The best line of the day was when Corey chipped in and Freddie said, 'Does that mean the hole is over?' " Bah duh boom. The Skins Game is the only tournament in golf that needs a laugh track.
"What you have to remember," says Frank, breaking into his best showbiz smile, "is that it's not just a tournament, it's a show. It's about having some fun. It's not about the rhythms of the game, it's not played on some citadel of golf. It is what it is."
But what is it? Frank ought to be able to figure out what the Skins needs, considering that he helped dream up such trash sport staples as American Gladiators, Survival of the Fittest and The Superstars.
The trouble with the Skins Game is not that it strays from golf tradition, but rather that it does not go far enough. Why not move the tournament—sorry, the show—from Las Vegas Lite, Palm Springs, to the real Sin City? That would add some juice. The poetic waxing of Vin Scully could be dumped for, say, Bob Saget. Skins Game pom-pom girls could be added, in slinky outfits (by Ashworth, of course). Once the Skins Game stops trying to pass itself off as golf, the possibilities are limitless.