Editor's Note: The following column contains language you may not wish to read. We certainly didn't, but Feherty forced us. Anyhow, consider yourself warned.
I have to say I'm a little worried about the latest spate of criticism directed at PGA Tour players over their allegedly disgraceful language and behavior. Apparently some are worried about the example we're setting for our children. In comparison to other professional athletes, most golfers already behave in a positively monastic manner, and I for one hope we're not heading for the vow of silence as a prerequisite to membership of the PGA Tour.
No, what I'd like to see here from most of these guys is a little more emotion, rather than less. And at least in golf we usually have the audio to go with the lip movements that can be so hard to read on the sidelines of other sporting arenas, such as the baseball or football field.
I imagine one of the few advantages of being a lip reader would be the ability to understand every single word that the likes of Jon Gruden and Don Zimmer are saying when they start to foam at the mouth. Not long ago during the NFL playoffs, Gruden (whom I don't know at all, but I think is insanely brilliant) had occasion to disagree with one of the officials on the field.
No, honest, he did. At least he was either disagreeing with the nice man in the striped shirt or trying to bring down upon him some kind of biblical catastrophe, like a plague of frogs, or maybe Jerry Falwell. I did my best to read his lips, and I think he said, "You vapid rockchucker, you ever hear of Lasik? My Dog! Jay Charles could've seen that with the lights off. Lou can glow me, you ashpole!"
Well, it went something like that.
If great men like these have the decency to go completely bananas on national television, in the process stripping bare their souls, I think the networks have a moral obligation to those of us who are soft of hearing to let us in on what's being said, even if they have to run subtitles. I mean, why should the deaf have all the fun?
In most things there is a balance between good and evil, dark and light, and a truly delightful, yet evil game like golf is a good example. No other game I've played can be more infuriating one moment, or uplifting the next, so how is a mere mortal supposed to keep his emotions on an even keel when he plays? Personally, I never did, and I'm proud to say I never said anything like, "Aw, shoot!"
Hey, there, your rectidudinousness, I know which word "shoot" is replacing, and the real question is whether it's more offensive, or even damaging, than "s--t."
Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather be s--t on than shot at.
Not that I have anything against anyone who wants to say stuff like that, but I don't want to hear any complaints from them, either, if I choose to yell at the top of my voice what they really wanted to say and then beat the crap out of my golf bag or some other guilty-looking inanimate object. It had it comin', okay?
And this is golf, not chess. Just stay out of my way when I'm embarrassing myself and you might even do yourself a favor by accident. Watching a fully-grown adult male toss all the toys out of the crib and then spit out his pacifier is funny. You could laugh at me instead of getting all huffy and superior up there on the moral high ground. The essential difference between the people who lose control of themselves while playing golf and the antics of other athletes is that with golfers, the anger, bitterness, resentment, and vitriol is directed at their very own personal selves. I'm pissed off at me, pal, not you!
If a guy does serious damage to a golf course, then charge him for it. That's fine. But if he's whacking himself in the nuts, calling himself names, or blaming the Almighty, I say turn up the volume and enjoy yourself. It's the Almighty's fault, anyway, for giving us free will. When he did, I guarantee you 10 seconds later he stamped his foot, slapped his forehead, and said, "S--t! I knew I shouldn't have done that!"
The bottom line is, this issue isn't about what some people say, it's about what some people hear, and their narrow-minded reactions to it. Some of these people want to abdicate their responsibility as parents, and would rather have someone else deal with, or intercept, difficult questions from their children: "Daddy, why did that man say a bad word?"
"Because he's evil, son, and he doesn't think like us. Unlike us good folk, he's doomed."
If my dad had told me that, I would have thought, "Oh s--t, I'm doomed."
I know we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, but I think we already do, and there's no need for anyone to get his or her panties in a wad at the moment. Professional golfers have always given a good account of themselves, and they probably swear less often now than they used to. It's the digital sound and these bastard microphones that are dropping everyone in the s--t. Oops!
And, consider this: That foul-mouthed, evil-tempered, heathen scumbag just might give a fortune every year to underprivileged children, or spend time at St. Jude's in Memphis putting a smile on the face of a 5-year-old girl who doesn't have hair any more.
He might give the homeless wino at the red light with the scabby dog and the sign that reads, "Need money for beer," 20 bucks every now and then. Also, he might be really pissed off at himself if his public display of self-loathing has upset anyone, but he doesn't need you to hate him, or criticize him, because that's precisely what he was doing to himself at the time.
And, there is another way for Daddy to answer the awkward question from junior: "He shouted, 'Gonads!' at the top of his voice, son, because he's mad at himself. He's being a little hard on himself, too. It doesn't make him a bad person, but if I ever hear you say that word in front of your mom, I'll kick your ass."
"Because I'm your father. Now shut the hell up."
For me, tennis died when John McEnroe quit. I didn't approve of all his behavior, but I loved to watch it. It was great television, and it was the way I would have felt, too, if the myopic, sleeping sonofabitch in the deck chair on stilts had called that one out on me. McEnroe strengthened us and oxygenated our blood when we watched him, because we felt he was weak, just like us, yet he could do these amazing things.
A couple of months ago, Pat Perez went berserk on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, and it also was a lovely thing to see. A lot of flair, a hot temper, and a beautiful flaw, otherwise known as the impetuosity of youth.
You could tell that he cared so much it was almost killing him, and you knew he'd be back. Tiger is mellowing out a bit, but I'm thankful he's still capable of the occasional blast of nostril steam and blasphemous burst from the lips.
I can handle explaining it to my kids, no problem. In fact, it can be quite useful at times, when you're trying to explain that a word is never evil, unless there is an evil intent behind it, and sometimes you should just get over it and play ball.
Like Tiger does. Like virtually everyone else on the PGA Tour, he's a good role model for our kids.
Editor's Note: Hey, we warned you!