A political golfing frenzy
As South Africans, we are acutely au fait with the unwanted, but unavoidable connection between sport and politics. The former would be so much better off without interference from the latter, but it would seem that the latter is incapable of fulfilling itself without digging its claws into the former.
But this past week, this inextricable link was taken to a new level after the backlash Rory McIlroy endured following his day in the sun with Donald Trump in Florida.
It marked a significant ramp up from the already-excessive barrage which came the way of Ernie Els, who committed the same ‘crime’ a week or two earlier.
Perhaps it is because McIlroy is a lot bigger than Els. Or maybe it’s just that McIlroy commands a far higher social media following. Either way, the deluge of abuse that has come the way of the Northern Irishman over the last few days is quite astonishing.
Has the world gone mad? ‘Bigot!’ the mob all cried in unison. Another contingent linked arms to collectively spew out the term ‘fascist’.
Let’s run through the charge sheet of common fascist traits, shall we?
Hyper-nationalism: McIlroy can barely decide which country he would represent at the Olympics. Scratch that – he won’t even play
Militarism: Rumour has it he once beat Graeme McDowell at arm wrestling
Glorification of violence: See point above
Fetishisation of youth: His current partner is two years his senior. Although I suppose his ex was a year younger than him
Fetishisation of masculinity: He did cut his hair a few years ago
Self-definition by opposition: He certainly raised his game a bit at Hazeltine during last year’s Ryder Cup in the face of vociferous opposition support
Mass mobilisation and mass party: Maybe not quite to the extent of Tiger Woods, but Rory does know how to pull a crowd
Theatricality: He was a bit provocative, cupping his ears at the crowd like that during said Ryder Cup last year
Lost golden-age syndrome: An inside source told me that he once heard McIlroy reminiscing about 340ml Coke cans
Even if it was meant by association, rather than specific ‘offences’ committed by McIlroy himself, the problem with so liberally throwing such terms around is that it cheapens them, and, when reserved for those who really do deserve to have that kind of mud slung at them, it loses impact. Not to mention that it undermines those who endured the traumatic consequences of things like fascism at its worst.
That Trump is a controversial leader is not in dispute, and clearly any number of his policies are open to criticism – even ridicule.
His words patently exhibit tendencies which resonate with the above traits too. But what is often forgotten in the noise of social media hysteria is that he is also a democratically-elected leader, voted in by millions of people – none of whom, as I understand it, were under duress to do so. And if he makes an awful hash of things, he can be jettisoned in four years, if not less.
Until then, we as golf fans have to accept that Trump has a high degree of involvement with the sport – much of it a great force for good, in fact, and not particularly political.
That doesn’t mean you have to like him. But to vilify the icons of the game for simply playing golf with POTUS seems, at best, misplaced.
So let’s all bite the political-sized bullet, no matter how unsavoury, and leave our players alone. If you can’t do that, then perhaps take Ernie’s advice: “go … yourself!”