I fancy myself a bit of a cross-generational, pop culture enthusiast. My conversational references tend to span decades and at times are considered a bit “random” by some. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are at my fingertips along with John Wayne quotes, plot lines from Taxi or Moonlighting, the latest from Flo-Rida and Justin Bieber, and on one occasion thanks to channel surfing the entire premise of the iCarly series. So it came as a surprise to me today when I was stumped by the IDs of actual famous sports figures standing within a few feet.
Ms. Kluender and I had woken early to take the Muni bus to the BART station then on to shuttle busses before alighting at The Olympic Club for the 112th U.S. Open. Laid out before us was a village of consumerism from a Lexus golf simulator promising a new car for a hole-in-one to the American Express Championship Experience Tent; both were overshadowed however by the Merchandise Pavilion, spanning at least one football field filled with attire from Adidas, Callaway, Nike, etc. Next door were two tents that could simplify your day by either shipping your purchases to your home anywhere in the world or a bag check just for your recent buys.
As “marcomms” professionals we felt at home in our newly branded environment. We spent several minutes, as our colleagues will appreciate, sizing up the presentation and offering our own observations and improvements to each other, nodding in agreement or building on the latest proposal. One confounding decision was the ban on cell phones. I frequently found myself wanting to tweet a photo or email a friend. (In fact Lexus is seeking Twitter engagement at the U.S. Open.) The several public phones throughout the course made me realize just how much I depend on my phone’s address book for recalling numbers.
In our field it is vitally important to put names to faces. Our “off-hours” reading frequently includes local and regional business/sports/society pages followed by event prep and impromptu quizzes amongst crowded fundraisers. Other than the most publicized faces, golf is most definitely not our strongest field.
Vijay and Tiger
As we made our way through the thin crowds of the first practice day, we spotted a familiar face. Vijay Singh was chipping away at the practice range. To be honest, the clump of spectators was the first sign that we should know this person, an occurrence that would repeat itself throughout the day with less success on our part. Moments later, while staring down the line I tapped Ms. Kluender on the arm and sped off to the nearest set of practice range stands. Within moments we were four rows behind Tiger Woods as he ran through his irons eventually captivating the onlookers when he “unleashed the big dog” to the amusement of the amateur announcer directly behind us.
Even Tiger can only hold our attention for so long and a short time later we were watching drives from the back nine. The crowd signaled that we should know these athletes but we drew a blank on each one. Most significantly was when autograph seekers surrounded a golfer decked out completely in University of Oregon attire. Little did I know that the controversial Casey Martin was directly in front of me and that the last time he competed in a major championship was not long after the U.S. Open’s youngest competitor, China’s Andy Zhang, was born 14 years ago. Not my proudest moment.
It’s a start.