"His first television work was writing for "Late Night With David Letterman," for which he won three Emmy Awards. His fourth Emmy was for his work on "TV Nation."
OK, so we see that he's well prepared to write comedy. He's written columns for two professionals who are comedians, one, a professional comedian, and a man who thinks it's funny to make jokes about Republican politicians underage kids 'playing' with famous athletes, while mom scours Manhattan stocking up on 'hoochie' wear, the other, a professional who is unintentionally comic, an alleged everyman from Flint....er...Davison.. Michigan, Michael Moore, noted lover of Cuban Health Care, and all things Republican.
OK. Got it. So, we can see Cohen is well placed to write a witty sophisticated column that will appeal to the average NYT reader. So..
What preparation does he have for writing an ethics column? The blurb continues:"He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it. For two years, he wrote and edited News Quiz for Slate, the online magazine."
OK, so he has FIVE Emmy's. Got it. Quite impressive. Not quite sure how that qualifies him as an ethics Solon, but, hey, it's the Times. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt.
The blurb helpfully concludes:
"Currently he writes the The Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine.."
Just in case we couldn't make that inference. Oh, and in case you couldn't tell, the column is a regular feature:
"Each week, in Moral of the Story, he will examine a news story from an ethical perspective."
Well, OK, enough snark about the writer, what about the column itself? What does it have to say? How sound is that ethical analysis?
It seems the IOC (noted for its high level of ethics) has voted to recommend Golf be added as an Olympic Sport (presumably for the summer games..although the thought of tundra golf does have appeal). Meanwhile noted nutbag, and friend of Cuba, Hugo Chavez has cracked down on golf, denouncing it as "bourgeois." (Don't laugh Middle America! First they came for Golf, then Tennis, next it will be Bowling.)
Well, Cohen would like to ethically analyze the culture and institutions that have grown up around Golf, with an eye toward determining whether or not it is in the spirit of the Olympics. At least I think that's what he is on about.
So, with some prefatory caveats he begins:
The golf community, like most others, is neither monolithic nor immutable, but the current customs and values of big-time professional golfers, those most likely to dominate Olympic play, seem remote from the Olympic ideal.
OK, he seems to have knowledge, beforehand, that Olympic Golf, like basketball and hockey will be dominated by professionals. How does he know? Who knows.
Well, granted that assumption, he complains, or rather an Irish columnist he quotes complains, that these professional Golfers, at least the ones from the States, are "ugly Americans." They drive luxury cars, divorce, and speak in cliche's during television interviews.
(Not to get too tu qoque on Cohen's or the Irishman's tukus, but, what automobiles do they drive, pray tell? And are they always founts of smashing eloquence? Is this a moral failing anyway?)
How does any of this, if true, detract from the Olympic ethos? It seems to me, the best case that could be made in that direction is based on the fact that these guys are not amateurs. This doesn't even pop up in the discussion. Perhaps that is not the touchy bit, but rather that they are professionals of a certain sort is really what imperils the ethos. Yeah, that's the ticket. That must be it:
American golfers are even more homogeneous and more conservative than their global colleagues, Selcraig asserts, citing a Sports Illustrated survey of 76 P.G.A. tour players: 91 percent endorsed the confirmation of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.; 88 percent supported the invasion of Iraq; and 0 percent had seen “Brokeback Mountain.” Not science, perhaps, but not unrevealing.
Oh. I see. The fog lifts. These guys are ***shudder*** conservative. That makes them morally suspect, makes them not fit for the Olympic ethos. Gotcha.
So, if George Soros or Michael Moore were professional golfers, and either driving Hugos, or never divorced, or supporters of liberal leaning supreme court justices, and had viewed an appropriately PC movie, then BAM, they would presumably be OK for the Olympic ethos.
Cohen then quotes the Olympic website: It champions peace, fair play, sportsmanship, and wants to create a better world via education of youth through sports, practiced without discrimination. This, of course sets him up for a follow on volley, after that initial overwhelming bit of shock and awe:
He argues that golf is objectionably exclusive, like gated communities, which, of course are only inhabited by conservatives. He cites Augusta National, (aka; the he-man-woman-hater's-club) ruckus that ensued when Tiger Woods did not boycott the Masters in 2002. Cohen doesn't like the fact that Augusta National doesn't have female members, and was racially discriminatory in its past. The club is private, exclusive and memberships are by invitation only.
Now, all this is undoubtedly true, but is it representative of the sport? Is it representative of the individuals that play, and clubs and public courses around the nation? Probably not. Granted, I am no expert on the culture, and don't play one in the blogosphere, but simply by media osmosis I think I have enough data to safely wager that Cohen is being unfair, letting his biases get the better of him.
Just to pick on Tiger, since he seems to be the favorite whipping boy:
Woods does many things of a very admirable nature that he does not trumpet. Just this year he provided free tickets to his tournament for large numbers of inner-city kids, and veterans. Absolutely free through Navy MWR and other venues. He doesn't advertise that he does this, but 'facts is facts' as they say. He has always been a class act off the green or course, whatever the correct term is. He works with kids constantly. And there are other instances of such class individuals in the golf world. There are many instances of open and inclusive clubs as well. There are many public courses, offering free courses to kids that wouldn't be able to afford it. There are numerous school programs, PGA sponsored charity events, and countless similar events sponsored at all levels of the game. Just scour your newspapers. Overall, the institution, the "game" is very socially conscious. The good far outweighs the bad. To concentrate on Augusta to the exclusion of these other very numerous instances is sloppy and fallacious argumentation. The same sort of sloppy critique could be aimed at other Olympic sports. More than one commenter on Cohen's piece suggested Equestrian sports. Certainly, at least the image that comes to mind is aristocratic, which I would assume would associate with "conservative" in Cohen's mind. But, I dare say, that picture would run the risk of being as inaccurate as Cohen's picture of golf.
Now, Cohen makes short work of this line of defense:
Reactionary bastions like Augusta are not the whole story. Golf is also played on public courses — there are 16,000 nationwide — and some pros emerge from that modest terrain. New York City, for example, has 12 municipal courses. (Queens, with four, has the most. Manhattan has none, although I can envision a concrete course that begins with a tee at the Apollo and ends on a green near the stock exchange. It’ll keep pedestrians alert.) Yet golfers appear to be a less diverse group, and a group less interested in diversity, than, say, soccer players or runners. As Chávez put it: “There are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people’s sport?” He answered his own question: “It is not.”
Leaving the last word to noted populist Hugo Chaves, who I'm sure, does not live in anything like a gated community, and is a true champion of diversity, just as long as you agree with him (Otherwise he'll shut ya down) is curious. And, how exactly does Solon know that runners and soccer players are more "interested" in diversity anyway? By how they look? What they do? He doesn't' deign to offer.
Blazing a new trail of ethical critique, Cohen then goes on to indict the sport for environmental sins. What with the thousand of kilos of chemicals used to maintain courses, and the water that would be better spent on the multitudes of thirsty in adjacent neighborhoods, Big Golf (r) yet again shows moral insensitivity.
I dare say that more than one sport can be so indicted. Nothing unique here. Cohen's argument concludes:
Every big-time sport has its disheartening elements. College basketball, a game I love, is marred by periodic recruiting scandals; academic mischief; the strange behavior of the N.C.A.A., its governing body; and Rick Pitino’s love life. Perhaps the only moments of grace and beauty and virtue in any game occur during actual play, and we should not look too closely at its broader culture and implicit ethics without expecting to be dismayed. But there are genuine differences between the ethos of one sport and another. It is hard to imagine the Duke of Wellington declaring, “The Battle of Waterloo was won in the corporate hospitality tents of the P.G.A. tour.”
Not quite sure what the last reference is getting at, but rest assured, he does think the "ethos" of Golf is sufficiently suspect, as compared to others, to make it advisable to NOT include it as an Olympic sport. I suspect he means there is not nearly enough "social justice" work being done by Golf, as opposed to other sports.
My read is that there probably is much more than he suspects, just as there is in basketball, his chosen foil.
He is right to point out that sports in our culture does harbor scandal, ethical lapses etc.., but the claim that Golf is any more prone to these sorts of things than other sports, is any more "reactionary" (cough cough **"conservative" **cough cough) than other sports, to such a degree as to morally require its exclusion from Olympic events is, to say the least, suspect, if not risible.