There’s a plan if I’m still ambulatory and a doctor offers a no-chance diagnosis on an ailment: Drain the bank accounts and spend as long as possible visiting the great capitals of Europe.
I’ve been to Paris a couple of times, and London, and was in Spain for the Olympics and then the Ryder Cup, but Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Prague and a dozen other cities on the Continent … what a way to blow the grandkids’ inheritance.
Plus, a stopover on the Emerald Isle — the homeland of the McDonoughs, my mother’s family — would be a must.
What has been the dream of every teenager raised in the United States for 40, 50 years? Get out of high school, make it across the big pond, hide some weed in a backpack and start hiking or biking across Europe.
I’ve heard of youth actually having accomplished this. Congratulations.
Europe is changing, we hear. Europe isn’t the same, we’re told.
No doubt. And no matter.
I’ve loved Europe on the few visits. Let me throw in a mention of Norway, for the 1994 Winter Olympics. Nicest folks ever, those Norskis. They were embarrassed at winning so much.
Now, we’re supposed to be in an emotional frenzy over the possibility that our magnificent collection of United States golfers (and it is) has a chance to defeat Europe in a series of matches that start Friday at Hazeltine National.
I was at the three Ryder Cups held between 1995 and 1999, and the entertainment was substantial. We don’t see pairs competition and match play often with the world’s top players, so it’s a good time.
The patriotic zeal that accompanies this thing, though — I don’t get it.
We like Europe. There are some old grudges, to be sure, but thank goodness for the united Germany today with the challenges that Europe faces. I’m even going to include Berlin, Munich and my hometown’s namesake, Fulda, in that final swing across the Continent, if it comes to that.
We’re not playing the Soviet Union here. We’re not even playing Putin’s Russia, which would be a contest worth all of that red, white and blue toggery and “USA, USA” chants that will be seen and heard over the next three days on the Chaska acreage.
When the track meets were held between the U.S. and the Soviets, particularly in 1962, that was Cold War stuff. When Team Herbie defeated the Big Red Machine in Lake Placid in 1980, it helped trigger a patriotic outbreak that got Ronald Reagan, the old Commie hater, elected as president in a landslide.
This is Europe. We like Europe, don’t we?
I mean, Danny Willett’s brother, Pete, can’t change that with his colorful view of America and its golf fans, can he? Kenny Olson, a radio colleague of mine, read Pete Willett’s over-the-top essay on us Yanks and said: “This guy’s great. He’s the Hemingway of insults.”
That’s the attitude the spectators should be taking through the gates of Hazeltine early on Friday morning. This is laughs. This is fun.
But that’s not what the PGA of America is selling. They’re selling a mystique that might be the greatest marketing success in American sports.
The Super Bowl comes with real emotions. A U.S. Open or a PGA Championship comes to Hazeltine with 156 golfers to determine the best for that week.
This patriotic-fueled drama has been made out of whole cloth. We hear incessantly about the importance of “The Captain,” and the vice captains, and everyone involved speaks with reverence of the “team room.”
The team room is a locker room where The Captain has a swimmer or a rugby player come in to make motivational speeches, and a magician performs a few tricks to break the tension.
We are assured by veterans and rookies alike on the 12-player squads that there is tremendous chemistry in the team rooms, that everyone gets along with very well, and that’s a key to victory.
It’s either chemistry, or making 20-foot putts for birdie with a chance to close out matches on the 17th hole. Call me naive, but I’m going with the latter. I just don’t think Hondo the Magician’s card tricks, fine as they are, are going to help make putts.
We’re not alone here in the U.S. pushing this idea that there is great international pride involved in establishing our golfers are better than those from Great Britain, Ireland and the Continent.
I was returning from Spain on the day after Europe’s win in the 1997 Ryder Cup. There was a stop in London and I picked up an armful of that city’s fabulous newspapers.
God Bless the Queen, I thought Churchill had come back to lead Europe’s charge against the Yanks, this victory was so glorious.
Enjoy the matches, but remember, it’s Europe.
We like Europe, even if Pete Willett doesn’t like us.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org