Lincicome: There's no longer public indifference when it's Ryder Cup time
I see by the old calendar on the laptop that it is time once again for that most useless of jingoistic taffy pulls, the Ryder Cup. Just up the road, in fact, on a golf course made for great occasions. We know this because it has holes named Devil's Elbow and Shipwreck and not one named Piece of Cake.
The Ryder Cup is being held a year later than originally set because of health concerns, sure, but mostly because no one wanted to play it without fans. Usually attendees at golf tournaments are called guests or patrons, something genteel. Fans at the Ryder Cup have been called many things, "a baying mob of imbeciles," to resurrect a European opinion.
The Ryder Cup has become golf's answer to an international spit and slap, using the single golf glove, overlapping grip and a "gotcha" at the top of the back swing. It has become more important than was ever intended, full of loud screams and trash talk and bad manners and galloping greed; you know, like real sports.
The last time the Cup was held in the U.S., American golf fans were not only insulted but so were American golfers, as being "fat, stupid, greedy, classless b -- tards." This came from the brother of Masters winner Danny Willett. Not that he was wrong, but still ...
The point is, the Ryder Cup is no longer your grandfather's old country club Nassau. It has become a happy volunteer to full on marketing, T-shirts and caps and even underwear, both boxers and briefs. A week's pass at Whistling Straits -- with parking and an open bar -- can cost up to $50,000. Packages are still available.
The actual Ryder Cup is a spindly little trophy hardly of any use as a doorstop or as a weapon, maybe more suited as one of those board pieces in the game of Clue. (It was the Spaniard with the 8-iron in the clubhouse.)
We last saw the thing three years ago in Paris passed carelessly around with the victorious Europeans singing "Allez, allez" and swilling French champagne, whereas this time in Sheboygan might result in rounds of Miller Lite and "On Wisconsin" on the accordion.
The Cup was originally commissioned by a British seed merchant, Samuel Ryder, as the prize to be awarded in a biannual golf outing between the professional golfers of England -- then clearly the world's best -- and the upstarts from the colonies.
Not too much time elapsed before the U.S. was winning the thing all the time, this being the inevitable result of superior nutrition and better dental care. (To dip into the Willett screed again, "obnoxious dads with their shiny teeth, Lego man hair, medicated ex-wives ... squeezed into their cargo shorts and boating shoes ... high-fiving other members of the Dentists Big Game Hunt Society.")
The competition fell into such public indifference that it was nearly discontinued, even after golfers from the rest of Europe were included along with the British. The Cup itself was in danger of becoming a paperweight.
Lately the reverse is true, the old world taking four of the last five outings, seven of the last nine, while the new scratches its head.
Exaggerating the Ryder Cup into national nuttiness, much like the Olympics and other world games with fluttering flags and loud anthems, did give the thing new life. Strange that golf, the usual toy of the aloof and privileged, should stir such common impulses.
How the Ryder Cup became the symbol of xenophobic frenzy is simple. It is the event that spite built.
So silly this all seems now, not that anyone clearly understands the assorted scoring variations used. Someone with an abacus, a mug book and a Dummy's Guide to Multiplying Fractions has to tell us who is leading.
Ben Crenshaw once identified his Ryder Cuppers and their mission as the natural business of "the last superpower." Well, we certainly could use a boost in reputation after a doofus President and reckless wars, but restoring the natural order of the world is unlikely to be found at the end of a 5-iron.
What with a dangerous world divided more than ever these days, it would seem that both sides need all the friends they can keep.
By the way, the aforementioned Mr. Ryder was buried with his 5-iron, whereas the rest of us will eventually just chuck ours into the water hazard.