Like cheap hors d’oeuvres, Twitter scandals feed us every day. They’re the cocktail weeny of journalism. But social media is a recipe for disaster because, as the saying goes, even Ernest Hemingway had an editor. Papa once said, “One should write drunk and edit sober.” Edit being the key ingredient, and the one that’s being left out all too often. The recent Twitter spitter between Rory McIlroy and Jay Townsend is a prime example.
Jay lambasted Rory’s course management and his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, for not intervening, to which Rory responded, “Shut up…you’re a commentator and a failed golfer. Your opinion means nothing.” The exchange continued with neither side acquiescing, and while it was entertaining to their followers, it didn’t do either of them any good.
The one thing that has separated golf from other sports is the level of decorum that grows organically in a game in which players call penalties on themselves. Golf relies on a civility that manifests itself in respect for the rules, etiquette and player conduct. Social media allow people to do in private what they would never do or say in public. The resulting feuds and faux pas erode any sense of class. I understand Rory’s frustration, but he was just as out of line as Jay.
In 1960 journalist Bob Drum told Arnold Palmer that he had no chance in the final round of the U.S. Open. Palmer shot a 65 and won, letting his clubs do the Tweeting. He sent Drum a message and maintained his dignity. Today’s society is more informal and everyone has a voice but, sadly, not everyone has an editor.