July 23, 2004

Spectator extremes.

How strange it was to be a spectator at a huge arena rock show at 9 pm last night, then 12 hours later, at a PGA tour event. (Scroll down: I was at the Prince show in Chicago and the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.) The differences could scarcely have been more extreme!

The most obvious difference is in the sound level. The concert was played as loud as you can play without causing ear damage, and the woman screaming behind me was (from my position) even louder. At the PGA tour event, the crowd is nearly silent, to the point where I felt that the ice rumbling around in my soda cup when I took a sip was perhaps inappropriate. When a player is about to make a shot, several men hold up signs that say "QUIET" and the crowd becomes completely silent. Adding to the quiet was the breezy outdoor air and natural light, which seemed dreamlike after the crammed arena and its alternating darkness and glaring stage lights.

Another big difference is the amount of activity required to be a spectator at a golf tournament. While the concert forces you to stand nearly the entire time (because other people stand), to follow a player you care about, you have to walk the course just like him. It's quite a hike! (You can, if you want, sit in the bleachers at the 18th and the 9th holes. Or you can bring a little chair and sit wherever you want.) But it's quite demanding to attend a golf event. It's funny, because I think of golf as a low energy sport. Many people of all ages and weights play it for recreation. Many people smoke and even drink quite a lot while playing. But from the spectator's standpoint, golf is the most physically demanding sport I can think of.

The crowds were different. The average age at the Prince concert was maybe 35-40. At the golf course it was more like 50. Women outnumbered men at the Prince concert. Men greatly outnumbered women at the golf course. The racial balance was also quite different. Nearly everyone at the golf course was white. The Prince audience was a particularly diverse group.

At which event was my bag searched? Golf!

At which event is a cell phone absolutely forbidden? Golf!

At which event did a woman, a stranger, standing next to me, clasp her two hands around my upper arm more than once? The Prince concert! I'd turn around and look at her each time (of course), and she would then let go with a sort of oops-I-don't know-what-I'm-doing expression on her face. What the hell was that?

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