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GIVE ME SPORT, NOT SOCIAL ACTIVISM

PHOTO CREDIT - RICHARD CASTKA

Respected sportswriter, William Bonds, weighs in on an article that appeared on the BBC website recently.

Thanks to BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter, I now see that the sport I love is a plague on the Earth. On November 25, Carter told his readers how golf has to jump into the PC world and self-flagellate to make up for other people’s ability to screw that world up (https://www.bbc.com/sport/golf/50545064).

He starts off by noting how “the European and Asian Tours have shown rare sensitivity and enlightened PR by postponing the [Hong Kong Open]. … The decision was taken in response to the ongoing civil unrest, with organisers unable to guarantee the safety of their players in the current climate. Furthermore, the sight of golfers competing for millions while, close by, violence flares in the name of democracy would be bad for the game’s image.”

It’s not “enlightenment”; it’s common sense. The golfers could easily be targets for the protesters. And it’s not “enlightened” to avoid a place with daily violence. Most likely the golfers said, “We ain’t going there,” so the organisers had no choice.

If golfers were “enlightened,” they wouldn’t play in any number of places: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, China, etc. They’ll go where they can earn a living and hopefully not get dragged over the coals by the media. OK, so some opted out of Saudi Arabia, but sporting events are enjoying a boom time there.

“There was no other choice [Carter continues]. But, it should be said, for golf this shows largely unaccustomed awareness to the sensitivities of the outside world. Most of the time, the sport seems to exist unencumbered by the everyday stresses of life. Indeed it is there primarily to offer an escape from such demands.”

Escape! Exactly! But Carter is off and running. He quotes a French filmmaker (bien sûr), Sandra Mesrine: “Golf professional culture is not very attractive. Top models [as] girlfriends, materialist lifestyle and no commitment towards issues such as racism, social segregation, environmental issues, etc makes the sport look very superficial indeed. This is so bothering.”

What’s not to like? Well, Carter tells us: “It is an uncomfortable fact that golf opens itself up to criticism from the wider community. For many, the sport is, at best, an eccentric, quirky pursuit and, at worst, a home for elitism in its worst guises. And it is easy to see why this is the case when so often the game shies away from the main issues of the day. Yes, it has reacted to the worrying times in Hong Kong but where does it stand on the Duke of York, a prominent golfing figure embroiled in a high-profile scandal? Where does it stand on climate change, on more equal remuneration for top female players, or the racial imbalance among its playing community?”

Carter goes on to suggest that golf has an obligation to: respond to Prince Andrew’s association with dead billionaire Jeffrey Epstein; become greener like, er, Jeremy Clarkson; criticize Rory McIlroy for flying on a private jet; and address the fact that women golfers don’t earn as much as men golfers. Oh, and he has a little dig at pro golfers who play with President Trump.

Carter declares: “In none of these instances does golf show a genuine, effective lead, nor does it provide evidence that it is a truly progressive pursuit in the modern world.”

Why, Iain? Why isn’t golf solving the world’s problems?

Because it’s not golf’s job. Golf avoided Hong Kong for practical reasons, not to send a message to China or change the political landscape in Hong Kong. Sport often addresses social and even political issues and promotes change, but if it does, it’s a byproduct, not its raison d’être. The R&A doesn’t tell me what my social conscience should be. Neither should you.

Written by William Bonds

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