Let me begin by saying that I have nothing against crying in sports. So this is not about Bubba Watson's breaking down like a middle schooler at an Adele concert after his dramatic victory on the 74th hole of the Masters. Crying and hugging have their place, especially when Mom is involved, which was the case with Molly Watson and her son on Sunday at Augusta.
The issue is about when the crying and hugging should begin. Here's what Bubba should've done immediately after tapping in — he should've shaken hands with his opponent, Louis Oosthuizen. Then he could've gotten on with the crying game.
Bubba is not the first golfer to release the waterworks on the climactic hole — Ben Crenshaw and Tiger Woods come to mind. And count me among those who were enthralled by Bubba's spectacular clutch play, imaginative shotmaking, down-home demeanor and the fact that he seems to carry a sense of humor along with a pink driver.
But all that is irrelevant. The unwritten rules of sport dictate that the first thing you do is recognize your opponent. It's called sportsmanship, often forgotten in this me-first age. You don't leave your opponent standing to the side like a passed-over understudy, cooling his heels, trying to figure out how long to stand there while you bawl like a baby. You make the putt, you regain your composure for a second, then you turn to the guy against whom you've been competing for five hours, shake his hand, cuff him on the shoulder and say, "Great match." Then and only then do you turn to your caddie and your mom and give free rein to your tear ducts.
This isn't one of these golf-should-lead-the-way things. It should be that way in every sport. Basketball, baseball, football and soccer all have their orgiastic rituals of team celebration. Victorious tennis players tend to collapse to their knees and look skyward in utter disbelief; hell, guys, there were only two of you out there, somebody had to win. But the fact that everybody does it doesn't make it right.
You can tell me that Bubba didn't ignore Oostie out of malice, which is true. And you can point out that I have never felt the delirious joy that comes after pulling out a victory that puts you on top of the sporting world. Also true. But I can tell you what I have felt: playing my absolute best, losing in the most heartbreaking fashion and watching someone else celebrate. And I know that Bubba has felt that too.