The Ugly Americans at ESPN

I’m not really a golfer but I do occasionally enjoy watching a gold tournament on TV, especially the final round. Yesterday I watched the final round of the U.S open which was one my Rory McIlroy, a 22 year old from Northern Ireland. McIlroy’s win was very impressive in that he had a substantial lead from the very beginning and increased his lead each day. A lot of people are comparing it to Tiger Woods’ win at the U.S. in 2000.

As I do most mornings when I get up I grabbed a cup of coffee and turned on Mike and Mike on ESPN this morning. For those of you who are not familiar with Mike and Mike, it is a sports talk show usually very informative and quite interesting. Sometimes the banter between Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic gets rather amusing.

This morning they were talking about the U.S. open and Rory McIlroy. As they usually do each morning they had a fair number of “experts” talking about this event. There were two threads in the conversation about the golf tournament that set my teeth on edge.

The first thread that set me off was Mike Golic somewhat belittling McIlroy’s win because Rory is not american-born. Yes, the U.S. open is the American national gold championship but, like the British open, it is open to any golfer with the proper credentials, irregardless of nationality. Golic’s premise is that it would have been a more important and impressive win if Rory were an American. He feels that American sports fans want American champions.

To me, that is extremely ethnocentric, especially in this day of the world wide web and the globalization of just about everything imaginable. I probably agree that Americans do pay less attention to things like sporting events if there is no American in contention for the title. We tend to think that we are superior to any other nationality and that the United States is somehow chosen by God. It is this attitude, which we exhibit perhaps without realizing it, that causes us Americans to be disliked in so many other countries. Perhaps it is time for us to rethink and re-evaluate our misguided sense of superiority.

The other thread that caused me to want to write this post was the discussion comparing McIlroy to Tiger Woods. Sports analysts in this country, and especially those at ESPN, want to make mountains out of mole hills. They either take something like Rory McIlroy’s win yesterday and anoint him as the next Tiger Woods, or they take LeBron James’ poor showing in the final four games of the NBA finals and make it appear as some sort of apocryphal disaster. I recommend that the analysts at ESPN get some sort of sense of reality and keep things in perspective.

While I agree that Tiger Woods’ achievements in golf are extraordinary, I do feel that golf needs Rory McIlroy or someone like him to achieve the same level of success as did Tiger Woods. Weather Tiger Woods recovers from his injuries or not, the reason I think gold needs McIlroy is that golf, unlike most other sports, is still considered a “gentlemen’s” game, that is, it discourages loud and abrasive behavior by both players and those in attendance. Woods, unfortunately has a history of profanity on the course and behavior reminiscent of a spoiled child. He also exhibits a level of arrogance that is unbecoming of a champion. Personally I attribute this bad behavior to a culturally ingrained sense of superiority that we Americans tend to flaunt in inappropriate ways. Perhaps it’s time that our young people were given a role model with a greater degree of humility and civility then that exhibited by too many American-born champions.

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