Thursday, July 14, 2016

Golf, Zika, Entitlement, McIlroy, and Olympics

By Kevin Beane

First, a disclaimer: I do not live in a Zika zone, and I don't have any current plans to travel to a Zika-intensive area. So the following is easy for me to say.

And what I have to say is, I bet a million billion trillion bazillion dollars that none of the golfers who do travel to Rio for the debut appearance of golf on the Olympic program will come down with the Zika virus. If you take a clothes spray, a skin spray, and refrain from having unprotected sex with locals, you should be fine.

What's weird to me is that golfers, at least in the United States, are overwhelmingly political conservatives, and they are the ones who are always calling liberals (U.S. definition) wusses and pansies about everything from political correctness to pollution. This demonstrates that conservatives have plenty of ridiculous bogeymen of their own (another example would be possibility of a trans person in the "wrong" bathroom) that keep them unduly afraid.

But let me not make this a political column. Let me just say that if Rory McIlroy's views are shared by a majority of golfers, then golf should be a one-and-done and cease to be an Olympic sport.

In a recent interview, McIlroy said, "I don't feel like I've let the game down at all (by skipping the Olympics). I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships. All of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game and I get that. But at the same time that's not the reason that I got into golf. I got into golf to win. I didn't get into golf to get other people into the game."

Where to begin? First, anytime a name as big as McIlroy skips an event like the Olympics, he is indeed "letting the game down." That doesn't mean it's wrong for him to do so, but of course he's letting the game down; he's one of the world's best golfers refusing to play in one of the world's biggest sporting events.

Indeed, that sort of sums up how I feel about his comments as a whole. As The Dude famously said in The Big Lebowski, "You're not wrong, you're just an asshole."

The reason you're not wrong, McIlroy, is because there is no requirement for you to be a global ambassador of the sport or help grow the game. As you said, that's not why you became a golfer, and we need to be clear of the requirements — from media appearances to drug testing — on what it means to be a professional golfer. To tell someone they must do things above and beyond what is required is akin to that scene in "Office Space" where Jennifer Anniston's character catches flak from her boss for only wearing the minimum amount of flair. If the boss wants her to wear 20 pieces of flair, he needs to make 20 pieces of flair the minimum.

The reason you're an asshole, McIlroy, is because if someone (or, more accurately, many someones) isn't out there being an effective ambassador for golf, growing the game or at least keeping it even with inflation, then suddenly, there ARE NO CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR YOU TO WIN. Or at least, no championships that allow you to golf for a living instead of something you do when you get time off work at the engine plant.

Many of the people who make great ambassadors of the game are players themselves, but a lot of them aren't. They have titles like "outreach coordinator" or even "marketer," and they all make far, far, less than you do to glide into a tournament, win it, pick up your six- or seven-figure paycheck, and glide out saying "I got into golf to win. I didn't get into golf to get other people into the game."

Golf should be dropped from the Olympics due to the ingratitude of the players, and I wish I could hold a golf tournament with a billion dollar prize pool just so I could bar McIlroy from it.

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