Having been born and raised in Northern Ireland, I had the right to consider myself British, Irish, or both, and to be honest I never really thought much about what nationality I was until I captained the winning Irish Dunhill Cup side in 1990. There, in front of the old gray clubhouse at St. Andrews, as they raised the Irish flag at the prize presentation, I felt a lump in my throat and a decidedly wimpy sniffle beginning to build somewhere back in my lumpy, wimpy sniffling center.
Holy crap, I thought...I'm Irish! There was nothing political about this feeling it was purely emotional, and something of a surprise.
So a few weeks ago there I was, up at 2:45 a.m. without having wet the bed, parked in my recliner, smothered in bewildered dogs with the TV tuned to ESPN, and rubbing my hands in anticipation of my first Ryder Cup as an American citizen. This was going to be great! But apparently it was raining in Wales. Seriously, that happens? I always wondered where all those valleys came from, and why the poet Dylan Thomas, whose beautiful words were used so artfully throughout the telecasts, was a certified Welsh fartbox. This explained it. Bollocks, I thought:
"In my day I'd have played against that tide,
With the strength of an angry twelve inside
Poseidon's surge and swell should be
Not on the land, but in the sea
Especially when the likes of me,
Have left their beds to watch TV
At a quarter of putrid, rotten three
(Eastern Daylight Time, you bastards)!
A curse upon the referee,
Who called that play, the big fair-ee!"
Well, I'm hoping that the dramatic imagery, iambic pentameter, and sweepingly epic nature of the preceding barf-sonnet has accurately conveyed not only the crappiness of my poetry, but also the fact that I wasn't pleased that they didn't scuba their way through what I considered to be, by Welsh standards, a light shower or two. You see, being a TV person, I knew that this delay would lead to inevitable viewer confusion, followed by apathy toward the grand competition. A six-hour time change is hard enough to cope with in an event that is so compelling it has to be shown live no matter what, but losing most of the first day was a disaster that, by my razor-sharp calculations, would lead to a third of the American audience not being able to figure out why the players were wearing the same clothes as yesterday; 70% wondering why anyone would wear lilac; several dozen people getting stuck on ABC instead of NBC because the first day was on ESPN; and the remaining 9/32nds of them forgetting that the event was being played at all, because Jim Furyk's beloved Steelers were getting beaten by my beloved Ravens. Woo-hoo!
For me, the Sunday afternoon singles matches were in full swing during an extremely unsatisfactory Monday morning dump, followed by car pool and a taxi ride to DFW airport. Colin Montgomerie could have been dancing naked on Corey Pavin's mangled dead body on the first tee at Celtic Manor, and by this time chances were that such news wouldn't have made it in front of our local affiliate's traffic report.
In fact, the Welsh crowd could have sung the entire American team to death, and it's likely the president of the United States wouldn't have known until after the markets had closed. One miserable spell of frog-strangling rain, and one of the world's greatest sporting events had dissolved into the ether. Somehow it didn't seem right, because as always, the standard of play was stellar. At least I'm told it was. Between taking my daughter horse-riding, trying in vain to shoot a pesky feral hog from halfway up a sycamore tree in east Texas, and flying to Baltimore, I didn't see a damned shot of the Ryder Cup, except for replays on SportsCenter. On Tuesday.
But on the bright side, I did discover something about myself. Even though, as a formerly Irish person, I had helped the European Team lose the Ryder Cup in 1991, those poignant replays began to tug on the stressed-out waistband of my emotional underpants, and I found myself rooting for Dustin Johnson, and Tiger, and Rickie Fowler, and Phil, and yes, even Hunter Mahan, who battled gamely against the heroic U.S. Open champion from my former country, Graeme McDowell. I saw the replay of Hunter's interview on SportsCenter, and when he started to well up, I felt the beginning of a strangely familiar throat-wedgie from 20 years back, and what the hell, was that my lumpy sniffling center beginning to feel wimpy again? Holy crap, I thought...I'm an American!