What About Ted Bishop…and Ourselves?
As I reacted internally to the Ted Bishop remark on Ian Poulter, I began to think of the places where one is allowed to speak in such a way, and where one is not. My mind went to the playground, where such speech is fairly normal, with the hope that the playground age group will eventually mature and rise above it.
As a writer, my ability to engage in name-calling depends on the approval of those who ask me to write. Even given that, however, it is hoped that I, too, have left the playground behind. A fan can call anyone whatever he wants. However, the head of an institution that presides over a major international game and its twenty-seven thousand professional practitioners cannot. Ted Bishop did, and now he’s gone.
In one sense, I am always sad to see an individual blow his list of life achievements based on what he or she should have said, or what he or she should not have said – or done. Joe Paterno comes to mind. That doesn’t change the fact that such error can be career-ending. I am not well-versed in the minutae of Bishop’s career as the 38th President of the PGA – the tour, the Ryder Cup, and a lot of other stuff depended on Bishop – in the benefit of the doubt department, I will quote Davis Love III – “His heart is in the right place…just maybe not his comments.”
Still, the sin of the preacher is a bigger deal in political circles than the sin of a parishioner, and Bishop played too loose with his own rhetorical gifts to make direct fun of a former leading money winner from the European Tour – I say that knowing that I’ve been tempted to do it myself, but Bishop should not have.
And, there is another viewpoint that I had not considered, an important one. It came to me while reading an article on Bishop written by Evan Farrell, an ESPN writer, and an African-American. To him, the off-handedness of the speech rang much the same way as hopefully-antique speech once rang at the center of America’s racial struggles.
When women describe an experience to me that I cannot experience, there is a point at which I must simply listen, and take her word as the truth – and so I must do the same with Mr. Farrell. I have not had his specific racial experience, although no one of any race is immune to hearing speech that rings wrong to them. So, I will let him correct me on the point, and forgive me for not picking up on it right away.
Part of that speech that “rings wrong” is associated, according to Mr. Farrell, with a “know your place, stay in your place” mentality. That one, I know really well, and entirely agree. The reference to Ian Poulter as a “L’il Girl” is not just about Ian Poulter. It’s about girls, and women, and anyone else who needs to know his or her place. As a son, a brother, and a father to a family of exceptional female talents, I’ll put up my dukes over that one, regardless of its suitability for my daily nature. I’m also a supporter of the LPGA as a group of high-level professional women exercising their competitive craft, not as a tour for PGA presidents to ogle or to use in lesser comparisons.
We can see, then, that there are several viewpoints and vulnerabilities to consider when we speak. What is perfectly innocent to one person’s experience can be racist, sexist, unmannerly, and just plain stupid, whether that person has any awareness of it at all. The President of the PGA must be aware. To keep the golf world an enlightened place, we should all run through our checklist before speaking, no matter how irresistibly funny we think it might play.
Whatever Ted Bishop’s accomplishments might be – my thanks and congratulations. As for recent incidents, so long and good luck. We need someone at the head of the game who can go through his checklist first. You head a game where a person’s place is where he or she qualifies on the course, and where the fan, the players, all the tours and the opponent are all respected.