It’s a sad morning when you realize that you’ve started a discussion with, “back in my day.” But that doesn’t make the point any less valid.
Back in the day, not too long ago as a matter of fact, the term “put someone in short pants” was a put-down, the equivalent of what today’s kids refer to as “pwning,” an abhorrent linguistic mishmash meaning “to own” or to metaphorically stomp someone. The older line was better, in part because it had so many subtle variations. “I think your mama just ironed your short britches.” “You want me to slow down so you can change into shorts?” “Arnold Palmer was so cool he put Steve McQueen in short pants.”
You get the idea. It was a needle, a good-natured rib. A roundabout way of calling a guy (and only men said this) a tyke, a child, a beginner.
So, now comes a new rule from the European Tour allowing professional golfers to wear shorts in pro-ams, a development that has some players, such as Ian Poulter, jumping up and down like … well, you know.
Jordan Spieth, on the other side of the world in Abu Dhabi this week, said he didn’t object to shorts and, in fact, thought it was a fine idea.
But it’s not, and not for the reasons that many, including James Corrigan, a thoughtful writer and thinker in the game, suggest.
Tradition is the standard cry whenever an older voice suggests that things are better left the way they are. Invariably, some whippersnapper will yell, “Things change!” and throw out tweed coats, knickers, neckties, and hickory shafts whenever anyone who knows how carburetors and rotary phones work stands athwart an oncoming change and screams, “Stop!”
In this case, though, banning short pants on tour is not a matter of tradition, it’s a matter of professionalism, an evolving standard that has seen the acceptance of facial hair (Deane Beman used to fine players if their sideburns got too long), camouflage outerwear, and shoes that most people wouldn’t wear bowling.
Shorts are a bridge too far. Think of other sports. Cam Newton would be a lot more comfortable giving his press conferences in shorts this weekend, but he won’t be wearing them because the NFL won’t allow it, just as the NBA requires players to dress up before sitting down in front of cameras. As a tour player, you are a cut above Average Joe at the local muni. That’s why you have your name on a staff bag and a clothing contract that keeps you in all those shirts. You need to separate yourself from the masses by wearing slacks on the golf course, not because it’s a tradition, but because, in short pants, you look like a goober.
I’ve seen Jason Dufner in shorts; I’ve seen Mark Calcavecchia’s legs; I’ve seen Spieth’s knobby knees and Charley Howell’s zombie-white calves. Trust me, we need to save the public from these images, especially the children. Some things are better left unseen.