The Cup That Runneth Over
Amid the astonishingly lubricated celebrations of Europe's thumping Ryder Cup victory yesterday, Ian Woosnam passed the baton of captaincy on to Nick Faldo, who will lead the holders in 2008 in Louisville, and so brought to an end one of Irish sport's biggest weeks.
At the cinema last night, the trailers before the main feature included the AIB advertisement for the tournament - the one responsible for the portentous "This Will Be Epic" tagline. Watching the ad as the circus in Straffan was being dismantled reminded one of reading a Santa letter in January: the reminder in the excited voiceover tones and stirring music of the level of anticipation and hype that this event engendered, coupled with the vague sense of confusion as to what all the fuss was about.
The emotional nature of the celebrations, in particular as expressed towards Darren Clarke's heart-wrenching weekend, undercuts to some extent a fair amount of any cynicism that the staging of the Ryder Cup attracted. However, it remains true that, in vintage Irish style, opinions in the run-up to the event were polarised into either whooping, bandwagon-jumping enthusiasm on the one hand and sneering scepticism on the other.
The Whoopers were divided into several types. There were the genuine golf enthusiasts - of which there are many in this country which will soon be divided not into counties, but rather into autonomous units of 18 holes - excited at the prospect of so many of the world's top golfers coming to these shores.
Then there were the guffawing socialites and corporate hospitality whores who foresaw a spectacular addition to their "season" of frolicking in marquees, pissed on Dom Perignon and as either obsequious or obnoxious as the occasion deemed necessary.
Shoring up this disparate bunch were the decent, good-natured oul' patriots, delighted at any bit of excitement and attention coming into Ireland, positing that "sure it's good for the country", who would have shed a wee tear over their pint yesterday evening as the crowds sang 'Ole, Ole', sentimentally in wonder at "how far we've come."
Obviously in this group too would be the rip-off merchants of our avaricious isle, foreseeing as they did the arrival of thousands of big daft Yanks desparate to throw their money away. However these people cannot feel positive emotions due to having sold their souls in exchange for an S.U.V.
Huddled in musty corners, whispering to each other conspiratorially and curling their lips in disapproval were the Sneerers. Some hated golf. Nothing more than that. The hatred of golf, in its purest form is a simple thing. It may come from a commitment to class struggle (less marked now in these days when plasterers and fitters contemplate on golf club committees the pleading membership applications of lowly barristers); from a dislike of the pace and genteelness of the game borne of rambunctious youths spent trading punches on GAA pitches; or it could simply be a distrust of any sport that seemingly does not require one to 'tog out'. Whatever, it is an irreemable, unchanging kernel of incomprehension and dismay that resides tumour-like within such people.
The moderate wing of this group were those who have no problem with golf, think it to be a fine examination of a man's skill and nerve but find the Ryder Cup an abomination of the sport, being based as it is on team play. These people feel that if you wanted to play on a team with sticks and balls, then hockey, not golf, is the game for you.
Not as committed, but Sneerers nonetheless, were the people who think almost everything is nonsense. They think the world has gone stone mad anyway - Mobile phones is it? Internet? Hair gel? Nonsense - and the sight of Ireland's giddiness, whether it be for a Eurovision Song Contest or a general election, elicits a shake of the head, a roll of the eyes and the resumption of the perusal of the death notices in the Indo. Bloody Ryder Cup. Big fuss over nothing if you ask me.
You know what the great thing was though? They all got their way. The Ryder Cup delivered on all fronts. The Whoopers had the many fine matches, great shots and bold matchplay; present and correct were the hurrahing hospitality and a flock of helicopters no less impressive were it directed by Coppola; there was the fair-play-to-us stuff that the whole thing went off ok; and, of course, the place was full of cheerfully compliant victims for our scam society. Those that don't like golf could laugh at the weather, those that don't like the Ryder Cup could point to the ridiculous anomaly of Europe's win despite the fact that only one of their ranks possessed a major and for those who have no time for big fusses, well, there was a big fuss.
A success, then.