In the year 2013, nobody can fault you for viewing the world through the prism of reality TV.
Whether its cooking or canoodling, singing or surviving in the wild, we have turned just about every aspect of modern life into a camera-ready competition with heroes and villains, breathless drama, and theme music.
So why should Fort Worths two signature competitions, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial golf tournament, be any different?
Both will be captivating audiences in Cowtown this weekend the PGA pros tee off Thursday, and the pianists begin rocking Rachmaninoff on Friday at Bass Hall. And we cant wait for all the high drama on the fairways and Steinways.
Just in case you need a little convincing that a golf tournament and a piano competition are capable of generating the kind of intrigue that youve come to expect from American Idol, The Voice or even Chopped, consider just a few similarities:
• The stakes are high. The Colonial winner gets $1.152 million. Cliburn gold comes with a $50,000 prize, three years of concert dates and career management, and a recording contract.
• The competitors are talented but temperamental. And the competitions couldnt be more cutthroat. Miss one key note or putt and youll be heading home.
Youve been Chopin-ed! You are the weakest on the links. Goodbye!!
Over two-and-a-half weeks, the Cliburn judges will winnow the field of 30 to 12 semifinalists, then six, and finally one gold medalist. No ties, this time around.
At Colonial, nearly half the field of 132 golfers wont make enough birdies to hang around for the weekend, which means they go home empty-handed. Thanks for playing.
• The fans at Colonial and the Cliburn will up the ante. Colonial can be a giant outdoor party, but Sunday afternoon, a hush will fall over even the 13th green, aka the Party Hole, as the leaders approach. And during the closing recitals at Bass Hall at the Cliburn, dont dare cough or youll get stared out of the tribe, Survivor-style.
Add to that the spinning globe of personalities and cultures coming to Cowtown this weekend, and both the Cliburn and Colonial come alive with possibilities.
Will the Italian stallions steal the show at the Cliburn? Can South Koreas Sang Moon Bae make it two in a row (he won last weeks HP Byron Nelson tournament in Las Colinas)?
So, as difficult as this may be, we want you to step away from the latest episode of Storage Wars or Hillbilly Handfishin and get hooked on the two fascinating reality shows playing out right here at home. And to get you started, weve put on our producer hats and cast some of the characters from both Colonial and the Cliburn in familiar roles.
The rock star: Rickie Fowler
The 24-year-old has matinee idol looks and a jewel thiefs nerve and cuts an indelible figure in his neon outfits and flatbill Puma caps. Hes even an actual rap star, making up one-fourth of the Golf Boys (with Bubba Watson, Ben Crane and Hunter Mahan). Their videos have more than 14 million views on YouTube.
He is also a pretty terrific player. Like Tiger, Phil and Rory, Rickie can become one of the one-name wonders of the PGA Tour, which is why Colonial sponsor Crowne Plaza has made him the centerpiece of its ad campaigns the past two years. But Rickie has to play a little smarter if hes going to contend on the tight fairways at Colonial. If not, hell just be another guy in loud pants.
The hothead: Rory Sabbatini
The swashbuckling South African, who has a home in Fort Worth, has won six times on the PGA Tour, including the 2007 Colonial and 2009 Byron Nelson. But hes probably best known for his temper, which famously flared at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic when he became frustrated with Ben Cranes slow play and walked ahead to the next hole. (Thats a big golf no-no.) He also tore into a marshal at the 2011 Northern Trust Open and got fined later that year for getting in an argument with playing partner Sean OHair at the Zurich Classic.
Ragin Rory has his fans, though, and youll spot some Rorys Rowdies in the galleries at Colonial. Just dont look for his biggest defender for years his wife, Amy. The couple is going through a messy divorce, and we suggest you dont mention any of Amys recent tweets. Youre liable to end up with a 5-iron wrapped around your neck.
The hot mess: John Daly
The 47-year-olds career has all the makings of a reality show. He won two majors early in his career, but his talent got overshadowed by his substance abuse, gambling problems and turbulent relationships. In fact, Daly did his own reality show, Being John Daly, briefly in 2010 on the Golf Channel. Not his finest moment.
But fans love Long John for his unvarnished honesty, his shock of blond hair, his Loudmouth pants, his new svelte figure after lap-band surgery and his towering drives. If Daly contends this year, cigarette in his mouth and 2-iron in his hand, Colonial will get totally swept up in his unlikely comeback story.
Mr. Cool: Zach Johnson
Colonial champ two of the past three years, the kid from Iowa has quietly put together one of the best records on the PGA Tour in the past 10 years. He has won nine tournaments, including the 2007 Masters. He has shot 60 twice on tour and has been on Ryder Cup teams, and hes 3-0 in playoffs. So nothing rattles Johnson, who has just enough swagger to pull off a Colonial trifecta.
The brat: Hunter Mahan
The Colleyville resident and former Texas State High School golf champion is a five-time winner on tour and one of the more outspoken players out there. He once made the mistake of saying the players were treated like slaves during the Ryder Cup, which didnt earn him any points with golf traditionalists. But he is one of the Golf Boys, and hes married to former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Dallas Mavericks Dancer Kandi Harris. So hes got that going for him.
The crowd-pleaser: Jim Furyk
While some of the PGAs other big names have forsaken Colonial, Furyk plays here every year, which makes him a Fort Worth favorite. You can often find him at Railhead after a round, and last year we bumped into him at the Montgomery Street Target. Furyk usually plays well here, but he has never hoisted the trophy, coming oh-so close in 2007 but losing in a playoff to Sabbatini. Expect big crowds following Jimbo, who could use an extra jolt of his beloved 5-hour Energy to finally conquer Colonial.
The Most Interesting Man on Tour: Angel Cabrera
The big man from Argentina has won two majors the 2009 Masters and the 2007 U.S. Open and nothing else in the U.S. But El Pato strides around the fairways like he owns them. He almost won a second Masters this year, losing in a memorable playoff to Adam Scott, and he contended last week at the Nelson. So it seems Cabrera means business. He has also been known to enjoy a cigar on occasion, and is dating Argentinian singer and model Coki Ramírez. Stay thirsty, my friends.
The whiner: Vijay Singh
Long revered as one of the hardest workers on tour, Singh is now suing the PGA, which makes things just a tad awkward in the locker room. In a Sports Illustrated article, Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray, which triggered an investigation and threats of suspension from the PGA. When the tour later determined that antlering up didnt qualify as performance-enhancing drug use, it dropped things. But Vijay didnt.
The natural: Sang Moon Bae
The 26-year-old from South Korea has won 11 times on the Asian tours, but his first title on U.S. soil came Sunday at the Nelson. Now everyone is on Bae watch. Golf commentator Nick Faldo marveled at Baes textbook swing and tempo last week, and his mental toughness to pull out the victory over Keegan Bradley. Moon, as his friends call him, has a million-dollar swing and smile, and if he can pull off golfs North Texas two-step, he can up that figure to $2 million.
The Texan: Alex McDonald
Every reality show needs at least one Texan. Born in north Dallas, Alex lives in Plano and teaches at Texas Womans University in Denton. No wonder he told Cliburn webcast host Jade Simmons that the area is like one big suburb anyway. Thats what you want a reality-show star to say something sorta controversial. Only problem: He might not sound Texan enough for reality-show producers, who think we all wear cowboy hats and speak with drawls. Maybe he can play it up by wearing spurs on stage.
The All-American girl: Lindsay Garritson
Garritson, who was born in Illinois but divides her time between Florida and Connecticut, cares about fashion and looks elegant, making her a reality producers dream. Oh, and she sings, too. Garritson is also the one most likely to get a spinoff, as her father, mother and two older sisters are also musicians, and Garritson plays violin as well as piano. Suggested title: Groovin With the Garritsons.
The man seeking redemption: Alessandro Deljavan
Deljavan is the only contestant who competed in a previous Cliburn (2009), during which he received the John Giordano Jury Chairman Discretionary Award. He told the Star-Telegram recently: My mission in Fort Worth is not finished yet. Cant you just hear the dramatic music swelling in the background?
Miss Congeniality: Chinas Fei-Fei Dong
A critic once referred to her as the happiest contestant at a competition. And with a name like Fei-Fei (pronounced fee fee), you gotta be perky, right? I am a really happy person, she told the Star-Telegram, and Im at my happiest when Im performing.
The rocker chick: Sara Daneshpour
This American girl grew up listening to Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other rock, pop and jazz artists. But her favorite composer is Rachmaninoff, so maybe shes the Rach-er chick.
The fun guy: Italys Luca Buratto
He looks a little like a young Roberto Benigni, and hes as fun-loving as they come. He says its important to not take life or classical music so seriously. In Milan, we also try to renew music with a little jest, with nontraditional recitals for families and kids, in places as far as possible from a classical theater, he told the Star-Telegram. I think classical music should knock herself off her pedestal.
The funny guy: Italys Alessandro Taverna
Its not true that classical musicians dont have any sense of humor, Taverna told the Star-Telegram. Music is of course a very serious thing, but we should never take ourselves too seriously! (Producers note: We see a potential bromance between Buratto and Taverna!)
The pitmaster: Jie Yuan
The Chinese-born pianist moved to Fort Worth at age 18 to attend TCU but since 2009 has lived in New York, where he studies at Juilliard. He has been known to cook his version of Texas barbecue for his friends. Yuan says he misses good barbecue, which he says he cant find in New York.
The legacy: Russias Nikita Mndoyants
His father, Alexander, tied for fifth in the 1977 Cliburn. (In reality TV, second-generation contestants are important.)
The steady-as-a-rock guy: Steven Lin
The American-born pianist didnt miss a note of Haydns Sonata in C Major last year when an earthquake struck during one of his recitals in Japan. Seriously. You can watch it on YouTube.
The outdoorsy dude: Marcin Koziak
The Polish-born TCU student is into mountain climbing, cycling and walking around Lake Benbrook. (Reality-show producer note: He has a girlfriend whos a violinist! And she has won eight major competitions! And theyre in a chamber-music ensemble together! We smell a spinoff!)