Being at Ryder Cup the real deal
Professional sports are going through a love-hate relationship with television.
They love the networks' money and hate that technology is keeping fans home to watch on TV.
This week's Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club certainly is different from your typical event, but the same question applies: Is it better to witness play on the course or from the couch?
The comparison test was easy Saturday as long as you scored a ticket for the tournament. You could go to Medinah for the morning matches and back home for the afternoon matches.
Golf tournaments generally are the most difficult sporting events to watch in person. They're like a dozen games being played at once, and fans can't be in a dozen places at once.
The first two days of the Ryder Cup promised another challenge, with only four matches at a time and an average of 10,000 people capable of obstructing your view of each.
One recommended strategy was to headquarter on one hole, wait for the golfers to pass through and then race ahead a few holes and wait for them to come through there.
It's not exactly like sitting in Wrigley Field's bleachers and watching an entire baseball game, though one advantage Medinah had was that the Cubs weren't playing in the Ryder Cup.
Despite the obstacles of attending any golf competition, this one turned out to be a hoot.
The fun started at 8 a.m. with a skywriter honoring the late Seve Ballesteros with, "Do it for Seve/Go Europe."
From there it took me awhile to find the actual golf course, and then an actual golfer, and then an actual golf shot. I planted at the 11th hole, where the gallery waited for a golf parade to arrive.
Fans are the most entertaining aspect during the Ryder Cup: This isn't a golf event as much as a social event.
I was surrounded by a couple from suburban Lake Zurich, their friends from Florida, a gentleman from U.S. player Zach Johnson's hometown in Iowa and Englishmen cheering on the Europeans.
One said of what the weather would be like over the pond, "Bring your water woolies."
Within view at the 11th hole were fans draped in Stars and Stripes and fans draped in Union Jacks. There were three kids holding American flags and getting a better view from up in a tree. There were four guys across the fairway wearing bushy blue wigs and dangling a flag of Europe over a rope.
Roars and chants of "U-S-A" circulated throughout the course as the Americans dominated. Europeans greeted Sergio Garcia with "Olayyy, olé-olé-olé." Beverages were consumed and songs sung.
The scene was a mix of Mardi Gras' carnival, soccer's World Cup circus and the Kentucky Derby, where you can spend the entire day on the Churchill Downs infield without seeing a single horse.
One problem: My new friend from Lake Zurich disappeared and returned saying, "It took me 23 minutes (at the restroom)."
Finally the golfers had come and gone from the 11th hole and I left for home to view the afternoon session on NBC.
I had all the conveniences of a family room, including the remote enabling me to monitor college football and the White Sox. Most convenient was that it didn't take 23 minutes to go to the bathroom.
Still, TV couldn't capture the flavor at Medinah.
On this day the course beat the couch.