The Ryder Cup is a pretty cool event.
Every other year, the best golfers from the United States play the best golfers from Europe in a three-day competition, alternating between courses in the US and Europe.
While all of these guys (women play in a tournament for the Solheim Cup) are millionaires, the Ryder Cup carries no prize money. It’s played for pride and bragging rights, and consequently the usual decorum that golfers adhere to during a typical, gentlemanly tour event often gives way to demonstrative fist-pumping, bear hugs, and loud cheering.
If only the fans limited themselves to that.
Because of the pandemic, European fans couldn’t travel to Wisconsin for this year’s Ryder Cup, leaving the gallery almost entirely American.
Belying the reputation of Midwesterners being the most decent of sports fans, the gallery at Whistling Straits was infiltrated by beer-swilling boors who booed and heckled the European players mercilessly.
Some cite the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline as the beginning of the end of classy Ryder Cups, but, by some accounts, the conduct of fans in Wisconsin set a new standard for rude and crude.
Jordan Spieth, one of the American players, rebuked his own fans, telling them to learn some manners.
The American team won in a rout, but the actions of a minority of loud, obnoxious halfwits in the crowd left a sour taste.
They were not an anomaly.
A few hours after the US’s Daniel Berger shook hands with England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, mercifully ending Team Europe’s misery, I watched on TV as the Red Sox imploded in the 8th inning for the second consecutive night against the New York Yankees.
In the middle of yet another Red Sox collapse at Fenway Park against their greatest rivals, the ESPN camera lingered on a guy wearing a Sox jersey in the stands, repeatedly mouthing the words, “Yankees suck!”
Leave aside that, at that very moment, as they were reeling off yet another late-inning comeback against a team they are dueling for a playoff spot, the Yankees were not sucking anything but the fumes of the reeling Red Sox, what grown man, in this day and age, stands up anywhere in public and screams “Yankees suck!”
According to the Chinese calendar, 2021 is the Year of the Ox. But it looks more like the Year of the Jerk.
The year began with the nation’s biggest jerk encouraging a bunch of seditious jerks to march up to the Capitol. We all know what happened next.
Donald Trump’s presidency emboldened jerks like never before, but he is a symptom of the problem, not the cause. Americans have been getting ruder and cruder by the generation.
The pandemic, meanwhile, has mass produced and jet-fueled jerks like never before, people whose refusal to get vaccinated is rooted more in selfishness and willful ignorance than any legitimate expression of personal freedom. They are the personification of a jerk: It’s not that they don’t care if they get sick, it’s that they don’t care if they get someone else sick.
In Idaho, some guy threatened to shoot a doctor if she didn’t treat his father-in-law’s COVID-19 with ivermectin, a deworming medication that is the newest panacea of the conspiracy crowd. Not surprisingly, Idaho, where the potatoes have more sense than some of the residents, has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, which translates, by my calculus, to a high rate of jerks.
You couldn’t pay me to get on a plane right now. Jerks rule. In the first nine months of 2021, the FAA investigated more cases of air rage than in the previous six years combined.
Like the behavior at the Ryder Cup, a lot of air rage is fueled by booze. But, again, it’s a symptom, not a cause.
The Year of the Jerk may well be the start of a new epoch of unbounded behavior. What a sorry gift to the future.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.