TO: Lord Copper, Lady Prunefrump, Sir Eustace Humphgrumble and the rest of the British press barons
FROM: Gene Weingarten, on behalf of the ladies and gentlemen of The Washington Post
RE: The recent unpleasantness at the Ryder Cup Matches in Brookline, Mass.
We apologize for the indecorous behavior of our countrymen who crudely taunted and heckled European athletes at the golf tournament here last week. Their actions merited every unkind headline you wrote, including "United Slobs of America."
We can understand how the vulgarity of our fans might well offend the sensibilities of your many fine London tabloids, such as the Sun, the Mirror, the Sleaze of the World and, of course, the Boob and Bottom.
When this correspondent last visited London, your newspapers were in a bit of a froth over the actions of two executives of the Newcastle United Football Club, who as I recall had been caught carousing with ladies of ill repute; you blanketed this scandal with undercover reporters and hidden cameras and in general gave it as much ink as Hitler got the day he invaded Poland. The football story crowded out much of the other news, though I seem to remember it did not unseat from Page 3 several late-breaking, newsworthy captions beneath photographs of topless young tarts in miniskirts on luncheonette stools.
But I digress.
There is no gainsaying the fact that our fans at the Ryder Cup behaved with a deficit of sportsmanship. They said discourteous things to European star Colin Montgomerie about his girth, and at times celebrated boisterously, fraying the nerves of other players at critical junctures. Moreover, as you pointed out, the American golfers were at times inappropriately exuberant, exhibiting ungentlemanly pride in their performance. "Repugnant triumphalism," pronounced the Evening Standard. The Mirror doled out the severest punishment of all by outright calling us "yobs," a word that I am sure would have filled us with wretched self-loathing if we knew what it meant and if it didn't sound so ludicrously British.
You chaps do come up with the most darling expressions. You could make a steam shovel sound all foppy.
But again I digress.
We understand how our frolicsome display of nationalism might have seemed particularly galling to a proud nation whose empire once spanned the globe but now principally consists of that island of goatherds in the South Atlantic. We feel bad about that. But our greatest mortification lies in how the loutish behavior of our fans created an unfortunate impression of our country. When a nation's sports enthusiasts attend an international event, they become diplomats to the world. We were poor diplomats. We were uncharitable. We cannot contest the Evening Standard's assertion that Americans are "charmless," "rude," "cocky." Also physically "ugly." Also "as odious in victory as they are unsporting in defeat."
We Americans could stand to learn a few lessons from the British, a handsome people with endearingly entertaining dental irregularities. Unlike American sports fans, British soccer enthusiasts are renowned for their impeccable and courtly behavior, except for the looting and maiming and trampling.
I believe you call these folks "hooligans," another one of those cuddly British expressions. It sounds like a sweater knitted by one's mum, or a tough but kindly Irish cop in Boston. ("I'm Officer Hooligan, laddie, and you'd best be on your way.")
So I was startled some time ago when my friend Philip, who is a Brit, warned me that hooligans are individuals one might wish to avoid, particularly at sporting events.
"Sometimes," he said, "hooligans will throw darts into the crowd. Every once in a while the newspapers will carry a photograph of someone being escorted out of the stands by a medic, with a dart sticking out of his forehead at a 45-degree angle. It's considered all in good fun."
Up to a point, Lord Copper.
Anyway, I do not wish to cloud this apology with churlishness. I am certain that hooligans would be perfectly delightful dinner companions once you got out of spitting range.
So let us make no bones about it:
We Americans are dreadfully sorry for the way our fans conducted themselves at the Ryder Cup, and our embarrassment is profound. We shall endeavour to modify our behavior so that never again do we cause you even the slightest discomfort--except that we might have to, at some point in the future, on some playing field, kick your bloomin' arses.
Gene Weingarten is a writer and editor in The Post's Style section. He likes the British because they make him laugh--even when they're not trying to.