SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 1, 2022

Episode Summary

Losing a legend, and the complex and complicated LIV Golf event wraps up in Bedminster.

Episode Transcription

Well, Bob Cousy said it well, he told The Boston Globe that the late Bill Russell fought the good fight on the basketball court, but also fought the good fight off the floor, fighting racism all his life. Bill Russell, an amazing athlete, champion, and advocate for civil rights. I grew up watching him call NBA games on CBS with Dick Stockton. Bill Russell personified class and grace. I would encourage all of you to read as many tributes and obits on his amazing life as you can.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, August 1st. I'm Abe Madkour. What a tournament, the Women's Euro 2022, a massive hit, and we may be talking about this for years and the kind of long-term impact this event will have on women's soccer, especially in the United Kingdom. The final between England and Germany drew nearly 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, which marks the largest attendance ever for a men's or women's match in the history of the Euro tournament. Watch the videos, they are amazing, and overall, this tournament just crushed it, drawing attendance of more than half a million people over 31 matches played around England. That attendance is more than double the previous edition in the Netherlands in 2017.

The average attendance was 18,500, and that fell just short of UEFA's pre-tournament goal of 20,000 per game, but overall, nobody is complaining. Again, a huge hit. It was also a very young audience, as more than 100,000 youth attended the matches, while 47% of all fans up until yesterday's final were women. So, Sunday's crowd marked another milestone for an incredible year in women's soccer. Remember, FC Barcelona drew record attendances of over 91,000 fans twice at their facility, and now the Women's Euro sets records across England, continuing a massive run for women's soccer.

Staying with soccer, the AEG International Friendly Tour also drew very well in the United States, as Real Madrid played Juventus on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and that match drew almost 94,000 fans. It was the most for a soccer match in the United States since July of 2018, when over 100,000 fans attended Michigan Stadium to watch Liverpool and Man United. That was part of the International Champions Cup. Now, Saturday's match concluded the Soccer Champions Tour, which was a series of five exhibitions in four cities that was operated by AEG. They have to be very happy about the tour and the numbers, and to me, it shows again that soccer is drawing a real and fervent and strong audience. The attendance at Saturday's game, that 93,000, was the largest for a sporting event of any kind in Southern California since the 2017 Rose Bowl. So again, major turnout for major soccer events both in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Let's shift over to the LIV Golf Tour, because the dominating topic this weekend was all about LIV Golf in Bedminster, and I would say the series ended the weekend with more complications than it went into it. So many issues around LIV Golf that take a long time to unpack. They concluded their third event at the Trump National Golf Course, and while there are some positives, there are also a number of questions and concerns. First, many reports almost liken the event to a political rally for Donald Trump, and that would be troublesome for any sport, because it's becoming too polarizing. And while the logo is "Golf, but louder", there are still questions about what exactly is LIV Golf solving? What's the problem it's trying to solve in golf?

Most of the media on the course wondered about the attraction of the event, as the crowds throughout the weekend were pretty thin. They drew okay on Sunday, but LIV Golf is certainly playing defense on the attendance topic, because they're not announcing attendance figures. It's just really interesting to see the different takes on the golf. Some fans say they're happy to be close to the action, but that's because the crowds are thin. One columnist said that LIV Golf had nailed the fan accessibility, cheap tickets, plenty of access to players, plenty of access to concessions. There was even a concert and festival-like atmosphere with The Chainsmokers, who have played at other golf events, closing down the event on Sunday. But overall, golf observers are just not sold on the product right now. They don't think the golf is competitive enough, or that fans really care about the competitive nature of the event. It still doesn't feel much like a competition.

I read a ton of stories about the event over the weekend, and only one story I read really hinted that they felt it was a very competitive environment and a competitive event. Most others said it felt like an exhibition, and today's New York Times headline summed it up pretty well. It reads, "LIV Golfers, Paid Upfront, Giggle Their Way Around Trump Bedminster." So it's clear that LIV Golf needs to make their events bigger and more compelling for people to attend. It was also interesting to hear some of the players' responses this weekend. Phil Mickelson spoke very, very strongly about his belief that LIV Golf can change golf around the world, and he said even if people don't see the impact it will make in the United States, he is taking a more global point of view. He also stressed a line that we're continuing to hear, that LIV Golf will make golf younger.

Mickelson and LIV Golf TV consultant, David Hill, have stressed time and time again that golf's viewership has trended older and older, and Mickelson said LIV's broadcasts will revolutionize the way golf is viewed, with no commercials and consistent action. We will see, right? In addition, I found Bubba Watson's reasons for joining LIV to be interesting. First, he said his wife loved the concept, and I have been told that LIV executives are lobbying player agents and families to see the appeal of joining LIV Golf. Watson stayed on message in saying he focused on growing the game of golf around the world, and pointed to how he has sponsored college and junior golf tournaments.

Watson also said the team concept interested him. He said he watched his son watching LIV Golf tournaments and his son remembered all the teams' names, and that caused Bubba Watson to believe that team concept can work. So I'm not saying the reasons are good or bad, but I'm just outlining those reasons, because these players are under such a microscope, and I will say, this issue, this story of LIV Golf continues to be the one everybody is talking about. There are a couple more events in the United States. There'll be one in Chicago, in Boston, and then of course, they'll end their tour at the Trump course in Doral in the fall. So again, more and more attention about LIV Golf.

Finally, I love this effort by the Islanders. Before a winning ticket was announced, yet not claimed, the Islanders got in on the Mega Millions Lottery, partnering with Jackpocket and buying 25,000 tickets. Now, the jackpot was around 1.3 billion, and the Islanders said that if they had won, that the winnings would have been shared with season ticket holders and suite holders, they would've shared it with their staff and their foundation, The Islanders Group. The team spent $50,000 on the tickets, with the purchase meant to mark the team's 50th anniversary season. So even though it doesn't look like they're a winner, a good effort by the Islanders getting in on the Mega Millions Lottery. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, August 1st. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Hope you have a great start to your week. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.