Its the Only Choice But What a Choice It Could Have Been


The other day a sportswriter friend from England called. He believed we should play the Ryder Cup, regardless of the world situation. The world should return to normal as quickly as possible, he reasoned, otherwise the terrorists have made a very important point.
I didnt know what to say to that. I do know that I am not one of those who would have to put life on line just to make a point. Would it have been easy to tell 12 American golfers that they cannot bunker down in their homes, when it is not I who have to go out there and risk another horrific tragedy by being so openly visible? Maybe my friend is right ' maybe there would have been not the slightest hint of an incident. But if he is wrong, there may have been a terrible, terrible price to pay.
He also was critical of Tiger Woods decision to cancel out of a tournament in France this week ' for the same reason. That decision, to me, is much easier understood than the Ryder Cup. Woods receives many death threats, threats from sick imbeciles in the United States who would love to see him dead. How much greater a risk would it be to play in Europe, where the fanatics live who would gladly die at the chance to take him out? That, to me, was simply unthinkable. He could not possibly have played.
Back to the Ryder Cup, though. The Americans could have gone to England and been there in body, though there is no telling where their minds would be. It was a no-win situation for the European team. What kind of pleasure could the European players have gotten for whipping a team so distracted? If they werent personally worried about their own safety, many of the Americans would have been thinking of New York and the Pentagon, and of thousands of lives cut down at the point a terrorists knife. It would, in a word, have just been weird, trying to play Ryder Cup golf in such circumstances.
I got the feeling it wasnt going to be much of an event, Mark Calcavecchia said in the Palm Beach Post. You need guys excited about being there, and we werent going to be. You need guys with good attitudes, and we would have been saying, What are we doing here? This is stupid.
Many of the wives were not going to accompany their husbands to The Belfry ' they have children, too. The White House had already canceled a pre-Cup visit. It would have been a grim trip indeed. Just what America ' and the 12 players ' dont need after a week when their world has been literally torn from beneath them.
Certainly in the decision, too, is the rather pressing reality that we dont know what the world will look like in a couple of weeks. President Bush has warned us that we are at war, and it only confuses the situation that we dont exactly know whom we are at war with. Almost every world leader has telephoned their condolences, from the leader of Great Britain to the leader of Iran. But be assured, we are going to be at war with someone. In two weeks, we could well have launched the introductory strikes against someone in that part of the world. The stakes for traveling overseas could be heightened considerably, and our Ryder Cup team could have been caught in the middle.
Its impossible to comprehend the impact of the American team going overseas under such volatile conditions. Its much better to wait a year. The situation regarding the United States is much too volatile right now.
A solution, if the venue werent so critical, might have been for the teams to meet and have a celebration of the sport, instead of glorifying America or Europe. Mix the players up and let an American play with a European. Wouldnt you like to see Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington play against David Duval and Colin Montgomerie? Hal Sutton and Darren Clarke against Phil Mickelson and Bernhard Langer? What better way to show Europes solidarity with the United States? What better way than to let Sam Torrance coach Davis Love III and Curtis Strange coach Sergio Garcia?
That, to me, would be beautiful. That which unites us, as the philosopher once said, is greater than that which divides us. Couldnt we let golf be the meeting ground for those words?