Sergio’s Gaffe: Context And Consequence

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND | The crowd reaction at Merion could be totally different but at Wentworth last week there was no hounding of Sergio García for his “racist remark” at the Players’ Awards Dinner. Indeed, when the Spaniard teed up on Thursday flanked by two old friends in Gonzalo Fernández Castaño and Luke Donald, the air was full of applause and encouraging whistles. No more did the paying public round on George O’Grady, the European Tour’s CEO, after he used the word “coloured” when referring to García’s many friends in sport. Presumably, those Sky viewers who rang in to complain were too busy trying to catch out the next person on the politically correct front to come to Wentworth. That’s the trouble in the U.K. A lot of people from O’Grady’s era have not picked up on the unwritten rules. Once they “get it,” they are altogether more careful, though there would never have been any intended malice in the first place. Real racism does raise its ugly head in U.K. football on occasion and is dealt with appropriately. Yet – and here you can see why the British are somewhat mixed up – no one minds overmuch when the Scots slag off the English. In sport, Scots not only want to beat the so-called “auld enemy” themselves, they want everyone else to hammer them, too. To go back to the scene of García’s misdemeanour, the Spaniard and the rest of the 2012 winning Ryder Cup team had been summoned to the stage by way of a finale to what had been the best in celebratory evenings. Steve Sands, the U.S. compere, asked each player a question and each of the questions was as straightforward as the next until it came to García’s. Presumably seeking a change of pace, Sands visited García’s recent spat with Tiger Woods, the one that began when the Spaniard suggested that Tiger had distracted him during the Players Championship. Referencing the forthcoming U.S. Open, for which García has rented a house with Fernández-Castaño, Sands asked, “Will you be inviting Tiger to dinner?” García’s response was in matching vein. He said “Yes,” and drew plenty of laughter with his little punch line of “Every night.” The pity was that the laughter did not drown out what came next. In a risqué parody of Fuzzy Zoeller’s infamous comment about how Woods would choose “Fried chicken and collard greens – or whatever they serve,” for his 1999 champions dinner at Augusta, García said, “We will have fried chicken.” The mood of the evening changed in a flash. Justin Rose reported “nervous giggles” among Ryder Cup colleagues.


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