By Mark Vasto
A few weeks ago at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods may have accomplished his greatest feat as a golfer: missing a birdie putt.
Woods probably would have made the shot if some [expletive deleted] hadn’t taken the moment of his backswing to yell out, “GET IN THE HOLE!” The backlash among those in attendance toward the offender was swift. They were able to track the guy down and shame him on social media, and one hopes, got him kicked out and banned from the venue for life.
Now if this had happened to a lesser golfer — say, someone at the back end of the draw or someone like John Daly (who people probably just assume likes that sort that of thing) — we’d still have to put up with hearing that at golf tournaments. But one hopes that Torrey Pines became that stupid, obnoxious, brainless, unsportsmanlike shout’s Waterloo. Let it end there.
Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more recently the #MeToo movement, significant social change has a way of creeping up on us until all of a sudden, it reaches a crescendo that is too strong to be stopped. In sports, we remember the day that Jackie Robinson first took to the field in Brooklyn as such a moment. Shortly after, the color barrier broke all across the country.
Years later, kids reading a sports almanac could only furrow their brows and ask if such a day really existed … a time when a black guy couldn’t play big-league sports. And we remember the day Billie Jean King said she wasn’t going to play without equal pay — that she wasn’t going to be penalized for being a woman.
Sports mirrors society, but often it is a step ahead when it comes to morals and judgment. Every time sports is faced with some ridiculous set of discriminatory rules or off-base judgments, a core group of leaders pay attention to what sports is supposed to be — competition among your peers utilizing a universal and equal set of rules — and make changes. It doesn’t always happen as quickly as we’d like or deserve, but in general, it happens.
Last month it happened in Cleveland. Since 1932, the Cleveland Indians have employed a stereotype as their “logo” (even though it also was clearly marketed or implied to be serving as a “mascot” for decades). Never mind that “Indians” in North America were never “Indians” to begin with, the fact that too many sports fans couldn’t see the ridiculous use of “Chief Wahoo” as a logo for a team that had just moved into “Progressive Field” is a real scalp scratcher.
And now we turn the tide toward Washington, D.C.’s professional football franchise and its abysmally tone-deaf and dictionary-defined racist slur “Redskin” moniker. Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, has vowed NEVER to change the team’s name. But Snyder is on the wrong side of history, and like his team of late, he will lose.
The Washington football team will change its name with or without him –preferably without. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not only on the wrong side of history, but needs to seriously consider crawling back into the hole they came from. Time’s up, Snyder … let’s see how long it takes for you to get the message everyone else seems to have gotten but you.
Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.(c) 2018 King Features Synd., Inc.