Today we take a complete right turn in terms of sport. We go from the testosterone fuelled (according to USADA) world of mixed martial arts to the calm and relaxed world of golf. A game that has driven more people to alcohol than mortgage repayments.
Golf in the Olympics has been in the news lately, various tour chiefs have spoken out about the mass exodus of top players from the Olympics in Rio this year. Today we will talk about the arrogance on some people along with looking at the other side, how a professional athlete deals with being asked to go back to an amateur competition.
It all starts with Rory McIlroy and the pressure he was put under to pick a side. We need to remember that he was asked to pick a side (tricky to begin with considering our little island) for a competition that he hadn’t pledged to compete in. A competition that no business advisor would advise him to play in. Eventually he chose Ireland over the UK and the storm died down for a little while. The Olympics was a long way away at that stage, it was put on the back burner by McIlroy LLC.
As we get closer the pressure began again. Rory decided to bow out. This opened the gates for other top players to back out. The Zika virus was blamed by all. While I back any player wanting to not take any sort of risk to their health, the Zika virus was not the main reason for backing out. It was a handy excuse.
Let’s look at the Olympics as an event. The athletes stay in the Olympic village, share rooms, are told what to do, where to be along with having to wear the team uniform 24/7. A team uniform that may not be your own sponsor. This just doesn’t work with professional golfers who have their every whim catered to, especially the top players. When Rory (and this is not just about Rory) wants something, his team or wherever he is staying will move mountains to get it for him. And rightly so, he is the money generator in the business that is Milroy incorporated.
How do you take an athlete like that and put them into the Olympics. Whoever came up with that idea is arrogant, naïve and downright stupid. In an attempt to ‘grow the game’ they assumed that the top players would fly to Rio, stay in the Olympic village and do what every other athlete would do.
It just makes zero sense.
Amateur athletes spend their lives attempting to get on the podium in the Olympics. That is what Katie Taylor has spent her life doing. While Katie is a company in her own right, she is protected because she was an amateur athlete when she signed with Adidas and Lucozade. Those companies knew that she was going to compete for Ireland and she would be wearing New Balance uniforms etc. at the event. That is the difference. Nike didn’t sign Rory under the assumption that he would be wearing another companies gear in front of millions of people. That is a mistake that Nike wouldn’t make.
This is just another piece of pressure on the professional athlete.
When we get to the bottom line, what is in the Olympics for Rory McIlroy? He never grew up yearning for that gold medal. He grew up wanting to win the Masters. Why would he put himself in the position to be uncomfortable? You and I might think ‘why wouldn’t he want a gold medal’, but we are not in his position. We don’t have Nike and others watching our every move. Rory is an industry, that doesn’t match the Olympic ethos.
I agree with his decision not to play.
For golf, it should be in the Olympics. It should be the final stop for the top Amateurs before turning professional. The 4 year cycle works perfectly. The walker cup players make it in, and then there would be worldwide competitions for the rest of the spots. It lines everything up perfectly. It gives amateurs another target and it grows the game.
But the powers that be have an arrogance about their sport that makes them look childish.
As usual @nkeegan for debate
Until next time