by Pete Willett
If When Danny wins gold at the Olympics, it will be difficult to argue with his detractors who will no doubt attribute his success to the number of pullouts. But I’m glad they pulled out, because I don’t watch sport to see people passively trudge through their obligations like fathers at a Wacky Warehouse.
I was in a pub recently when one of these dads recognised me (thank you, Twitter). I have never disagreed more with the inane babbling to which he subjected me:
“If I were given chance t’ be in ‘lympics, I’d do it. I ain’t too stuck up t’ say yes. Not representin’ country is a disgrace. It’d be proudest day of me life.”
He was making a reference to McIlroy’s infamous Royal Troon press conference. Of course this man wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to represent his country at the ‘lympics – he’d weep at the honour of his takeaway naming a kebab after him. It’s a pointless comparison.
The drop-outs aren’t shunning their respective countries; it isn’t a national slight: they just don’t want to play. And despite ‘kebab man’ owning a very small part of Rory, it doesn’t mean he is owed Olympic involvement from his icon.
No doubt he’s paid extortionate amounts of money to hack a zigzagged path across some lovely golf courses, or bought Nike golf clubs & under armour so that he could hit harder, chip closer, and appear less overweight. Perhaps he’s even clicked on the Santander website because he was intrigued by the idea of a current account that was simple, personal, and fair?
But McIlroy’s ability to influence what people play, buy, or click on, doesn’t give credence to the argument that he owes them something in return. One of the reasons he has become an iconic sports figure is because he doesn’t compromise.
After his press conference at The Open, there were three specific points that featured most commonly in the criticism that followed. As a father of a pre-schooler, I, like McIlroy, take an uncompromising stance when it comes to enduring the desolate torment of children’s parties. I feel defensive of McIlroy on all three counts.
“I didn’t get into golf to grow the game”
McIlroy was criticised for giving this ‘selfish’ response. I have taught thousands of children. Every single pupil I have taught that knows golf, knows McIlroy, and most students who don’t really know golf, still know McIlroy.
Nobody gets into golf to ‘grow the game,’ but occasionally, someone will come along who does that anyway. Whether Rory wants to grow the game or not is immaterial, because he has done just that.
To then denounce McIlroy for his lack of diplomacy is as unfair as my wife thinking it’s reasonable for me to waste my time celebrating the birthday of a toddler I’ve never met.
A few months ago she informed me of an upcoming party our three-year-old son, Harrison, had been invited to. My primary reason for having a child was not so that I could attend mind-numbing soirees for the express purpose of ‘growing’ his social standing.
Through the simple act of being an exceptional father, I am equipping my son with the right tools for him to prosper at the party in my absence (like teaching him to stop clenching his entire face when he meets new people). I told my wife that I’d probably attend the party, but I wasn’t sure.
The Zika threat
McIlroy was criticised for originally citing this as a reason to miss the Olympics. I understand why the legitimacy of this excuse has been questioned.
It only takes a modicum of research to spot the holes in the Zika defence. Unless your circumstances are very specific, it is not a valid reason to skip the Games. But it is an easy excuse to hide behind if you want to avoid the hassle created by simply saying, ‘I don’t want to play.’
To condemn McIlroy for being insincere, having already attacked him for being too candid, is as unfair as my wife expecting complete honesty when I prefer peace.
A week before the birthday party, I came to the conclusion that I definitely didn’t want to go. No-one would benefit from the truth – that I didn’t want to stand in a sweaty church hall with parents I don’t know, talking in meaningless sound bites, watching feral children slide across the floor.
So I cited the chicken pox defence. Our youngest, Cooper, had only just recovered and his pox scars were still visible. I gallantly said I’d keep him at home to stop him from mixing with a large group of kids.
“He is outside the incubation period,” was my wife’s cold reply. “I’ll Google it,” was my terse response. (But I already had, and she was indeed right.) We both knew my chicken pox defence was a lie, but if she had just pretended to believe it, we would have all felt better.
“The stuff that matters”
McIlroy was criticised for saying he wouldn’t watch the golf, just ‘the stuff that matters.’ This statement could have been worded more delicately or dishonestly for the sake of the game, but Rory is uncompromising and honest. Anyone suggesting surprised offence at the tone of his comments, should skulk off back to their echo chambers and wait for their next opportunity to violently scream for a ‘safe space.’
To vilify McIlroy for responding indelicately is as unfair as my wife hoping for excitement when she tells me I’m spending yet another weekend afternoon at the bowling alley with thirty infants.
On the morning of the party, the house was silent. My wife broke the deadlock an hour before leaving by asking a question that served no purpose, as she already knew the answer: “Are you coming or not?” I was tired of placating. “No. I’m not. I have no intention of going. I don’t want to be there, and I will hate every single second that I am forced to waste if I end up going.
Why would you want me there if that is how I feel? Just because I have a child doesn’t mean I am obligated to attend every single event in support of him. You can still go. You’ll have a great time policing whether the musical statues are still, or dictating the speed at which the parcel must be passed.
If the only way you think this party will be worthwhile is if I turn up and pretend that I am not despising every single rancid second, then it must be a pretty crap party in the first place. It’s not as if I’m missing his birthday, or Christmas, or… you know… the stuff that matters.”
The wife stormed out of the house. I didn’t go to the party.
The golf in Rio will be a diminished event, for the average spectator, in the Top 4s’ absence. (I’m less bothered, as I curse any coverage where the camera isn’t permanently fixed on my brother.) But if the quality of the event can’t transcend the missing personalities, then there is something wrong with the event.
Whether it’s 72 holes in Brazil, or a Sunday afternoon listening to Justin Bieber in a Scout Hut, any competent adult has earned the right to decide their level of involvement, free from criticism.
If McIlroy were the type of person who would glumly stuff his face with soggy jam sandwiches whilst watching screaming kids pin a tail on a donkey, then nobody would even care that he was missing the ‘lympics in the first place.