Saturday 27 September 2008
Brian Viner: Why the US missed the Ryder Cup
Last Sunday afternoon, while Europe's 12 best golfers, give or take Darren Clarke, were yielding the Ryder Cup by an uncomfortably large margin to the resurgent Americans, Europe's 4,612,892nd best golfer managed to recover a little continental pride by beating three good ol' boys over the May River course at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina, albeit with a slice of luck when an errant, lake-bound drive bounced back into play off a "Do Not Feed The Alligators" sign.
Afterwards, I offered to buy my new friends Kevin, Matt and Jason a beer, not least so that we could watch the remaining TV coverage from Valhalla. By the time we reached the bar, however, the contest was all over. The Americans had won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1999, and I steeled myself for some loud triumphalism from Kevin, Matt and Jason, keen golfers and fierce patriots all. Yet they expressed only a passing interest. "Cool, our guys won the Ryder Cup," said Matt, stressing the first syllable of Ryder, US-style, and helping himself to a fistful of caramelised pecans. Then he clocked the real news of the afternoon. "Jeez, I can't believe the Dolphins beat the Patriots! Pennington [Chad, the Miami quarterback] is just terrible!" He slapped his thigh for effect. "That's friggin' unbelievable!"
Last week in this space, ahead of my short trip to the United States, I asserted that American sports fans, on the whole, do not give a beaver's tooshie, or whatever the South Carolinian expression might be, about the Ryder Cup. I can now report that it is indubitably so. Yes, there were some glasses clinked in the nation's country clubs last Sunday, but the whoopin' and the hollerin' were reserved, as ever, for gridiron.
That, along with baseball and basketball, is what gets pulses racing over there, and it doesn't even have to be professional. Nothing excites Kevin, Matt and Jason, and millions like them, more than college football. If a golf match between the United States and Europe registers one out of 10, passion-wise, and the Dolphins v the Patriots seven out of 10, the University of Georgia against Mississippi State is off the scale.
These culturally entrenched preferences are among many reasons why our version of football, with or without David Beckham, has a raccoon's chance in a threshing machine, or whatever the South Carolinian saying is, of ever capturing hearts in America's heartland.
Meanwhile, not even a famous victory in the Ryder Cup distracted the sporting media from last weekend's really seismic story, the closure of Yankee Stadium, spiritual home of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. Even away from Wall Street, these are troubling times for New Yorkers. Not only is Yankee Stadium being demolished, but so is Shea Stadium, the home of the city's other baseball team, the Mets. Both venerable arenas have fallen victim to the same commercial pressures that, over here, saw off Highbury and Maine Road. But even in the dismantling of a temple, of course, there are buck-making opportunities. The Mets have been taking orders for the Shea seats, and even at $869 (£469) a pair, have had their mitts bitten off.
It is the demise of the 85-year-old
Yankee Stadium, though, that really resonates round America, not least because it is synonymous with the country's ultimate sporting hero, George Herman "Babe" Ruth, who in 1923, aged 28, said "I'd give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in the first game in this new park." He duly did. Hit a homer in the first match, that is, though it's also worth noting that he died, in 1948, aged a mere 53. Whatever, it was around the valedictories for "The House That Ruth Built" that the story of the 37th Ryder Cup was fitted into America's sports pages on Monday.Stevie G’s refereeing the key to derby day
It is Merseyside derby day, when all Evertonians embrace gallows humour. Mindful of last season's 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park, when Mark Clattenburg, in merely one chapter of a truly execrable refereeing performance, was influenced by Steven Gerrard into sending off Tony Hibbert, I enjoyed this prediction from a fellow Blue on the website Toffeeweb: "It all depends on how Stevie G refs the game."Groundstroke Day torture in Davis Cup
The Davis Cup is one of those competitions that have never lit my wick. Tennis is a fantastic sport, but its essence is intense individualism, with doubles as a bit of light relief. It no more suits a team context than golf does, although I can't say I feel the same about the Ryder Cup. There was a strong element of Groundhog Day in the distinctly underwhelming news that Britain, by losing to Austria last weekend, had been relegated from the elite group of tennis nations. Sir Trevor McDonald used to say on News at Ten, "and now for the day's other news". But sometimes the great man fluffed the line, saying "and now for the other day's news". This made me yearn for a bulletin of perennial news, stuff that might have happened that day, or any other day. Bong! French Lorry Drivers Blockade Calais! Bong! The Queen has a minor operation! Bong! Further chaos at Newcastle United FC! Bong! Britain loses Davis Cup tie and falls out of world's elite!
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