WASHINGTON -- Every once in a while, something grabs your attention and makes you shake your head. "Is nothing sacred?"
No, nothing at all.
Just take Monopoly, a 111-year-old board game that balances the tedium of real estate deals with the giddy joy of plotting to bankrupt your friends and family. A few years ago, board game sales were tanking and the big brains at Hasbro decided to let people vote in a new game token and banish an old standard.
So in February 2013, Hasbro announced that the iron was to be discontinued in favor of a cat. This was the moment Monopoly lost its soul.
There aren't enough kitty videos all over the Internet that a feline has to encroach on my holiday kitchen-table diversion? Any bump in revenue Hasbro got from running its contest on Facebook won't win us traditionalists over. We will make it a point to pass down our cherished "classic" sets so that our great-grandchildren don't have to learn how to count cash represented by a token driven onto a storied playing field by legions of crazy-cat-lady Facebookers.
What precipitated my trip down this particular bitter memory lane? Learning that some leaders in the world of golf are considering promoting alternative (read: easier) forms of play in order to attract new players.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Professional Golfers' Association of America is in the process of convening an 11-person task force, including PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and skiing star Bode Miller (and, one hopes, representatives from the US ProMiniGolf Association and the World MiniGolf Sport Federation) to find new ways to get young people to try, and stick with, the game.
The National Golf Foundation's most recent numbers show that America is down to 25.3 million golfers ages 6 and up. That's down from 30 million in 2005, and the figure is expected to drop to 20 million in a couple of years. At the same time, however, the number of operating golf facilities in the country is not contracting at a similar pace. There now are 15,619 operating golf facilities, down from 16,052 in 2005. There's no question that something needs to change.
There is also little hope that our country will somehow reverse its descent into a hedonistic ethos in which the very thought of spending years perfecting the physicality, technique and mental acuity necessary to play a demanding game like golf become a complete nonstarter.
And that's where think-out-of-the-box ideas such as putting cups 15 inches in diameter, enhanced clubs and "juiced" balls come into play. Anything to attract that segment of society -- generally speaking, people under 35 -- that thinks the game is too hard and takes too long to play.
Is this really what the storied game of golf may come to?
It shouldn't be any surprise. I blame a certain hamburger chain for speeding the degradation of our culture's character. If you can recall its catchy slogan, it got millions of impressionable young people to believe with all their hearts that it was their birthright to have things their way, "right away."
And so college is no longer the place you go to figure out how to be an adult. Instead, students are being spoon-fed services such as counseling and time-management skills in the hope that they will graduate in six years. Work is no longer a place where employees conform to an employer's expectations or assignments. Rather, managers are expected to remediate, give emotional support and otherwise tolerate poor performance from workers.
Whether it's carpet-bagging Monopoly cats, duffers who'll only commit to a few holes if they're quick and easy, or any of the millions who believe that the world, its structures and customs must conform to their special individual needs on an expedited timeline, the tide is turning against the once-venerated values of tradition, persistence, hard work and patience.
Go ahead and dismiss me as a curmudgeon. But mark my words: Next time you catch some standard being lowered, you too will shake your head and note that nothing is sacred anymore.