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5-Ring Fail(?) and Wyndham in Your Sail

Well, the quadrennial competition we know and love as the Olympic Games are now in our rear view mirror, and TV coverage notwithstanding, most people seem to agree that the games themselves were a spectacular success.  Organizers of the London games swept the table and took home gold in every event.

And here at home, the moment the last bronze, silver and gold medals were handed out, the inevitable arguments about our athletes and homegrown bitching about their performances began.  It’s become a ritual you can set your watch by.

When it comes to pissing on athletes when we feel like they’ve let us down, whilst simultaneously draping our disappointments up in some kind of bizarre patriotic lather, Canadians take home the gold…and silver…and bronze.

For those of you who were proud of the accomplishments of our athletes in London, I’m in your corner. 

Do I wish they had done better?  Of course I do (and so do the athletes).  Do I wish they had captured more gold?  Who wouldn’t (including the athletes)?  Am I expending any mental or emotional energy complaining because they didn’t?  Why on earth would I?

And yet, there’s an apparently large and VERY vocal chunk of the population who seem to make their very own Olympic sport out of this kind of activity, every time our athletes don’t “win it all.”  A few of the comments are occasionally thoughtful, but most are tremendously naive or misguided, and, regretfully, many are just downright mean-spirited.

And this attitude isn’t restricted just to our Olympians.  It’s evident in pretty much every sport in which Canadians compete.  It’s so big in hockey that bitching about the Toronto Maple Leafs seems to have become a more passionate pastime than cheering for them. 

And if you’ve seen any of the disgusting comments that have been said about Canadian hero Mike Weir, since his career was sidetracked by injury and drought, you’ve seen some of our people behaving at their worst. 

For the record, Canada finished 13th overall, capturing 18 medals; 1 gold, 5 silver and 12 bronze.  Based on the mind-bogglingly high number of ranting, frothing-at-the-mouth comments I’ve read, this isn’t good enough…apparently not by a long shot. 

Huh?

And so, for the vindication of our athletes, and to put the entire thing in perspective for those who insist on slamming them relentlessly for being “losers,” let me present a few facts and thoughts for your dining and dancing pleasure…

The comments that follow are a précis of an exchange I had earlier this week.  In my cyber travels I noticed some disparaging remarks, and I felt, very unfair comments about our team.  Most of them drew negative comparisons to Australia, which has 13 million fewer citizens than Canada…and to the smaller countries of Jamaica and the Netherlands.  Being outplayed and out-medaled in any event by a smaller country was a particularly “un-swallowable” result for some reason:

Post #1

I was disappointed to read your comments and felt compelled to offer a different perspective here:

Canada is the 35th most populous country in the world. The Canadian team finished 13th in total medals. That would seem to suggest that our athletes overachieved reasonable expectations by almost a factor of 3.

I’m as disappointed as anyone when one of our athletes loses. And, we’d ALL prefer to see more gold on the scoreboard. BUT, we have to temper those expectations with some reality too.

Australia poured an incredible amount of money into their amateur athletics program after they felt embarrassed by comments like these following the L.A. games. It paid off, but the price was huge.

And let’s be honest.  In the US, amateur athletics don’t really exist past public school. And it’s HUGE business. They have almost unlimited money to chase after gold medals and all the $$$ that follows them…not to mention the most sophisticated technology available to hide steroid use and other types of cheating (the list of cheats with medals who haven’t been caught yet is huge).

Finally, I think one of the reasons that your expectations and disappointment are so high is that you HAVE swallowed the media’s BS…giving us the unrealistic impression that too many of our athletes should be on top of the podium, when they know that isn’t the case. The media needs to sell advertising and sponsorships…and they do that by fabricating far too many BS human interest athlete profiles, that build us up into a fever pitch, to root for someone who probably doesn’t have a realistic shot at gold.

 If you subscribe to the theory that bronze = 2nd best-loser, then it might be helpful to remember that there are around 210 countries that finished worse than bronze…and only 2 who did better.

 Suddenly 3rd best sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Post #2 (in response to the 2nd objection over being beaten by Australia and Jamaica):

Okay, if you really insist on making it about numbers:

India – World pop. – 2nd (1,210,000,000) – Medals – 6

Indonesia- World pop.-4th (237,000,000) – Medals -2

Pakistan – World pop. -5th (181,000,000) – Medals – 0

Nigeria – World pop. 7th (166,000,000) – Medals – 0

Bangladesh – World pop. 8th (153,000,000) – Medals – 0

Mexico – World pop. 11th (112,000,000) – Medals – 7

And on and on…

Post #3 (responding to the point that our athletes and coaches don’t give enough effort):

Honestly, I’m not trying to debate here. I read your comments and thought they screamed out for a reply and alternate viewpoint.

And I really can’t see any rationalization for calling bronze a “cop-out.” In an Olympic event, the margin of victory is often measured in hundreds of a second or in centimetres, or in the case of our women’s football team, one bad subjective call. At that level, the difference between winning and finishing 2nd or3rd can be determined by how well you slept or what you had for breakfast.

This doesn’t mean our athletes aren’t excellent…most of them are. It means they just weren’t the very best in the world THAT day. Period.

Maybe you’re confusing how well we do in the winter games…and projecting those expectations on our team in the summer version? If so, it’s worth remembering that there are probably half as many countries competing in the winter games (even counting aberrations like the Jamaican Bobsled Team)…and our odds to medal essentially double, just based on the math. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

There can only be ONE gold medal winner…one best in the world, at every sport. Throw as much money and coaching as you want at it and it doesn’t change the fact that in almost every case, there will still be someone better than you.

With a global population of almost 7 billion, a Canadian population of only 35 million, and around 215 countries on the planet, the pure math says we shouldn’t expect to medal nearly as much as we do.

Final Post (responding to “it’s still not good enough” and even more about Jamaica, the Netherlands and Australia):

Okay, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue.  A few final thoughts and then I’ll shut up:

Australia really seems to stick in your craw, because they have a smaller population than us. You can’t use the math to support your argument and then ignore it when it’s inconvenient or disproves your case.

Be consistent. Based on your logic, Canada should have come in 35th in medals, based on our population ranking. We finished 13th, which is not mediocre by any standard. Even if you disregard population and only use GDP as the frame of reference, we STILL outperform what should be our expectations (Ed:  this was actually incorrect of me…we perform on a level that is about par with our GDP ranking).

You also seem to invest a LOT of emotional energy into sporting outcomes. Sport is entertainment. That’s all it’s ever been. The Olympics are a nice 3-week diversion every 2 years and little more than that. Whether we win, finish 2nd or 3rd or 43rd, says almost nothing about us as a people or a country…and has virtually zero affect on my life. It’s just entertainment.

And if you want to start allocating taxpayer money into worthwhile ventures, I can think of several areas that will have a more meaningful and profound impact…starting with improving our educational system and health care. And, given the devastating drought that has struck a huge chunk of the province, I doubt there would be many farmers who would like to stand behind the Synchronized Swimming team to  wait for financial assistance…just so we can upgrade to gold in Rio.

Spending tens of millions of dollars so that one of our people can throw a javelin a metre farther, or run half a second faster, or jump 4 centimetres higher in 4 years seems like a lot of expense for no tangible payoff.

National pride is one thing. Overreacting to a sporting outcome is quite something else. Let’s keep the proper perspective on this.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

And so, to put a wrap on this 5-ring rant, I say the following:

To our athletes; thank you VERY much for providing us with such great entertainment.  Thank you for giving it your best effort, no matter what those efforts achieved.  It’s all we wanted and all we could reasonably have asked of you…and we applaud you for doing us proud on the global stage.

To their supporters; well done!  Our athletes feed on your energy and support and it drives them to greater heights.  Keep up the great work.

To the detractors; please shut the hell up!  If 2nd or 3rd best (or 13th best for that matter) out of 7 billion isn’t good enough, then you have lost all perspective on reality.  And if you insist on bitching about the quality of training, the amount of sponsorship money and how our athlete’s efforts are underfunded, then please feel free to speak (loudly) in the only way that really matters…by donating your money to  Canadian amateur athletics.

Meanwhile back on the golf course…

This past weekend at Kiawah Island may not have had any Olympian-calibre dramatics, but DAMN was it good!

Rory McIlroy put on an absolute golf clinic as he beat the best in the world, sailed to an 8 stroke victory and wrapped his hands around his second Major championship trophy.  No one has won a PGA Championship in a more convincing way, or by a larger margin of victory.  No one…not even Jack.

You’ll be hearing about this win for a loooooong time to come folks.  For at least 8 months, as a matter of fact…until we start to wind up for Augusta once again. 

Brace yourselves for some outlandish predictions (again) about how many Majors young Rory will win in the next 20 years.  It happened last year at Augusta, before his epic Sunday collapse…it happened again last year at the Olympic Club during his epic Sunday juggernaut…and you can bet it’ll just get worse from here on out after his epic Sunday at Kiawah.

Happily, for me, Rory was on my roster this week…making him my 12th correct pick of the season.  Do I have to bite down on my prize when I get my gold medal for golf prognostication? 

Results – The PGA Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Jason Dufner

T27

 $        51,900 Robert Allenby

CUT

Rory McIlroy

1

 $   1,445,000 Ben Curtis

T11

 $        143,286
Luke Donald

T32

 $        42,625 Fredrik Jacobson

T36

 $          34,750
Matt Kuchar

CUT

Mitch Lowe

CUT

This Week’s Total  $   1,539,525 This Week’s Total  $        178,036
Season Total  $  32,659,540 Season Total  $      7,908,145

Not that I’m full of myself and my abilities here, but it’s really hard  to imagine that Dufner, Donald and Kuchar didn’t all do better this week, don’t you think?

The Calm Before the Storm

And the name of the storm is The FedEx Cup Playoffs…four weeks of competition with a $10 million dollar bonus cheque on the line.

The name of the calm is The Wyndham Championship…a low-key, relatively unimportant golf tournament in North Carolina.  Unimportant, that is, for everyone except the players who are looking at their ranking on the Money List and looking for one last chance to make the playoffs…or perhaps make a late-season push to save their playing privileges for 2013.

No pressure for the stars.  The beginning of pucker time for the cellar dwellers.

The Wyndham Championship – Derek’s Picks

Based on the history of this event, the one thing we should come to expect at the Wyndham Championship (and its predecessor the Greater Greensboro), is the unexpected.

Yes, there have been some superstar winners here, but in recent years the number of debut and/or truly surprising winners has outstripped the big names by a factor of about 2 or 3 to 1. 

Names like Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Arjun Atwal, Brandt Snedeker, Shigecki Maruyama, Frank Nobilo, Trevor Dodds and Danny Edwards grace this trophy.  And most of those etched appearances commemorate the first time that one of these players broke through and scored a PGA Tour victory.

How then do you select a list of potential winners this week, when the math says that a previously “unproven” player is more likely to win, than a decorated one?  Should you pick nothing but non-winners?  Do you say ‘to hell with that’ and just go with the stars?  Do you find some kind of happy blend between the two? 

Let me know when you figure it out, would you…’cause I’m kind of stuck here!

Bud Cauley­ – What the hell…why not? 

If the stuff I just said above is true (and it is), then Cauley really should be in the discussion this week.

I took Cauley a couple of weeks ago in our National Championship…and he turned out to be the best pick I made for Hamilton.  The little bugger finished in a tie for 4th! 

At the risk of re-chewing old soup, here are the reasons why I took him at the time…and why I think he should have a shot at his first win this week:

To call Cauley an unknown really isn’t fair to the kid.  The guys on Tour know him…and they’ve been raising their eyebrows when they watch him play (in a good way).  They know they’re seeing one of the stars tomorrow, cut his teeth on the Tour.

Like Rickie Fowler before him, it’s just a matter of time before young Bud claims his first title.  And the Canadian Open seems like a great place for him to start racking up wins…a lá Arnie Palmer.

And if you’re unfamiliar with his recent stats, while the world had their eyes on Royal Lytham & St. Annes last week, Cauley finished 4th at the True South.  He also finished T8 in Houston and T4 at Arnie’s event (how’s that for serendipity?)

And to put the northern spin on his resume, Bud finished T13 in his first and only Canadian Open last year…before he even won his Tour card.

Like I said, Cauley went on to finish T4th in the Canadian Open this year…putting him right on the edge of claiming his first trophy.  For me, this week’s Wyndham seems like the kind of place where that could happen.

Webb Simpson – As the current holder of the US Open trophy, young Webb is the hottest alpha dog in the field this week.  And, the first-time winner theory mentioned above, notwithstanding, that makes him a very good pick this week.

There’s also the fact that he’s the defending champion in this year’s event.  So he should have plenty of happy thoughts walking these fairways and greens.

The BIG question is, how has his Major win affected him and has enough time passed for him to zone in on winning championships again…even small ones like the Wyndham?

I’m not 100% sold on that, but I do think he’s a pretty humble, down-to-earth kind of guy who is capable of getting the job done.  Only time will tell.

Tommy Gainey – Are you asking yourself if I just “jumped the shark” with this pick?  To be honest, I’m asking myself the same question.

After a breaking out of The Big Break and making his big breakthrough rookie year in 2011 (seven top 10 finishes), Gainey has almost slipped off the face of the earth in 2012.  And that, by itself, makes him prime fodder to “pull an Atwal” in my books.

I can offer you no rational explanation for this pick…other than saying it’s from the gut. 

Plus, I have to admit that the tiny little George Carlin demon that lives in my head is rooting hard for “Two Gloves” to win…just to see if CBS runs sub-titles under his acceptance speech.

Carl Pettersson – To all the bonehead TV announcers, let me say this one more time for effect:  It’s pronounced PET-TER-SON, not PETE-ER-SON!  He’s Scandinavian.  If you can give all those wonky, barely pronounceable international names from the Olympics a respectable effort, how about doing us a favour and getting this really easy one right?  You say it properly for the chick on the LPGA (Suzann Pettersen), so why not for Carl?

If the golf gods have any sense of justice in their black hearts, Pettersson will hoist the trophy this week in North Carolina.  They absolutely screwed him last week, when he mindlessly violated one of golf’s more ridiculous rules and invoked a 2-stroke penalty on the first hole of the final round.

His infraction?  Told by an official that he could brush the grass, but not ground his club, he brushed a leaf in a waste bunker on his backswing and caused it to move about ¼ of an inch!!!  Oh the horror!  What an advantage that must have made for him in making the shot.  2 strokes…thanks for coming out.  Sorry about you contending for a Major and everything Carl.

Last year’s winner, Webb Simpson, suffered a similarly huge setback, a few tourneys prior to his breakthrough win at the Wyndham.  That one also involved a ridiculous rules infraction (a gust of wind moved his ball on the green…but he grounded his club).  He was a few holes from winning his first Major and suddenly he was trailing with even fewer holes left to play.

Putting justice aside for a second, Pettersson also has some serious cred on this course.  In the last 5 years he’s won the tournament once, and finished 4th and 5th as well.

But it’s the justice angle that really draws me to him this week.  And if there’s any poetry in golf at all, Carl will win this tournament, and then hop a jet up to Canada to celebrate a bit too much with some real beer!

And now that I’ve had my rant, let’s see if daughter can rack up another winner this season…

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

Jason Bohn

Jamie Donaldson (again!)

Matt Every

Nick O’Hern

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks very much for reading and playing along with my goofiness…and enjoy the tournament.

Cheers,

Derek

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • But after two rounds may not be quite the same? But huge fan of Petterson, one of the steadiest players on the tour, and once he wins again, he should go on from there. And a shout out to Graham DeLaet who seems to tease us in the first couple of rounds but right now is the only Canuck who seems to know which way to move on moving day – hope I’m right about tomorrow!

    And thank you immensely for those five intelligent and positive (was there anything to be negative about?) comments on our Olympic results. As one said, if you don’t like the results, well, put your money where your mouth is. You will find that giving is tremendously engaging in the sense that you become much more involved and much more appreciative of what the recipients are doing with your money.

    • THB;

      Thanks VERY much for taking the time to read this week’s column (so it was you who lost the bet this week!)…and for writing in.

      Yes…my picks are starting to get surrounded by others. Still though, 4 in the top 9 isn’t bad. By the way, Sergio was the last guy I shoved off the bus…he would have been another choice choice, by the looks of it.

      And I really appreciate your kind remarks on my Olympics rant. It’s absolutely the first time the word “intelligent” has been associated with anything I’ve ever written here…so I may have to print this page and then have it bronzed or something.

      Give my regards to your cousin THC…he’s been a good friend when writer’s block hits.

      Cheers,

      Derek

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