Patriotism is the intrinsic creed of American sport. You don’t become known as Captain America unless you have exhibited the holy trinity of traits: a fiery will to win, a bulletproof confidence, and an eagerness to wrap yourself in the flag. You need to back it up with results, obviously, but our stubborn veneration of these attributes also helps annul any less admirable character quirks a winner might possess.
For example, an unscrupulous reputation earned as a sallow young man is forgotten if a major victory brings global prestige. It’s simply assumed you’ll rise to the responsibilities expected, like honor, integrity, professionalism, diplomacy. You’re representing America, after all.
And if you’re congenitally incapable of living up to the ideals Captain America embodies? If you are the sickly man and not the superhero? Just keep winning. It’s the serum that transforms feeble into fearsome. You can even stray out of bounds — hey, we’re all human! — and you’ll be forgiven, as long as the ledger shows positive numbers. Rewrite the rulebook in pursuit of victory. Push beyond arcane conventions. Be confident, brazen even. If you nudge beyond accepted norms and you’re famous, they just let you keep doing it.
There will be critics who treat you unfairly, but some folks are just triggered by seeing a winner do things his own way rather than conduct himself like generations of long-dead predecessors. They wouldn’t be making such a big deal of things if you weren’t Captain America. They’re just not supporters of the team. Simple as.
There will be challenging times, days when you’re just trying to dig yourself out of a hole. That’s when Captain America needs his team to circle the wagons against incoming fire. You’ll need, say, a fellow winner to reassure everyone that things are good. A popular teammate to leaven the tension with humor, knowing you’ll trade a pained smile for the air cover he provides. A law-abiding gentleman to offer praise, even if it feels undeserved. Armed with that, you can openly shovel scorn on your critics. Maybe even have someone knock the hell out of them.
Eventually the wins will begin to ebb and the losses will start to flow, and like lousy casino bets the occasional positive won’t cover the many negatives. You’ll still receive more grace than you give though. And in those moments of loss, people will know you stood firm against headwinds that flipped weaker men. Others will perform better, and represent better, but the team won’t break ranks while its interest and yours remain aligned. And that interest is winning. Who will bench Captain America for fear an unproven alternative delivers less?
It’s like you always say: you make birdies, you don’t hear much.
Investing in Captain America comes at a cost, of course. Everyone understands that accounting. Longtime allies will melt away. Reputations built on probity will be blemished. Men of character will sit on the sidelines while one with none takes the field. But payment for that will be due someone else. Captain America’s end, when it comes, won’t be amid the raucous cheers and backslapping that defined his victories. It will be a somber affair, decided in some nondescript office when powerful men, an eye trained on their disillusioned core supporters, say simply, enough.
Golfweek.com, December 15, 2019.