Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Knight, McEnroe, Brett, McIlroy, Watson.
Which of these names don't belong?
Both Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson are taking heat for their recent actions on
the golf course, but let's be sure to keep their alleged indiscretions in
In 1985, Indiana Hoosiers coach Bob Knight, upset with officiating and his
teams' lackadaisical effort against the Purdue Boilermakers, hurled a folding
chair across the hardwood. The seat careened toward the wheelchair section of
the arena, eventually resting a few feet short, before Knight was escorted
from the court.
John McEnroe, the famously petulant seven-time Grand Slam winner, told an
umpire, "You cannot be serious!" and later called him "the pits of the world"
during perhaps his most notable outburst at Wimbledon in 1981.
In what has come to be known as the Pine Tar Incident, a flailing, charging
George Brett had to be physically restrained from attacking umpire Tim
McClelland after his game-winning home run against the New York Yankees was
called off due to an excessive amount of pine tar on his bat.
Want another one? How about then-Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez
flinging an aging Don Zimmer to the ground like a geriatric rag doll?
These are memorable and legendary indiscretions of sportsmanship. McIlroy
bending a 9-iron at the U.S. Open and Watson chiding caddie Ted Scott over
club selection at last week's Travelers Championship aren't in the same
league. They will be forgotten by the next news cycle. Yet both golfers have
been criticized for their respectively mundane acts.
I, for one, don't mind a little competitive fire. In this case, Tiger Woods is
Exhibit A: a cursing, bristling, intimidating competitor who wins in volume.
Michael Jordan is another. He was ruthless on the court, famously telling
diminutive guard Muggsy Bogues to "Shoot it, you (bleeping) midget" during the
waning moments of a game. Muggsy shot, missed and claimed his jumper was
never the same.
Of course, being a gentleman and a respectful competitor doesn't preclude you
from winning. New York Yankees great Derek Jeter immediately comes to mind.
But athletics at all levels are intense and taxing pursuits. Grueling
competition sometimes produces behavior which would otherwise be deemed
unruly, disrespectful and embarrassing. In golf, a primarily isolated
endeavor, there aren't many people to aim that frustration at besides yourself
(McIlroy) or, maybe, your caddie (Watson).
In general, golf has higher standards than the other major American sports
when it comes to competitive etiquette. The church-like reverence encouraged
on the course may seem stifling at times, but it certainly illustrates how
uniquely stressful and difficult executing a shot can be, and how frustrating
it can be when the task is not completed as intended.
Major League Baseball players break bats over their knees, destroy water
coolers and throw helmets. Their managers, grown men in nylon pants and
button-down windbreakers, hurl obscenities and kick dirt on other grown men.
In the NBA, guys complain to refs, push and shove opponents and flop like
drunks onto a mattress. When guys shoot free throws, fans hold up giant
cardboard cutout faces of the players' ex wives.
In the NFL, players are revered for poor sportsmanship. Before the snap,
legendary Chicago Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus used to spit on opposing
offensive linemans' hands so frequently that they thought it was raining.
Stories of loose ball scrums involve crotch grabbing and twisting, hair
pulling and punching.
Sports can bring out the worst in people. And generally, we accept is as part
of the competitive psyche and process. If you've played sports at any level,
you've likely acted out in an embarrassing manner.
The first (and only) time I dropped a club in disgust after a bad shot, my
brother-in-law instantly criticized me for it. And he was right. It's
classless and inappropriate to act out on the course, and it makes the rest of
your group uncomfortable. There's no room for it. But golf sure is a
frustrating endeavor and sometimes it produces a regrettably inappropriate
The pros play televised rounds four times a week (in most cases) for the
majority of the year. If they occasionally bend a club or go after a caddie, I
say give them a pass. Others have done far worse.
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