Professional sport can be crass and cynical and nauseating and often all three at the same time as two events in the past few days served only to prove.
On Sunday, many of those who play tournament golf on the European Tour and those who run it engaged in an act that defies belief on the Atlantic island of Madeira.
On Tuesday, those who run Tottenham Hotspur football club sacked their manager in another example of the barbaric and heartless nature of Premier League football.
Let’s start with the golf, a sport that is close to my heart. On Sunday afternoon, in the town of Cobh, the European Tour hosted an Irish Open media event aboard a huge cruise liner in the very famous port town.
Shane Lowry, Irish Open champion as an amateur in 2009, was on board to entertain those media members who could attend – I couldn’t due to office commitments – with his take on this year’s championship at the nearby Fota Island resort, quite a nice golf course as it happens.
A few hundred miles away as the seagulls fly, and within range of the same Atlantic winds, a caddy died on the side of a green during the Madeira Islands Open on the Portuguese colony.
Iain McGregor was a 52-year-old native of Zimbabwe who was caddying for Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth at the time of his heart attack.
Despite medical efforts, McGregor sadly died before his player could complete his round in the middle of a tournament already reduced to 36 holes because of horrendous weather on the holiday isle.
Play, initially, was postponed and a minute’s silence held in McGregor’s honor at the putting green at the hilly Santo da Serra course, some 2,000 feet above sea level.
Incredibly, and with Forsyth himself going on to complete his round, the tournament resumed at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening in what amounted to a vulgar move by a professional sport if ever there was one.
Thankfully Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, a member of the European Tour’s player’s committee, had the moral fiber to refuse to go back out on the course and withdrew from the tournament in McGregor’s memory.
Lawrie, a Dubliner who is currently struggling to regain past glories on tour, couldn’t believe that his fellow players and the tour’s bosses were happy to play just hours after one of their own had died on a golf course.
I’m with him on this one. The tournament should have been halted there and then and the prize money, as Lawrie had suggested, should have been donated in McGregor’s memory to his heartbroken family.
Instead professional golf proved to be nothing more than greedy in Madeira last Sunday, the same professional golf they want us to support at Fota Island in Cork next month as many of the players who played on in Madeira visit these shores.
They should be ashamed of themselves but we shouldn’t be surprised by their attitude. Money, as has often been suggested, is at the root of all evil, and money was definitely a factor in the decision to finish that Madeira tournament.
Forsyth himself has claimed that McGregor would have wanted him to play on, but does he really believe that? I doubt it.
Golf isn’t the only sport where money has caused those in charge of the game to lose the run of themselves.
This week alone Pepe Mel has been shown the door at West Brom and Tim Sherwood has been sacked by Spurs while Sam Allardyce was in “talks” with the West Ham owners at the time of writing.
All three did a decent if not spectacular job for their Premier League clubs in recent months, and all three were put under pressure by the demands of their bosses.
West Brom stayed in the Premier League but that wasn’t enough to save Mel, less than a season in the job. Ironically our own Chris Hughton, sacked unceremoniously by Norwich before they were relegated, is now the favorite to get the job at the Hawthorns.
Allardyce too did enough to ensure that West Ham play top flight football again next season – and with a few weeks to spare – but that wasn’t enough, or so it seems, for a club that seems to think it should be up there with the really big spenders in England.
And Sherwood, asked to pick up the pieces after the Spurs board handed that maverick Andres Villas-Boas an open checkbook last summer, was shown the door less than 48 hours after a 3-0 win over Aston Villa and a sixth place finish that guarantees Europa League football next season.
The Spurs bureaucrats, led by chairman Daniel Levy, seem to think they deserve better and should have finished in the Champions League spots reserved by Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
They are, of course, living in cuckoo land. but they don’t care and they won’t lose a minute’s sleep over the decision to sack Sherwood, a man who put his heart and soul into his job for the short time they gave him.
Like those associated with that Madeira tournament’s conclusion on Sunday afternoon, they showed us what professional sport is really about this week.
And it doesn’t make for a pretty picture. Shame on them all.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun)
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