Monday, July 18, 2011

The Open Man

Darren Clarke, a talented and somewhat underachieving player, has had a successful career in a lucrative field. Like his associates and peers, he's reveling in the great life. That's a given.

I doubt few hackers see themselves in Clarke, other than that he's overweight and doesn't give a shit about it. We're told he likes to have fun. We see the game's best players hover around him after his greatest victory, and they say they couldn't be happier for him.

Why has Clarke has connected so strongly with fans and his colleagues?

In my view, part of the Everyman Theme is Clarke's age and profound disinterest in going to the gym, as well as his notorious thirst for Guinness. But, at least from my perspective and only from what I've observed on TV, Clarke seems to genuinely communicate with the media, fans – anyone involved with the golf industry.

If you happened to catch Golf Channel's LIVE at The Open Championship last night, David Feherty nailed it when he said – words to this effect – that Clarke goes out of his way to interact with fans and media. That he will do interviews and do autographs BEFORE a round, as well as after.

This is not to suggest that Clarke's manner should be a template for all professional golfers, but it would be ideal if more operated that way. This behavior strongly suggests that Clarke is keenly aware of how fortunate those making a living with golf have become, and how important the EveryFan has been and continues to be to the growth of the sport.  

Another integral element, of course, involves cancer, which refuses to play favorites; king or pawn – cancer doesn't care. And for those whose lives have been altered, threatened, and in some cases taken, there's a bond. Clearly, Phil and Mickleson are among those who can relate totally to what happened to Clarke and his family.

We live in the technological fast lane with tiny devices that possess 1,000 times the memory and capability of the massive, oaf-like computer that guided the rocket to the moon. We can connect with someone in Fiji as easily as if they were in the next room. We can send photos and videos of anything to anyone at anytime. We have become Big Brother.

And for the most part, we have also become detached, cynical, too sexy for our shirts, and while we have all of these tools that make contact so simple, we choose the passive/aggressive route. This goes triple for those in the public eye, who seem, in many cases, to put up with answering a few questions about themselves with the attitude that how dare anyone intrude on their self-absorbed, entitled lives.

But petulance is not the only theme. Others crave the attention, but rarely with candor.

For me, the combination of being accessible and truthful is very rare. And that's what I like most about Darren Clarke. He doesn't seem to put up with interviews because his sponsor or agent insisted, nor does he appear to have an agenda, other than sharing his thoughts on what has happened, what is happening, and what it means to him. In essence, he's an open man.

Clarke knows he's living the dream, that his path has also been, at times, a nightmare. He likes to laugh, drink a beer or 10, hang out with attractive women, play golf, and generally enjoy being with those around him. I don't begrudge the fast cars and expensive cigars any more than I begrudge his ability to hit a golf ball. I hope that if I'd had the talent to play professional golf at that level, that I would have also possessed Clarke's consistent consideration and graciousness.

Not every man can do that.

Today, I am grateful that Darren Clarke –the open man – has, at last, claimed The Open Championship.