We have seen it again and again in sports narratives: the story of the weak. A brave rebel who appears out of nowhere and wages war against the powerful and sinister establishment. But now there’s a new Netflix docuseries about golf that upends this narrative and turns heads.
The prolific production company Box to Box Films is back again this year with another indoor sports docuseries. After chronicling Formula 1 and tennis, the cameras are now on the PGA tour Full swing. Meanwhile Drive to survive It aimed to introduce F1 in the United States, and Break point showcased the next generation of tennis stars, Full swing It aims to revamp the PGA and take down its newest competitor: LIV Golf. Backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Phil Mickelson and former President Donald Trump, LIV Golf is the PGA’s first existential threat in years. As we dive into the first season Full swingwe’ll see how underground upstart LIV Golf is framed as an unsavory adversary to the PGA establishment, thus putting a new spin on the perennial underdog narrative.
An Establishment Hero and a Rebel Villain
Full swing It’s certainly not subtle in its portrayals of PGA and LIV. In the opening of the first episode, the PGA tour is described as “the pinnacle of men’s professional golf”. Later in the same episode, retired golfer Brandel Chamblee calls LIV a threat to “the foundation of the game.” Chamblee talks about the appeal of LIV’s cash deals for PGA players and wonders if it will “draw a line in the sand.” PGA vs. Posing LIV wrestling as a moral issue and pointing out that LIV golfers lack integrity is an interesting defense of the PGA’s more traditional values. At times, the PGA has been criticized for being stuffy and too formal. But in the face of an opponent that seems to transcend conventional morality, the PGA’s tendency to cling to tradition appears as a bet on moral decency.
The choice between money or morals
Episode 3, “The Money or the Fortune,” is mostly about golfer Ian Poulter, who is being courted by LIV with an incredible amount of money. Poulter is a PGA veteran with a colorful personality (and colorful pants). As he considers whether or not to leave the PGA, the episode sheds some light on his thinking. He mentions that he wants to leave a safe nest egg for his children. She also talks about growing up without much money and makes it clear that she wants a better life for her children because of it. His reason for taking the money and joining LIV is presented in the healthiest way possible. Ian’s point of view is easy to understand. Until, of course, there is a montage of news commentators tearing apart anyone involved in LIV due to Saudi Arabia’s many alleged human rights abuses.
Poulter is also losing his touch as he gets older and when he enters a tournament where he doesn’t play well enough to make money, it’s clear why he’s still worried about the PGA. It goes without saying that many golfers work for free at some PGA tournaments. LIV offers great deals with guaranteed cash flow. From a financial perspective, it’s not hard to see why players would be tempted by an LIV offer.
when Full swing cameras pan to a LIV event, a music cue with the lyrics “I want it’s money” plays. (The show is being pretty honest in its editorial here.) Aesthetically, LIV’s event is sleek and modern-looking, and the company has a black, almost futuristic logo. The look is almost like a mix of Tesla and Darth Vader. LIV certainly thinks it’s an exciting, perhaps alien, new outfit that plans to change the game of golf. Most players dismiss questions about the morality of participating in a Saudi-sponsored tournament. At a press conference, a reporter asks Poulter, “Is there any way you wouldn’t play on a moral basis if the money was right?” Poulter refuses to answer the question.
Underdog Role Reversal
In Episode 5, “American Dreams,” we learn that PGA players who signed up for LIV have been banned from the PGA. LIV players knew this was a risk before they signed on at a point. Taking the morality of LIV’s gameplay out of the equation for a moment, it’s clear that the PGA is LIV’s David to Goliath. The LIV may have a lot of money but it doesn’t have the prestige or power of the PGA. Compared to classic sports stories, for example rocky, it is obvious that there is a role reversal going on here. In most inspirational stories, the villainous adversary is almost always bigger and more established than the brave hero. Turning this idea around, Full swing it makes his story much more complicated and interesting. Although the show itself favors PGA over LIV, some viewers may disagree. It might be a bit counter-intuitive to be rooted in the establishment, but that’s what it is Full swing he wants his audience to do.
‘Full Swing’s Subversion of Sports Cliches is what makes it unique
PGA vs. Regardless of where individual viewers stand on the LIV debate, the editorial choice to portray LIV as an evil villain is certainly a unique way to defend the PGA. Maybe part of the reason for this first season Full swing it feels so different, from a storytelling perspective, that reality rarely matches the narrative formulas. It can be heartwarming when David takes down Goliath or Luke Skywalker and friends bring down the Empire, but life is often much more complicated than those stories, with many shades of gray.
In a sense, Full swing the complex reality of what’s happening in the world of golf right now has no choice but to overturn the clichés of storytelling. But whether it’s good luck or a good documentary or a bit of both, it’s this subversion that sets it up. Full swing in addition, not only from previous Box to Box Film entries, but from most sports stories in their entirety.