Dispatches From The Short Attention Span Theatre
There have been a spate of disc golf controversies lately, the most notable being the caddying rules debacle at Champions Cup, with the Paul McBeth teepad slip heard round the world following closely on its heels. Both of these things merit discussion. There should probably be more clearly delineated lines between roles as many people, not just Elaine King, wear multiple hats in the disc golf world. Teepads should be as consistent as possible, and safe for the players. I don’t think anyone thinks otherwise. But to see the discussion of the two events on the disc golf internet at large, you could be forgiven for thinking The Watergate Hotel break-in ought to take a back seat.
One of the reasons that everything seems to be a five-alarm fire these days, is that there is no legacy media in disc golf. The closest thing to it, Ultiworld Disc Golf, puts out great content, but as was perfectly illustrated during the Kristin Tattar caddy incident, often gets drowned out by the louder, brasher noise coming from the social internet. The social internet, particularly reddit, Twitter, and Facebook, are disc golf media. Underground and niche sports of earlier eras had zines or message boards, and tournament recaps for disc golf used to only be found exclusively on dgcoursereview.com. Somewhere between the Climo and McBeth eras, a Harvard student, after making a website to rate the women at his college, made another website that changed the world.
This is the world we all know and tolerate, the one where billionaires clamor to harvest our data and we happily give it to them. But I digress. Like everything else, disc golf is discussed on social media platforms ad nauseum, and there are few official sources of data. Even now, finding tournament info from the PDGA website is not a particularly user-friendly experience. A lot of very negative and very true things can be said about the history of legacy media and I’m not nostalgic for the time when Walter Cronkite read the news, but what legacy media did and does is provide a baseline for discussion. While trust in news outlets has never been lower, even if say, 45% of disc golfers had a source of information that they trusted to be factual, the number of caustic reddit threads calling for firings of tournament directors and DGN commentators might be lower. Instead, we have an information vacuum which is filled by competing noise to see who can farm upvotes the fastest, accuracy be damned.
Even independent disc golf blogs that have popped up via social media have not set themselves up as arbiters of responsible news, but rather hot take factories. In their defense, there are not many clicks in responsibility, and they are under no obligation to fix a problem they did not create. Disc golf is in a weird place, and we are all trying to navigate that in our own way. As a result, we get articles about Paul McBeth’s Instagram posts, and his alleged penchant for making excuses. You can read Paul’s most recent post in question and decide for yourself. For my part, it seems that Paul is upset about a particular issue that can be improved upon, while being explicitly respectful of his opponent and their victory. But banality isn’t what feeds the ever-hungry beast that is the almighty algorithm. It needs controversy, and now that disc golf has enough fans to move the needle, that beast is gonna eat.