Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bivens and Sirak Interview, And More

Carolyn Bivens is on the bandwagon for the Olympics crowd, right? And, of course, the Olympics has two official languages - English and French (dead language). For as much as Bivens claims that Eun-Hee Ji's English-less acceptance speech in Rochester was what set into motion this plan, I am much more likely to believe that Bivens drew upon her experience with the Olympics to bring the policy forward at this time.

Anyway, was pointed to the Sirak interview with Bivens in Golfworld and found many of the gems I heard on Golf Central last night as I was catching up on the golf world.

First, I find it hilarious that Carolyn was surprised about the backlash to this issue. From the piece:

Bivens was both surprised and angered by the reaction to the proficiency policy. "I find it troubling that media that does not know the whole story would jump on a racist bandwagon," Bivens told Golf World. "If these players don't take this step [and learn English], their ability to earn a living is reduced. They will be cut out of corporate and endorsement opportunities. I can't imagine that someone who has thought this through does not realize that in opposing this measure they are penalizing the very people they are trying to help."
At times, I really am convinced that Bivens has good ideas, but just fails so much in executing and communicating them that it is stunning she got the job based - in part - on her marketing background.

The issue of an "official language" of the United States has been brewing for probably a decade, and most intensively in the past few years with politicians discussing immigration reform. For the LPGA Tour to inject itself into the debate by making English a de-facto official language and then be stunned when the Tour becomes a lightning rod for both sides of said issue leads me to believe that this was not thought through well.

Even critics of the policy understand the benefits of learning English. I said as much in my qualified first reaction to the policy. But, again, mandating English as a condition of employment seems to be taking it way too far. Considering that the future of the LPGA Tour is likely not in the United States, it also is extremely hypocritical and comes across as biting the hand (and foreign money) that is feeding the Tour's bank accounts.

To me, this policy is beginning to come across as a back door excuse for lousy sponsorships on the American part of the Tour. Sponsors for US events are dropping like flies (Safeway, Ginn, Fields, Semgroup) and it appears that the Tour is hemorrhaging on that front. Perhaps instituting said policy is a way of saying to sponsors and fans that they feel they have identified a problem with the product and want to correct it. There's no easy way of saying that the nationality of players winning and dominating is a problem, so they tried this as an explanation.

Moving onto the motivation for the policy:
Of the three areas the LPGA has identified as linguistic trouble spots -- media interviews, victory speeches (where sponsors are praised) and the pro-am competitions -- the pro-am is unique to professional golf and is perhaps the tour's strongest arguing point. Ichiro does not have to interact with four fans one day of every week. The cost of entering a four-person team in an LPGA pro-am is around $24,000; if the pro can't speak English it creates an awkward situation.
Sure, that's possible. But pro-ams are not exactly fun for players that speak English well. I was fortunate enough to caddie for Christina Kim in one about four years back in Kutztown, PA; a now dead event. She was her usual effervescent self to the execs from Wrangler Jeans that we were with for the day. But that was not true for all of the players in all of the groups. Some appeared to be the total opposite of chummy with their playing partners. More often than not, the pro-am is a disappointment.

I would wager, though, that this will ultimately end in the Tour having said policy, but with fines instead of suspensions.


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