Scorn was poured all over me on Sunday night. I was derided, pilloried, mocked.
Had I committed a terrible crime? No. What I had done though, was break the unwritten rule of a being a British sports fan.
I simply stated, boldly and proudly, that I wanted USA’s Jordan Spieth to win the Masters at Augusta.
“You what?!” people began to scream in my direction. “How could you want him to win over Danny Willett?!” “You’ve got to want Danny Willett to win!”
And why was the nation suddenly marching fervently behind a golfer that 95% of them hadn’t heard of until Sunday afternoon in sunny Georgia? Ah of course… because he’s British.
I was expected to suddenly abandon the man who I had been hoping would clinch his second successive green jacket since the tournament began on Thursday, throw away all my knowledge and awareness of the game that I follow all year round and cheer on this lad from Sheffield/Rotherham simply by dint of him being British.
Well I for one, say no.
Firstly, I have no objection at all to Willett. He seems like a fine chap who has achieved something wonderful. However that would be the case if he were from the Philippines, Vanuatu or Sao Tome and Principe.
In fact, there was another lad in contention for a long time, whose achievement would have arguably been even greater. 24-year-old Hideki Matsuyama was in with a shot of becoming the first Japanese golfer to win a major. But I wasn’t expected to start waving around the Japanese flag and championing the virtues of the land of the rising sun.
Willett is British, of course he is, but he wasn’t competing for Britain. He was competing for his own personal trophy cabinet and own personal bank balance – as was everyone in the field at Augusta. Major championships are not a team sport.
Nationality isn’t, and should not be, a determiner of affiliation. Willett was no more or no less deserving of my championing that USA’s Spieth, Germany’s Bernhard Langer or Australia’s Jason Day simply based on the land of his birth.
To emphasise that point, I was urging on Lee Westwood over Willett. Both Brits but I backed Westwood because I’ve watched him over a number of years and it would have been a better story. In the same way that Spieth becoming the first back-to-back wire-to-wire winner of the Masters would have been a great story.
Nationality is irrelevant. I was behind Spieth because I have incredible admiration for what the 22-year-old Texan has achieved in his young career, the way he carries himself, and I am in awe of his ability on the greens. Every sport needs a figurehead, a top dog, and golf couldn’t wish for a better one than Spieth. So I’m sorry my favourite golfer isn’t British, but that’s just the way it is.
It’s the same story whenever a tennis grand slam rolls around. The whole nation goes crazy for Murray-mania and I’m deemed ‘unpatriotic’ for wanting the surly Scot to be unceremoniously hammered by Rafael Nadal. Never mind the fact that Nadal is the most thrilling player I have witnessed in my lifetime, that he is the model professional and that his forehand gets me off my seat every time, I’m not allowed to support him over Andy Murray because he’s not British. Utter twaddle.
And just this morning, I switch on my TV and find Sky Sports News urging me to get behind Manchester City in the Champions League because they are the only British side left in the competition. No, no, no. As a supporter of another British football club, I am more than happy to see every other British team fail miserably in Europe. It’s just the way it is and to suggest that City, an Abu Dhabi-owned club dominated by overseas stars, winning the Champions League would bring about a sense of national pride is bewilderingly bonkers.
This misguided patriotism makes precious little sense. In team sports, I will support a British competitor until the cows come home. When Danny Willett competes for Europe in the Ryder Cup, nobody will cheer louder than me. When Manchester City’s Joe Hart pulls on that England shirt at Euro 2016 this summer, I’ll be wanting him to save that Gareth Bale penalty as much as the next man.
But don’t expect me to base my allegiance in individual or club sports on nationality. It’s a preposterous idea of patriotism that I just don’t subscribe to.
So that’s why I was hoping against hope that Spieth would knock in a hole-in-one on the 16th at Augusta, and that he would birdie the last two holes to snatch the green jacket away from Britain’s Willett.
If that’s unpatriotic, then take me to the Tower and hand me to the ravens.
Feature Image: Paul Childs/Reuters