In the aftermath of what almost was, Watson has been hailed as a hero, his performance a reminder that age, if just for a week, can be a state of mind. God forbid we leave it at that. The fact that someone who has been on this earth for almost six decades came within one shot of winning one of the toughest tests in golf can only mean one thing: it's not a sport.
At least that's the tired, cliche-riddled arguments you'll get from certain media folk every time an old-timer has a good showing. Because, you know, it happens almost weekly.*
CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, using faulty logic and not much else, offers this:
This story might be inspirational but for the sport of golf it should also be mortifying. Actually, it's a tad embarrassing. What does it say about a sport when it takes a playoff round to finally beat Watson despite Watson's age?Freeman then writes that, "There are no 59-year-old running backs, outfielders or point guards because the level of athleticism is so extreme in those sports that if someone Watson's age tried to play them they'd get broken into tiny pieces." Before hedging: "here are older professional athletes of course. The NHL's Chris Chelios is 47 and Dara Torres won three Olympic silver medals at 40. Yet there is still a tremendous difference between 40 and 59."
It says golf isn't a sport, that's what it says. Thank you, Mr. Watson, for finally providing irrefutable proof.
What about 47 and 59? So this is what passes for irrefutable evidence? Really?
Look, I'm fine if people don't think golf is a sport. I suspect that when Scottish shepherds started knocking stones into rabbit holes back in the 12th century, they weren't clamoring that this new past time be classified a "sport." Because, well, there weren't any sports 900 years ago. But it is a game with rules that requires skill and focus.
So if Freeman and others want to get caught up in semantics, have at it. But that doesn't change the fact that Watson has devoted his life to the game, spent thousands of hours perfecting his craft, and that when it's all said and done, he will be one of the best golfers to ever tee it up.
That he almost accomplished the impossible nine years after he graduated to the Champions Tour isn't an indictment of the game. It's an exceptional feat, a memorable moment in golf history. Oddly, I don't remember a lot of bellyaching when Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46. Then again, Chelios is 47, so Jack didn't qualify as old using Freeman's made-up age limit.
Blogger Stephanie Wei defends golf as a sport and makes a good point:
Consider the position of DH in baseball. I love Edgar Martinez, but in the last few years of his career he was basically limping his way around the bases. He could still hit the ball decently up until he retired at the age of 41 - it was because of his consistent swing and excellent hand-eye coordination. Kind of like golf. So does that mean a DH isn't a "real" athlete?I can only assume that Freeman wrote this column tongue-in-cheek because it's an inane argument. Which leads me to this? Why? Why waste his time and ours on this?
This is the only thing I can come up with: it was easy, and it would rile up the "golf is a sport" crowd. Here's the thing: call it what you want, I don't care. It's a game with rules that requires much more skill than it takes to tap out a few unoriginal thoughts in the name of spike being contrarian and a few more page views. Hey, you can't have John Daly sue you and lose every week.
* it almost never happens