Reflections: I’m With You, Lee Gehring
Submitted By Tony Smith
In my many years associating with the legendary Lee Gehring, both as a player and coach for him in his role as General Manager of the Libby Legion baseball program, one never met a more working class, “salt of the earth” ethical individual, who, on numerous occasions in my presence, expressed discomfort and a large degree of dismay with the inflated salaries being proffered by professional athletes in a variety of sporting activities. As early as the mid 1960’s and 1970’s, Lee recognized the wealth disparity that was trending, not only in sports, but throughout our culture as a whole. And yet as perceptive he was, surely he could not have anticipated the current wage gap between executive compensation and the average worker, one that is currently 320 times greater. As an example, the executives of Nike, Walmart, and Amazon are compensated 400 times more than their employees (The average CEO compensation of these companies is $21.45 million; for the worker, it is $51,394.00). Therefore, one can only imagine Lee’s indignation to the astounding news of the recent “merger” of golf’s PGA Tour, DP World Tour (The European Tour), and the Saudi-sponsored breakaway LIV Golf Tour.
“SPORTSWASHING” Some background is in order. Two years ago, Australia’s Greg Norman and Yasir Al-Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia founded a breakaway-rival golf league, with the initials LIV, standing for the number of holes played, 54 to be exact. Besides the instant cash, the advantages of LIV Golf were fewer tournaments (14 rather than the PGA’s 47), smaller fields (referring to the number of players), only 3 rounds (thus 54 holes), shotgun starts, (rather than all starting on hole No. 1) which meant shorter days on the course, and no cuts. All were paid regardless of score. All of this was part of Crown Prince’ Mohammed bin Salman’s initiative called “Vision 2030” to diversity and reduce its dependence on oil. It has led to accusations of “Sportswashing,” to gloss over human rights abuses, the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the 911 attack, in which 12 of the 15 attackers were Saudis, born and trained in Saudi Arabia (In fact, out of 176 countries, Saudi Arabia is currently ranked 167th on the list of human rights abusers, engaging in torture and disappearance of rivals). Norman was named Commissioner of the league, while Al-Rumayyan, as Governor of the $650 billion (yes, Billion) Saudi Public Investment Fund, supplied the money. In all, LIV Golf lured away 13 former major champions from the PGA tour, including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Cameron Smith of Australia. Mickelson was paid $200 million, Koepka $150 million, and Johnson $100 million. Tiger Woods, no paragon of virtue, was offered up to $800 million, and like Rory McIIroy, refused to join the league. The split between the PGA, and DP (European version of the PGA), and LIV Golf has been contentious to say the least, and LIV Golf particularly painful for the families of 911 victims. (They have referred to LIV Golf as “Blood Money,” and were particularly incensed by the remarks coming from LIV golfer Bryson DeChambeau who claimed “the Saudis were trying to do good for the world.”
Shockingly, most recently has been the behavior of PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan, who had expressed nothing but disdain for LIV Golf, and yet just this past week threw Tiger, Rory, and the majority of other PGA members “under the bus” by agreeing to a “combination of sorts” with LIV golf and the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Tiger and Rory were given, at the most, 3 days of notice. Other tour members found out via social media. They were, in their own words, “disgusted, shocked, bewildered, confused, and felt duped! “Pitiful” was the most common term thrown around. “I love finding out about morning news on Twitter,” said two-time major champion Collin Morikawa. Wesley Bryan of the PGA Tour said, “I feel betrayed, and will not be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA Tour for a very long time.” Rory McIIroy and Tiger Woods had accused LIV defectors of “taking the easy way out,” and “turning their backs on the very tour that made them famous.” According to Monahan, “LIV Golf had a deep well of funds (Actually, LIV was having difficulty finding sponsors. The Royal Bank of Canada pulled its sponsorship from Graeme McDowell and Dustin Johnson; UPS pulled its sponsorship from Lee Westwood; Callaway and Heineken from Cameron Smith) and wasn’t going anywhere. Golf was too divided and had too much tension and it was best for everyone to come together.” Monahan recently asked, “have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?” Not until now, Pat! Monahan held a player meeting on the eve of the on-going Canadian Open, describing it as “intense, and certainly heated!”
If you live in the world of golf, be prepared for the forthcoming biography of Phil Mickelson by Alan Shipnuck entitled, “PHIL: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.” Shipnuck reveals that “Mr. Clean” was not so clean after all—that from 2010-14 Phil had amassed $40 million in gambling losses, and still owes “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to his former caddie, Jim “Bones” MacKay who split from Phil in 2017. Given the fact that Phil has been 26 over par in all of his accumulative LIV Golf rounds, an easy $200 million for joining LIV Golf covers a heck of a lot of debt. That is not to say Phil lacks “game” as one could testify at the 2023 Masters, who, along with Tiger, knows the contour of those greens at Augusta National better than anyone in the world.
However, to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy, I drive to my favorite hiking trails, Glacier Park, sporting events, and to the workplace I love in the Yaak (Turning Winds) largely, I suspect, on Saudi-supplied oil. Furthermore, Fortune 100 companies (a more elite subset of Fortune 500-the largest 100 revenue generating companies) invested in Saudi Arabia didn’t blink an eye, investment-wise, after 911. However, this “deal” between the PGA Tour the DP Tour, and LIV golf is like a punch to the gut—hard to stomach.
In the end, those of us who have loved golf over the years are unsure how all of this will eventually play out, but Notah Begay III, golf commentator and teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford perhaps summed it up best:
“ It’s the reality of the world we live in-when it comes down to the almighty dollar, sometimes the moral ground is too high to get up to.”
Lee Gehring, I’ve no doubt, would agree. I’m with you, Lee!
The Cost of Bringing Life into the World
The main reason many women choose abortion is that they cannot afford to raise a child. The cost of the hospital to give birth is astronomical and with the low wages many women earn, feeding a child is difficult. That is what makes the Republican response so hypocritical. They pass laws outlawing abortion and feel they have saved a child. But hey refuse to help the mother with the cost of raising the baby that they demanded be born.
Recently, the Gianforte administration turned down $10 million in federal money that would have paid for meals for children in poverty. The reason given for the turndown was that the program was difficult to administer. At a time when they cost of food is rising, it is more difficult than ever for some poor families to feed their children. This money would have helped these children survive. Those who demand that children be born should help the family raise the child. To say that after the child is born, it’s on its own is pure hypocrisy. To deny help to women raising children in poverty is not pro-life.
Submitted by Eileen Carney of Libby, MT
Calling All Ex-Catholics Back to Church
Calling all ex Catholics and Catholics who have falling away from the Church. The world is spinning out of control and evil is very present just about everywhere. This is a good time to return to your Home in the Church. Their is a local loving church family, St Joseph Church, who will welcome you home. Come share in the Word of the Lord and in the Holy Eucharist. Find Hope and refuge in the Lord. Christians who know and love the Lord will be ok. We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Get your family ready. Give them hope. Find real love. Peace be with you.
Jeff Nisbet of Libby, MT