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A collage of uncanny images from the deeply uncanny promotional video released by LIV Golf before its March event in Tucson, Az.
Images via LIV Golf

In a backhanded way, there is something soothing about an oafish scam attempt. A phone call you ignore that turns into a voicemail message entirely in Mandarin Chinese, or some derivation of the chirpy robotic TikTok lady voice telling you the insurance on a boat you do not own is expiring; an email strewn with weird spans and avant-garde tense disagreements and commas luxuriously buffered on each side by two spaces that purports to be from Bank Of America and informs you that the last four digits of your Social Security number must be sent to a Moldovan email address in order to unlock you're checking account , at this time.

What's comforting about all those janky, obvious phishing gambits and scams tossed lazily over the transom is that they are so janky and obvious. If they were more sophisticated or just passably convincing, they would be more worrying; as it is, the light comedy of punctuation bloopers still doesn't make up for the unpleasant fact that our parents will spend their golden years trying to fend off one ransomware attack after another.

In the absence of any discernible effort by any of the institutions or entities that could do something about this, it is important to develop a fine sense for the uncanny. When presented with something you did not ask for, by someone you do not know, it's best to ask yourself not just if something is too good to be true, but if it is too weird or obscure or otherwise off to be real. It's just best practices to ask "Why am I being shown this?" when presented with something like that, but you're halfway to "no thanks" when the first question is not why but "What am I even looking at here?" Anyway:

LIV Golf is not a scam in the same way that the people trying to get my mother to purchase Walmart gift cards over the phone is a scam. It's both less direct and more ambitious than that, but it is at least a real thing you can watch. The best-case scenario for the Saudi-backed start-up golf tour is that it's a clunky vanity project from a reactionary petro-state's whimsical and murderous rulers; a likelier one is that the tour is a soft-power play that has more to do with following the incentives of a post-consequences moment and, more directly, bribing eminently bribable American elites than it does any kind of image-burnishing sportswashing. None of these options are great, really. That it does not seem to matter that it so obviously not-great is maybe the most unsettling thing about it. If the purpose of LIV Golf is to move money around in variously advantageous and plausibly deniable ways, it does not and will not mean anything that the product isn't very good and that the sporting public does not seem very interested in it. At the most basic level, that's not what it's for.

As a golf tour, LIV is just what it is; with all due respect to its widely beloved and well-known teams and shotgun starts, there is only so much that can be done differently, there. So LIV has made all the stuff that goes on around the golf the selling point. Its website will help you pick a team to support not by emphasizing players but by serving up various room-temp bowls of grindset sloganeering until you find the expression that's right for you. There are DJs and party tents and sometimes also guys on stilts. The promotional copy for LIV's event in Tucson promises live music and, for guests who pay for access to the Birdie Shack, "a live DJ, bar and party vibes, drink coupons and an item of LIV Golf branded swag."

The typically uncanny promotional video that LIV posted on that website and social media raises the stakes from there. LIV Tucson is a golf tournament where teams like the HyFlyers will take on the Baby Drivers (or whatever), but the video isn't about the golf. Instead, it invites you to party in a place unlike any you've ever seen, provided that you have never been in the lobby area of an Aloft hotel. There is no telling what you might find there, from a three-piece band playing near what looks like the bank of elevators, to pods and pairs of pro golfers and people who dress like pro golfers wandering around a sparsely populated party, to a heaping bowl of miniature churros, to a flash of Phil Mickelson's gasping tortoise-y visage in profile. It is a place beyond golf, where incredible things can happen—even to ashen flaps of barbecued brisket.

Also there's a donkey there. Is any of this what you want? Before you answer, remember that it absolutely doesn't matter.

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