What patriotism Demands of the Professional Golfer

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We recently aired a story on Golf Central about the decision of some PGA Tour players to fly private planes instead of commercial, at least for awhile.
 
Some of the reaction was shocking, and a sign of the confused times.
 
Heres a sample e-mail. The writer owes me one for withholding his or her name.
 
Your piece tonight about professional golfers fear of flying was most revealing, unpatriotic and downright sickening. While millions of American men and women are back in the skies doing business, traveling and keeping a stiff upper lip to prove flying is safe, and defying the hideous threat the terrorists wish us to believe, America's professional golfers ' to a man in your interview ' whined, moaned, expressed fear and as much said, let the average citizen fly...I'll come with the $500,000 to fly privately. So much for expressing the National Will. So much for defying the terrorists. So much for proudly setting an example. So much for being proud, defiant Americans. If men acted like that in WWII, they would have all gone to Switzerland for the duration, while the world went up in flames.
 
They came off as what they really must be...privileged and cowardly snobs.
 
My opinion of this brand of male Americans is forever changed -- and you didn't help by broadcasting their negative interviews as if it were just another piece of golf world color.

 
I got a bundle of e-mails like this. I welcome viewer reaction of any kind, whether I agree with it or not (remember that concept; were going to be returning to it). Good or bad, I try to let it all slide off my back.
 
But there are a number of problems here, problems that golf should rise above.
 
I agree that PGA Tour players, even though they may have trod a hard road to get where they are, are generally more privileged than the average citizen. But we now live in a world where all bets are off. The fact that a Tour player has the wherewithal to fly privately deprives me of nothing. As long as hes not obnoxious about it, who can begrudge a wealthy man the benefits of his success?
 
To say a golfer ' or lawyer, or baseball player, or accountant, or broadcaster ' should engage in behavior he finds risky or uncomfortable in a troubled time, just to support someone elses idea of patriotism, is to misunderstand that ideal.
 
What do we want from our sports heroes? Be a good role model to our kids, or at least not a bad one? Fair enough. Try his best every time out and not mail it in? Ditto.
 
Travel 40 weeks per year with your heart in your throat when you can save yourself and your family worry and perhaps disaster?
 
Thats asking too much.
 
More troubling is the writers utter lack of concern about the rights real patriots cherish. You may not have liked what the golfers (and by extension, The Golf Channel) had to say ' but read your Constitution. Amendment I: We have the right to say it.
 
Its not patriotism unless its about something. For me, its about the basic rights guaranteed to all Americans.
 
If you really want to get back at the terrorists, lets show them we have the guts to uphold the basic pillars of our democracy even when the going gets tough. At the very least, lets not let golf slide into the fashionable practice of shouting down dissenting speech.
 
Do you want me to tell you what real patriotism is? I dont have to. Youve already seen it. Its a man or woman climbing the stairs in a burning building when everyone else is running down. Its a young sailor kissing his wife and heading out for six months into the belly of the beast, just as the men our e-mail correspondent admired did 60 years ago.
 
Its a nation thats brave enough to stick to the principles that made it great. Thats patriotism ' no matter how you fly.
 
And my suspicion is that every golfer we interviewed for that story ' to a man ' would go to the front line if his country called.