Mar
11
2011
Ishikawa’s Concerns Spark Orgy of Bad Taste
By Conor Nagle under European PGA Tour

Ryo: Schmaltz magnet

Sports journalism loves a narrative. A sick wife, a troubled family, maybe a rebound from drug addiction or alcoholism: any grain of human interest that can lend shape or broader appeal to the unglamorous reality of– let’s be honest here– poorly dressed men wandering around a field hitting white balls with sticks. We love it, yes, but it doesn’t make copy in the way a soaring tale of undying love or redemption does. Sometimes, though, the search for the sentimental heart of a tournament leads to instances of gross insensitivity.

As news of the unfolding tragedy in Japan filtered through to Doral this morning, the press corps were understandably curious about the mental state of the tournament’s Japanese contingent. Yuta Ikeda, visibly affected by the news, declined to speak publicly, ceding media attention young Ryo Ishikawa, who’d also shot a stellar 65 to trail Hunter Mahan by one:

“Q. Was it difficult today?
RYO ISHIKAWA: I’m sorry, I interpreted your question to mean about golf. Maybe you meant something else, but if you talk about golf —

Q. Both.
RYO ISHIKAWA: I started on 13. I had to hit with a long iron and it was a tough situation, but I was able to par save that hole and that got me going again.
If you can imagine, it’s beyond being a distraction for me. I’m worried for the whole country of Japan. The fact that I was finally able to communicate with my parents did help me feel so much better. I just tried focus, but it is a battle out there for me.”

Questions like these, though they walk a fine line between legitimate curiosity and prurience, are acceptable and the press have a right to ask them. Not only that, but Ishikawa seemed relatively at ease drawing a line between his own experiences on the golf course and thoughts of his native Japan, even going so far as to make as meaningful a gesture of solidarity as possible from the press room of a distant multi-million dollar golf tournament:

“Q. How were you able to block that out and still play reasonably well today?
RYO ISHIKAWA: It is not possible to block something of this magnitude out completely. But I understand that in the position that I am, together with the other star athletes from Japan and other sporting areas, we can provide encouragement and hope for the people of Japan by myself doing the job.”

So, full credit to Ishikawa for skilfully negotiating a potentially awkward confrontation with the media. Something considerably less than full credit, however, go to the more eager members of the press corps who ran the story through their Schmaltzy Narrative Generators (a key tool in any golf journo’s kit bag) without hesitation. In a couple of cases, the results were grotesque.

In a story entitled ‘With tragedy on his mind, Ishikawa plays on’ quotes and sentimental cliches perform a delicate dance right up until the cheesetastic money shot of this final paragraph:

“‘The Bashful Prince’ has suddenly found himself placed in a position of playing for a higher calling. Ishikawa has been transformed from a national hero in a sports-passionate country to a global ambassador trying to bring comfort to his troubled homeland. As with all athletes from Japan, Ishikawa plays for more than himself — he plays for the honor of his homeland. Right now, that mission seems more important than ever.”

More important than ever? Really? And I’m sure the WGC’s TV ratings will really spike in Japan this weekend. Somehow, the fallout from the earthquake has become fair game in one journalist’s bid to lace the Cadillac Championship with an additional dose of human interest.

What a preposterous and offensive trivialisation of a tragedy that has possibly killed thousands and ruined countless lives. In conjuring this transformation of Ishikawa from “national hero… to global ambassador” out of nothing other than the hackneyed predilictions of an overactive imagination, someone has come really close to scraping the bottom of the barrel.

And what of this headline, a juxtaposition of clauses so tragi-comic as to be Onion-worthy:

“With earthquake on his mind, Japan’s Ishikawa shoots 65”

Yep, that pesky earthquake was a distraction, wasn’t it? Don’t worry, though, he still played well. Glad to see someone’s maintaining a sense of perspective.

Conor*

(*These do not represent Steph’s views)