James Corrigan: Matt Every refuses to play bawl with hypocrites
The Way I See It
Matt Every announced yesterday "I'm not running for President". Which is a shame. Because if he was challenging Obama, his interview on Friday would become an all-time classic which would open up a debate on the perils of being honest, the necessity for bland PR and the heinous crime of smoking spliffs.
But Every is a golfer, a wannabe champion, who went out last night in the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii in a share for the lead. The 28-year-old did so with his notoriety ridiculously outpacing his fame – and all because of that chat in the Golf Channel studio immediately following his second-round 64.
After the obligatory small talk, the presenter Kelly Tilghman deployed an old journalistic trick when talking to an unknown by flicking through the media guide. She could have asked him about his love of Oasis and his dream fourball comprising the Gallagher brothers and "a counsellor, so we could get the best band in the world back together". Yet Tilghman jumped instead on his fondness for Lost.
Applying the tropical, palm-filled scene in the background to the TV series, Tilghman stretched the link to breaking point. "But then, the word 'lost' might also be a fitting word to describe the state of your mind two years ago when you were arrested on drugs charges and suspended from the PGA Tour," she crooned. "Take us back and tell us what it was like?"
At this point, Every was supposed to reveal his polo shirt was constructed from sackcloth. He would have rehearsed a statement of total contrition which would satisfy corporate America. My God, a few tears from the kid and they could have the All-American story on their hands; how good ol' apple pie thrashed the skunk into a pulp.
Except Every wasn't about to fall on his mashie, or commit self-flagellation with his graphites. What was it like? "It was all right," said Every, looking for all the world like he'd just been asked to detail the agonies of a tetanus jab. "I just got three months off. It was just golf. I didn't think I did anything wrong. I'm the same person, I have the same friends. I don't think it's that big a deal, what I got in trouble for."
Every was caught in a packed hotel room emitting a strong whiff of marijuana. For this unforgivable sin the courts told him to stay out of trouble for a year. Meanwhile, those righteous crusaders on the PGA Tour banned him – without telling anyone, as they do – meaning the rookie essentially lost his card. That'll teach this plus-foured Pete Doherty.
Yet exactly what did it teach Every? Nothing, apart from the rank hypocrisy which exists in his and every other sport worthy of its sponsor portfolio. "There's a lot worse stuff that goes on out here," he said, forcing flow charts to collapse on every floor of Tour HQ. What did he mean by that? Tilghman didn't ask, instead pressing for the Pulitzer mea culpa. Every wasn't playing bawl.
Soon he was being castigated on the Golf Channel, most hilariously by the universally popular Sir Nick Faldo, who advised work on his PR image. That's the last thing Every needs to do. If he had employed those phoney PC merchants they would have instructed him first to throw himself under the ethical bandwagon and then his friends. Every was prepared to do neither. He claims not to be a drug-taker himself, but is clearly no Judge Judy.
"If one of my friends likes to smoke marijuana now and then, I'm not going to say, you can't be my friend any more," Every told reporters. "Honestly, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don't. That's probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it's the truth."
Alas, sport's custodians can't handle the truth, not without asbestos gloves anyway. They pick up the truth with their sterilised forceps, give it a furious spin in their blander and deliver it to the public to digest in soundbites. Credit to Every, he refuses to be one of these clones.
"I'll be at home watching on TV and someone's being interviewed and it's like the guys have to say the perfect thing," he said. "You don't even need to interview then: you can write what they are going to say... But I'm not running to be the President, I'm just trying to be a golfer. I'm really not trying to piss anyone off."
Yet he has pissed people off and as they're the right people to piss off, he should be commended not slammed. Every is an everyman and what every professional sports person should be allowed to be – himself. Every doesn't want to be seen as a role model or a model who rolls. For he is neither. And I, for one, was rooting and a tooting for the boy last night. Taking care to go easy on the tooting, of course.
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