Tough to be objective watching U.S. collapse
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com October 2, 2012 11:42PM
USA's Steve Stricker reacts after a putt on the 18th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:26AM
There is “No Cheering in the Press Box.”
That is the title of a book on the sports writing business by Jerome Holtzman, the late, great baseball writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune.
The book, written in 1974, explored the daily lives of a swath of baseball writers. The idea behind it speaks to the premise of neutrality.
We are bound by a code of professionalism and impartiality. We don’t pull for one team or one person over another.
We root for the story. We want drama and emotion. Heroes and fall guys. Hard hits and great shots. A beginning, a middle and an end.
We want something worth writing about — an opportunity to tell a great story or even a good story — and then we want to go home and be with our families and watch sports on television, like the rest of the world and go crazy rooting for our teams.
It is not a difficult creed to live by.
We learn over the years to distance ourselves from the games.
We learn to be objective and analytical.
We learn to be efficient and, in a way, joyless about how the facts are processed and digested. That is our job.
We learn to view every sporting event we cover through the lens of we story. What happened and how will it be told? This is just what we do.
I grew up rooting for Notre Dame in both football and basketball, Indiana in basketball, the Bears and the Cubs. I’m happy to report that Indiana basketball fans have assumed at times that I was a Purdue guy, that I’ve never gone easy on Notre Dame and that I can’t remember the last time I wrote something happy about the Cubs.
So, that was a pretty long windup for this.
I can’t ever remember being so discombobulated, conflicted and just plain out of it in a professional way when the Americans lost the Ryder Cup to the Europeans on Sunday.
When Martin Kaymer hit the six -foot putt for the Europeans to win the Cup, a great big roar erupted in the press room. It was an obvious breach of etiquette from the European contingent of writers and friends of the European tour and media.
Just this one time, I completely understood the sentiment. The Euro press had a whopper of a story to write and their guys won, to boot. They couldn’t have scripted a better ending.
That thought, that idea that the Europeans would win, seemed literally impossible at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
It started to become a real possibility by 4:30.
And it was official by 6 p.m. The Euros had scored the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history — greater even than the victory by the Americans at Brookline in 1999 — because they had done it on U.S. soil.
Because I had to write something, I was critical of Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods. They were all worthy of criticism. They missed big putts, made some bad decisions and didn’t produce in critical situations.
The truth is, though, I was heartbroken, like the millions of others Americans who were vested in the outcome of the match for the U.S.
I felt awful for Stricker, who looked ghost-like after Kaymer made the putt.
I felt terrible for Furyk after he missed the putt on 18 that caused him to put his hands behind the back of his neck in agony.
And my heart felt like it dropped out of my body when Kaymer’s putt rolled in.
No cheering in the press box had broken down. How can you possibly be objective about your own country?
When I was in eighth grade, I watched Danny Ainge dribble through the whole Notre Dame team in the NCAA Tournament in six seconds and beat the Irish with a layup. I can still see John Paxson trying to catch up in the back court and Orlando Woolridge jumping up in front of the rim to try to block the little finger tip roll and the ball dropping through the net.
I was devastated by that loss. It’s stupid, I know, but I can’t help it even 30 years later. For a week, I shot jump shots in the driveway, late into the night, trying to shake away the pain, trying to be the guy that could step in front of Ainge and take the charge, like it was going to really change something.
Silly? Absolutely. But that’s just how I felt about it. It mattered. My teams mattered to me. I cared deeply about them for reasons that can’t rationally be explained. I wanted them to win but if they lost, I didn’t want it to be traumatic and scarring. That is what our teams do to us. Some people don’t understand, and I understand that. Others do, and they know exactly how I felt the day the Ryder Cup dream for the Americans died at Medinah.
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