For many, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia battling on the back-nine at Augusta for the green jacket was the essence of sportsmanship. And more specifically, it represented everything that’s great about tournament golf: two leaders paired together trading shots, congratulating one another where appropriate, but still battling hard.
However, professional polemicist that he is, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith didn’t feel the same way. While there’s usually little point in publicizing the comments of a man who is paid to be incendiary, it’s worth examining what ole’ Stephen A. had to say, because his comments carry weight.
Appearing on ESPN’s First Take Monday to offer his assessment of the Masters, Smith said:
“First of all golf disgusts me sometimes…This notion that we’re really not competing against each other. We’re really just playing golf and it’s really competing against the course. Nonsense.”
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Well, technically, it’s not nonsense, Stephen, but rather that’s the essence of medal play golf: Players play the same course and the lowest score wins. You can make an argument in a situation like Sunday at the Masters, where two players paired together separate from the field, things are a bit different. But saying “nonsense,” is, well, nonsense.
Smith continued: “I damn near told them to get a room. It was ridiculous, how they were with one another…I want to see you rooting for the other to fail because you want to win…We want to get the impression that losing hurts you.”
“Rooting for the other to fail?” What would that even look like? Fist-pumping when an opponent misses a putt? Jumping for joy when he hits a shot out of bounds? Come on. That’s just not the way golf works, and shouldn’t be the way other sports work either. Aren’t we all taught that sportsmanship is important? Or is that just a bunch of BS to appease the overly PC people? Plus these guys are friends on Tour, they want the other to do well because they genuinely like and respect each other.
Here’s the reality. First of all, Rose was upset. While he congratulated his long-time friend on the victory, Rose, one of the ultimate class acts in the game, told reporters he was “disappointed” as soon as he came of the green. And perhaps more important for Stephen A., he even looked disappointed!
Second of all, the corollary to an extreme wave of negative emotions when losing is negative emotions and self-defeating thoughts while losing…i.e. When things don’t go your way. You know, the kind of stuff that, say, kept Sergio Garcia from winning a major until a couple of days ago.
Ultimately, if a persona, in this case, Stephen A. Smith, wants to criticize certain elements of the Justin Rose-Sergio Garcia showdown, OK. But to suggest that either man was doing anything other than trying his damnedest to win the Masters? Well, that’s just disrespectful and absurd.