Unless you live on Pluto, you can’t help but notice the recent trend of professional sports franchises “tanking” one or more consecutive seasons to improve the future prospects for their organization. Specifically, tanking refers to the deliberate and knowing attempt to lose games or have poor seasons and lower your team’s position in the standings and thereby garner higher draft picks. It’s commonplace in the four major sports and was most recently on display with the outhouse to penthouse success stories of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and 2017 Houston Astros. Recently, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, was fined $600K for outwardly proposing to his team that they tank games. Tanking is something you do, but it’s bad form to discuss it. Personally, I find the practice disturbing. As a fan, and a paying customer, I’m always looking for my teams to put their best product on the field at all times.
Would tanking be permissible in golf? Does it happen in unbeknownst ways? What I love about professional golf is the pure meritocracy. Nobody better exemplifies this than the greatest player in the 21st century, Tiger Woods. Whenever asked about his goal for the week or tournament, Tiger responds with the same answer; “Win the tournament.” I have no doubt given Tiger’s history, he may set winning as a goal every time out, but does he really believe it? I don’t think so. Give his recent bout with injuries, he may not think he can win, but that doesn’t mean he’s tanking. On a few rare occasions, Tiger appears to go through the motions when he’s not playing well, but he’s still trying. He just may not be there mentally. It’s happened to everyone who’s played the game and is not tanking.
Tanking in golf would be extremely hard because each player is an individual competitor. You’d have very little to gain and you can’t control the actions of other players. The most remote example I could conjure up would be a player holding down the final Ryder Cup position on either the US or European team. If that player wasn’t playing well, and wasn’t injured, they would be expected to play for the team if they secured a spot. What if that player “took one for the team” and deliberately played poorly enough in the final qualifying events to allow another player to overcome them in the standings. Would this be a tank? What would your opinion be of this practice? I’m a little mixed on this.
For a great article on tanking, check out Dave Sheinin’s piece in the Washington Post.
Play well and no tanking!