Monday, September 22, 2008

The Lingering Purity of Sport

       Somewhere in the late-1970’s the sporting life took a nosedive into ego, selfishness, absurd behavior and big money and its innocence is forever buried in proud struts, jersey pulling and strip club incidents. This is not to say that individual athletes prior to that era did not demonstrate despicable behavior but the incidents were few and far between and, thankfully, the press tended to downplay rather than exploit those antics.
     Now we live in the times of the loudmouth, arrogant, ignorant, drugged-up, gun wielding, tattooed, overpaid holdouts to whom we are expected to pay homage and turn a blind eye to their criminal behavior. Am I being overly critical?  Ask yourself this: If you were looking to give your son a lesson in class and dignity would you send him to a camp run by Sandy Koufax or Pacman Jones?
     However, I think there is some good news remaining and it was demonstrated this past weekend in Louisville, KY – specifically, on a brilliant chain of bluegrass called Valhalla. It is not the American victory that stirred my passions for sport, once again; rather, it was the uncanny display of athletic skill that washed across 28 rounds of grueling competition. I have never witnessed a more superior demonstration of golf. And this from both sides, of course. Yes indeed, The Cup may have returned to our shores but the outcome was secondary to the duel. ‘These guys are good.’ 
     Performances by Team Europe’s Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were tough, elegant and legendary while the iron play and putting of USA newcomer, Hunter Mahan, alongside the seasoned Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk, made The Ryder Cup a splendid feast for golf lovers.
     Finally though, it was the working-class personality of both squads that gave this spectacle – and this game – a truly needed lift. This was not a fanciful romp in plaid trousers and argyle sweaters – this was a fat-waisted, shirt-tail out, spit-in-the-hands, mouth-full-a-tobacco throw down between guys that had Popeye forearms, steel nerves and no quit. This was a dial back to The King and The Bear circa 1964. This was good shit. 
     The Euros boasted their giant-slayer from Sweden, their prince from Spain, their master from Eire and their rose, rock and magician, all from England. And tough they were. But down these groomed pastures came three unlikely thoroughbreds – drawn by a quest that brought them home. And when called upon to be themselves, they knew who they were and they delivered. Kenny Perry, Boo Weekley and J. B. Holmes. Welcome home boys! Welcome home!


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