A short one today. What is it that sets disc golf apart from other sports on the professional level? In my opinion, the same thing that is ‘holding us back’ professionally also adds to the appeal: it’s the lack of money. This in turn adds legitimacy.
When you’re listening to a new band, and nobody’s heard of them yet, and they still haven’t signed with a major label: you consider your affection towards their music to be pure. You like them for their music, not because you heard them on an episode of ‘Scrubs’ (in the semi-emotional end scene where the narrator sums it up, right?). They aren’t watered down, or “handed” to you through a commercial. The same holds true for disc golfers. They aren’t sell outs.
On many financial levels, the sport is growing. All the best pros are sponsored by big disc golf companies and disc manufacturers. The cash pay-outs are getting larger every year. Yet if you assumed “Player-X” won almost every tournament in 2012, and had a cushy sponsorship from Innova or Discraft, you’d basically be looking at a bunch of free discs and about $60,000 dollars or so. (These figures are of course guesstimated by looking at the PDGA winnings, and by guessing). There are many travel expenses, lodging expenses, not to mention health insurance, that basically act like a giant buzz kill for aspiring pros looking to enter into the life of a touring pro. All this is to say- they still aren’t sell outs.
In the past three weeks, I’ve become Facebook friends with probably 25 of the top 40 or so pro disc golfers. They don’t know me, yet they are willing to be accessible to me. This, of course, adds to the experience as a fan. Still, this takes a back seat to the fact that they are the best at their sport and aren’t getting rich doing it. I have a respect for the abilities that they exhibit- and this is just reenforced when I see they aren’t earning millions of dollars or using agents as leverage to negotiate their next contract. They’re just the ones playing the way we wish could play.