Mar 3, 2013

Rory McIlroy's Sudden Secession & Our Passion for Ever Younger Players

Rory McIlroy                   photo credit: mirsasha via photopin cc

I think it's interesting that we push for - and then idolize - ever more youthful champions

In fact, we're so quick to abandon our "teen phenoms" for "pre-teen phenoms" and discard our "young guns" for "younger guns" that a number of today's top players are still shy of the quarter century mark... and most have been competing relentlessly since they were tiny tots.  

It's exhilarating to watch a winning player who seems fearless.  Youth, by its very nature, will often beget fearlessness.  So our passion for these precocious pros is rather easily understood ...and it only adds to the impressiveness factor when poise and maturity are tacked on to the fearlessness.  The young player possessing that particular triad of qualities is sure to become an immediate star.

With that kind of stardom, however, comes corresponding (and often unrealistic) expectations; we feel we've finally found a very young person who'll consistently offer us a winning game and exemplary behavior, and when the expectations are not met, we'll likely forget about our lapsed savior's extreme youth... or the fact that he may have had to miss out on a life-lesson or two in his singular quest to become so good, so fast. 

For the wow factor, we want our athletes to be ever younger, but the reality is that lack of life experience will often result in questionable decisions, so should Rory McIlroy's sudden secession halfway through Friday's second round at the Honda Classic be as shocking as some are making it out to be?  After all young people make questionable decisions all the time and neuroscientists now agree that the human brain is not fully mature until at least age 25

Jack Nicklaus deftly distilled the current "Rory Story" this way: "I think he's a little frustrated, and he's frustrated at himself right now," later adding, " ...if he had waited five more minutes he wouldn't have done that."  I agree but I think that if we want our sports stars to attain lofty heights at increasingly younger ages we've got to figure that... on occasion... they won't want to wait that five more minutes.