Because I sense the threshold of interest has been breached, I’m going to respond to a question I have no business responding to. But people keep asking.
The question is: What would Arnold Palmer do if the bloodthirsty Saudi Arabian sheiks offered him, say, $200 million — what they’re paying Phil “Lefty” Mickelson — to join their upstart LIV Saudi professional golf tour?
I was not in any way a Palmer confidant.
True, I did interview him more than 100 times over 20 years, but I was in no way privy to any of the high stakes business decisions that earned him at the time of his 2016 death, an estate of about $700 million.
When asked, I’d tell people that, indeed I was in his orbit, but I was sorta like Pluto. And people argue over whether Pluto’s even a planet anymore.
So let’s cut to the chase.
Would Arnold Palmer have taken Saudi oil money to abandon the PGA to promote their LIV golf tour?
I think Arnold Palmer would vehemently reject the blood money. Palmer had too much class. He was honorable. He was loyal. He was content with his portions.
I close my eyes and can imagine him indignantly saying it’s something he never considered.
But how about the people who advised him on how to make money? Would they consider it?
Oh, you bet your ass they would. In fact, I can imagine his advisors arguing he’d be crazy not to take it.
They’d see a check with all those zeroes, calculate their percentage and begin to whisper in The King’s ear, psst, you know, boss, you can do a lot of good with that kind of dough.
You can be an agent of change.You can be an inspiration to the downtrodden Saudis.
Like knowing how to hit a low fade in high wind would improve the disposition of a 18-year-old kid who’s facing a death sentence because the secret police busted him flirting with Abdul down at the neighborhood coffee shop.
But, c’mon, $200 million! Who could refuse?
I remember on “Dallas” J.R Ewing urging young Bobby, the idealisj, “Once you get past ethics, the rest is easy.”
But this isn’t fudging the totals in the annual report. This is murdering and hacking to bits dissident journalists. This is the mass execution of homosexuals. This is the place that 75 percent of the 9/11 hijackers called home.
That would barely factor into the bottom-line totals of the men and women who’d be urging Palmer, a national treasure, to chuck it all to pile millions on top of other millions until the stack reaches the cruising altitude of his private jet.
Why would they do that?
It was their job.
A true Palmer insider once confided to me that Palmer told him that his job (Palmer’s) was “to always be the nicest guy in the room,” and that it was “my job was to be the meanest SOB in the room.”
Interestingly, the guy was the company ice cream dipper.
He was an attorney.
I’m convinced none of the bottom-line crowd would have changed Palmer’s mind. But I could see them persuading the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others of their weasely ilk.
But those guys shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Palmer.
Hell, they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as … me!
I’ve never told this story before, not even to Val. But about ten years ago, I was contacted by a childhood chum who wanted me to write his life story.
It was the story of how in 20 years he’d gone from being just another shady businessman to being a Japanese smut mogul.
He told me he’d built a pornography and prostitution empire from scratch. He said the story involved drugs, murder and lots of sex.
I remember imaging me doing late-night opium den interviews with beguiling geishas.
He told me he’d pay me $100,000.
I checked it out. His story was legit.
And I said no.
Now, this pay wouldn’t be anywhere near as tainted as Saudi golf money, but a part of me just felt it wasn’t right for me.
I call that part of me the stupid part. Because, I instead accepted $5,000 to write a book called “Manly Golf: 50 Ways to Muscle Your Way to Victory.” And, certainly, that book — it came with a blister pack of fake tattoos! — is as embarrassing as anything that would have come from a year’s worth of interviewing Asian strippers.
We live in a time when conspicuous excess isn’t considered sinful. In fact, it is by many exalted as virtue.
But there are values we learned in pre-school that still prevail.
That’s why I think people are making this one complicated when it’s actually very simple.
It’s a simple case of right and wrong.
Or to be more specific, a case of right and Lefty.