American Accent: Even Super Bowl eclipsed by these electric three days
Friday 17 September 2004
Ever wonder which ingredients are required for concocting a memorable team sporting event in the eyes of the American sporting public?
Ever wonder which ingredients are required for concocting a memorable team sporting event in the eyes of the American sporting public? Here is a recipe. Start with liberal amounts of passion, pressure and pride. Mix in stunning performances by A-List competitors as well as a tad of dislike among those on opposite sides. A pinch of controversy never hurts. Add dashes of glitz and glitter to taste. There you have it, the Ryder Cup.
The pity is, the Ryder Cup is staged every two years and only arrives in this country once every four. So its out-of-sight, out-of-mind persona badly hurts this wonderful competition when it comes to big-time sports happenings in the United States.
Simply put, the Ryder Cup is not the "it" event in America, except in the eyes of a dyed-in-the-wool golf fan. But it should be because it offers more real substance than its rivals.
The Super Bowl, recognised by most Americans as the ultimate game, has become a corporate takeover. The World Series is a two-week junket of airplane flights and midnight endings. Fewer and fewer fans pay attention to the NBA Finals. And, with an ugly strike looming, who knows if ice hockey's Stanley Cup will ever be hoisted in celebration again?
These events rarely live up to the hype; the Ryder Cup often exceeds it. The best part about it is that it is nothing like regular golf. Fans can feel free to root like crazy for one side. They can make a player so nervous that he is afraid he is going to swing and miss. This week Darren Clarke admitted that he tees up his first shot in the Ryder Cup nice and high, just to ensure contact.
But the Ryder Cup is hurt by the perception that golf isn't a manly sport; that golfers aren't athletes in the same way as men who score touchdowns or shoot baskets are. But it is the most unpredictable - hello, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton - and unforgiving sport in existence. And the difference between ninth and 90th in the world is basically negligible. But though the golf has captured the imagination of many Americans, there will be many more who couldn't care less.
If only they paid a little more attention. The Ryder Cup is a three-day bundle of emotion, nerves, home-field advantage and teamwork that is completely contrary to the normal course of events in professional golf. This sets it apart from the Super Bowl and World Series, where the games played for titles are no essentially different than those played as exhibitions. That may also explain Colin Montgomerie's dominance, Tiger Woods' futility and why an American team filled with superstars was lucky to have one narrow, come-from-behind victory in the past four Ryders. As a sportswriter who has covered more boring Super Bowls than I care to count, several pedestrian World Series and one forgettable NBA Finals, I believe the Ryder Cup tops them all.
None can match the electricity in the air on the first tee today. None can match the tension. None can match the throaty roar when a birdie putt disappears or an improbable chip shot is holed. Those are the things that make the Ryder Cup so special.
Hal Sutton, the US captain and a knowledgeable sports fan, says it is one of the most exciting competitions in the world.
"That's because it's prolonged," he said. "The Super Bowl is over in three hours. We have three days of it here." That makes it at least three times better than a Super Bowl.
If only more Americans paid attention.
Dave Lagarde is the golf correspondent of the New Orleans Times-Picayune
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