Rumor has it that John Brodie, a scratch golfer who quarterbacked the San Francisco 49ers in the off season for 17 years, lost a lot of money at golf recently, some of his own and some of the people who backed him.
The bet was that Brodie could shoot 85 or better at the Lake Merced Golf and Country Club in San Francisco, playing the worse of two balls. If one of his tee shots ended up in the fairway and the other behind a tree, he had to play the one behind the tree. If he sank a long putt, he had to do it again from the same spot. He might have won all bets, except that the wind came up, as it is wont to do in that part of the world.
One version of the story has it that Brodie won the bet the first time around but, unable to resist a second try with the stakes doubled, he lost it all.
The other version is even better. Brodie, having shot a 50 on the front nine and anxious to cut his losses, bet as much as he could that he would shoot 45 on the back nine. And he did it, but only after sinking two 12-foot putts on the 18th green.
MONKEY SAY, MONKEY SEE
Abandon hope, all ye who think if you glare at your TV screen long enough Howard Cosell will go away. Three schollarly researchers from the University of Massachusetts and Indiana University—Paul Comisky, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann by name—have published the results of a study they made of sports commentary and its influence on the television viewer's perception of the game he is watching.
For their study the researchers used two 12-minute videotaped segments of a Boston Bruin vs. Detroit Red Wing hockey game at Olympic Stadium in Detroit last season, one segment with a normal amount of rough action (three incidents of "hard hitting") and one with an unusual amount of rough action (11 incidents), plus the commentary as it was broadcast by the Boston Bruins' Network. The researchers discovered that their subjects, 139 UMass undergraduates, were considerably more influenced by what they heard from the lips of the announcers than they were by what they actually saw.
During the normal-action segment, say Comisky, Bryant and Zillmann, the announcers had taken pains to convince the audience that it was watching "rough and tough ice hockey at its best, with the action threatening to turn into fisticuffs at any minute, when in fact there was little action." In contrast, during the second segment, when the action was truly violent, the announcers "let the action carry the game with little commentary of a dramatic sort."
The student guinea pigs were divided into four groups, shown the two segments, with and without the audio, and asked to rate them on a scale of 0 to 100 for perceived violence and entertainment. The outcome was that the students rated the normal-action segment, with its dramatic commentary, most violent and most entertaining, while they rated the same segment, without the audio, least violent and also least entertaining. The truly rough segment was perceived as somewhat less violent when it was accompanied by no commentary, and a lot less violent when accompanied by the commentary.
"These findings are suggestive of the great potential of sports commentary to alter the viewer's perception of the sport event," was the upshot of it all from the scholarly point of view. For the rest of us, a horrible question arises: Could it be that Cosell is both the medium and the message?