Monday, July 18, 2011

Washington Post Column: Darren Clarke, Japan women illustrate sports’ redemptive powers

Here is my latest for The Washington Post ------------

At a time when just about every sports event is inflated into the single most important event of our time, the rare moments that truly do matter can easily slip past us.

Sunday was one of those days. Two remarkable events took place within hours of one another, the kind that remind us there is more to sports than selling ad space on caps and shirts and scoreboards.
Darren Clarke is a man who has endured genuine personal tragedy. Japan is a country that has been through one horror after another in recent months and is still reeling from the natural disasters that have rocked it to the core.

There is nothing that can happen to bring back Clarke’s wife Heather, who died from breast cancer five years ago, leaving him to raise their two sons who were seven and five at the time. There is certainly nothing that can wipe away the death and the suffering caused in Japan by the earthquake and the tsunami that ripped through the country earlier this year.

But Sunday gave those touched by those tragedies a moment to smile and to believe that life can be redemptive.

Clarke’s victory in British Open, 10 years after he last seriously contended in a major championship, was uplifting not only to him and his family and Northern Ireland, but to everyone in the game of golf.
Few players in golf are better-liked than Clarke. He has always been outgoing and funny and self-deprecating. He was always considered a major talent. He led the British Open for three rounds in 1997, and three years later, he easily beat Tiger Woods in the World Match Play final. While he won often around the world, he could never quite get to the finish line in a major.

He was, however, a Ryder Cup stalwart for Europe. Six weeks after Heather’s death in 2006, encouraged by friends and family to play, he won all three matches he played for Ian Woosnam’s team. The memory of the entire European team crowding around Clarke while he wept on Woosnam’s shoulder after his singles victory still lingers.

Click here for the rest of the column: Darren Clarke, Japan women illustrate sports’ redemptive powers


deepvalue said...

Feinstein is right about this one. There is nothing left to preserve or protect in the final game of a major soccer tournament like the World Cup. There should be no PKs to decide a World Cup final. Keep playing soccer at that point!

Anonymous said...

I'm a big John Feinstein fan, but I'm not sure why he is even commenting on the Women's World Cup final, since he is on record as saying he doesn't watch fake sports. Phil Hughes pitched on Sunday, so maybe he was watching that. So really, what's the big deal of Japan winning the same fraudulent prize, that the US won in 1999? It's kind of insulting that we should be impressed that those Japanese women played inspired soccer for something more meaningful, when he thinks that what they won was basically meaningless. Thousands and thousands of fans perpetuated a fraud yesterday, celebrating such fakeness. So I'm not sure why John is taking the opposite side. I also wonder if he feels the AL hasn't played "real" baseball since 1973, when they implemented their own version of penalty kicks with the DH. But I'm not a fan of comparing all sports equally in every matter, so I won't go there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous,

Good luck with the stick removal. Hope everything turns out okay.


Anonymous said...

Hey Deg-

Congrats on the failed attempt at humor. Keep practicing, I'm sure you'll get a funny one eventually.

Anonymous said...

Guess it didn't work... anger's still stuck in there good huh?


Anonymous said...

- fred

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure how to answer. Maybe it will come to me at 3:00 in the morning...that seems to work for you, huh?

Anyway, I wonder if John will address if he actually watched the match and if so, why the change of heart.

Anonymous said...

Depends on your time zone Anonymous... you do seem less angry so congrats there.

John may or may not address it (that's his call as it is his blog) but I'm not gonna get to worked about it either way. Hope you do the same. Take care.


Anonymous said...


That's why I said I wonder if he will address it. I'm not asking him to. It's just weird one week from another in stance of soccer not being "real" and him not watching "fake sports."

Either way, my respect for John will not fade. In the end none of he talks about is all that important.

You take care as well.

Tim said...

Mr. about you go back one post and read what John said in clarification of his soccer comments? He seems to answer what you want him to, only he did it last week.

Anonymous said...


I did read it and I'm sorry he did not clarify his soccer comments. He called the '99 Final "bogus." He said he can't take a sport seriously when it decides its championships by PK's. Those are his words, not ones I am making up. This is after he said on WashPost Live that he doesn't watch "fake sports."

One week later he is describing what Japan did as an example of the redemptive power sports have. Japan won a title in PK's. John's position, stated again on his blog,is he can't take a sport seriously that awards champions in that matter.

My only point is, why the change of heart? Is he going to tell us that what he said was "flippant" because it was, or does John simply not care about what he says one week after another?

It's fine by me to hold an opinion that you don't like PK's. It's fine by me to suggest that taking them isn't "playing soccer." I disagree with both. But that's not the point I'm making.

Would that '99 win mattered more to John if it happened after Hurricane Katrina? Does soccer become more "real" if there is some sort of redemptive angle that can be told?

I don't doubt John loves soccer, but if his love is shown by calling it "fake", "bogus" and not to be taken seriously, why on earth should I take his writing about Japan's win without laughing at his hypocrisy?

I hope that helps explain where I am coming from. Because it is not like John to not own his words, or not mean what he says. Or at least own up if he thinks he is wrong. These are reasons why I enjoy reading him.