I live about 10 minutes away from where Rory McIlroy is from. He was born and raised in Holywood, County Down and he’s the only famous thing ever to come from the town, so the locals love him and it’s great that a local boy is doing well. Really well.
The down side of Rory’s success is that saying you don’t like golf, don’t care if he’s won and couldn’t give two hoots about his eagle at the third is pretty much a hanging offence. I told someone recently I wasn’t too bothered that Rory had just won another cup (apparently it was an important one) and he looked at you like I’d just killed his granny.
It’s not Rory I don’t like. He’s the Screech Powers for a new generation – living the dream and wearing terrible hair. It’s just that watching golf doesn’t push my buttons because there are only three reasons I watch sport and golf doesn’t get a tick in any of the boxes.
1) I love the game
A fairly obvious reason for watching sport – you like it! In this category I put rugby league, cricket and football as definites. I grew up watching these sports, know plenty about them and still dream of making it pro in one of them (despite being far too old and patently not good enough). These are the sports I pay money to go and watch and over the last few years I’ve seen the Ashes in Leeds (Australia won), the rugby league World Cup in Limerick (Australia won), the Four Nations in London (Australia won) and the football World Cup in Brazil (Australia didn’t win).
2) Someone could get hurt
(Hint: follow the links, there are some great videos to watch)
I’m not talking about boxers getting killed or career ending broken bones, but I do watch sport because there’s a chance I’ll see something that makes me go “OH MY FUCKING GOD did you see that!”
I’m talking about big hits in rugby union, someone wearing a stick around the knee in hurling, George Groves getting knocked out in boxing or the all in fight in baseball. It’s the reason I’ll watch horse racing over the jumps but would close the curtains if dressage was happening in my front garden.
I don’t really enjoy UFC as a spectacle. If I’m honest, I find it a bit dull. But the chance of great KO, some snot being knocked out of someone’s nose or the Spider’s leg going all bendy keeps me tuned in.
If you think I’m being a bit grim, ask yourself which diving events do you watch in the Olympics of Commonwealth Games? I’m certain it’s only the keen diving fans that watch the 1m spring board, whereas the world is glued to the high boards. Why? Because you’re hoping someone will screw up and belly flop and you can laugh at them while recounting a story about Fat Jonesy who once did that in school.
3) Amazing feats of athletic ability
Track cycling is incredibly boring, right? A bunch of folk wearing hi-tech condoms riding bikes round in an oval. For most track events, the chance of someone taking a tumble is low, so it’s just round and round and round… like NASCAR but without anyone called Chip at the wheel. But I only need to take one look at a track cyclist and I’m hooked. You can see from the shape of them that they are serious athletes in immense condition. Cyclists have legs that are the same dimensions as most people’s waist, they have zero wasted body weight and everything about them is set up to make that bike move round the track at the speed of a small car. They are incredible and I could watch them at the velodrome for days.
Gymnastic power events, yes; rhythm events, no. Shooting, no; hammer throwing, yes. Basketball, yes; baseball, not so much.
It’s the reason I’ll watch wrestling (WWE style) even now I’m an adult. The story lines are a joke and the acting is shambolic, but when a 110kilo guy (and bigger) does a back flip from 15 feet to crash through a table … I take my hat off to them.
Which leads me to another point: a lot of athletes who achieve these amazing feats look like they take illegal supplements (or have been proven to have taken them). While I agree this taints their competitive achievements, it doesn’t change they do amazing things. Look at the wrestling example – well all know how ridiculous it is, but Hulk Hogan still had to lift Andre The Giant above his head, steroids or not. Lance Armstrong may have been the leader of sophisticated drugs programme, but go and stand at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez and tell me you’re not impressed that he could ride up that.
Hole in 1
Which brings me back to golf. I’m not a big golf fan – I’m not very good with the bats they use, and didn’t spend hours playing or watching as a kid. Perhaps there’s an argument that a spectator could get hurt, but for me to watch it under the “someone could get hurt” banner, they’d have to blind fold the players before teeing off. And while walking a golf course for hours in boiling sun isn’t as easy as you might think, it’s hardly comparable with a triathlon.
I realise I may have spent too long thinking about why I watch sport – a quick “because I enjoy it” would probably work as an answer too. But that’s me: a super keen sports badger who probably needs to get out more.