By Robert Bicknell

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July 16, 2006

Zidane should be banned, not praised...

Before getting into this week’s column, interested parties should note that the Gannon Vietnam Open Championship, originally scheduled for June in Phan Thiet has been moved August 25th -27th.

The Yuccas should be wilted nicely by then, so I will have my revenge.

See you there!

Last week, I had a mini-rant about the World Cup’s apparent lack of ethics and lo and behold, during the final match a genuine act of sheer stupidity takes place when France’s star player, Zinedine Zidane, head-butts another player in the chest, gets thrown out of the game, his team loses because of it and he is still handed the "Golden Ball?"


Zidane’s supporters claim that angry passion has always been a critical factor in his game. The also claim his occasional bouts of anger is a small price to pay for his genius in the midfield.

I think otherwise.

Look, there is no question that Zidane is a brilliant player, but with a position as one of the game’s stars, there is a certain degree of responsibility which goes with it. Children admire and emulate him, which explains the shaved heads all over Europe, so what kind of example is FIFA setting by giving him the Golden Ball after committing an intentional assault on another player?

Zidane claims that Materazzi insulted his mother and sister. Oh horrors! As if that never happened to him or any other player during a critical game. Insults directed at mothers, sisters and parentage have been around since the beginning of time, they are nothing new – especially in sports.

A few nouns and adjectives combined to elicit a prescribed response – in this case, to get Zidane irritated enough to do something truly stupid. While I personally don’t like gamesmanship, Materazzi should get credit for neutralising the most dangerous player on the field and helping his team.

Talking trash has a single purpose - to throw off another player’s concentration and is common in almost every sport, except golf, and players have to learn to deal with it.

Baseball players are always doing it, especially during exchanges between the catcher and the batter. One of the funniest I’ve heard was a catcher asking the batter "How’s your wife and my kids?"

In golf, we call it "gamesmanship" and while nobody actually "talks trash" because it is a "gentleman’s game", different more subtle acts occasionally take place. Seve Ballesteros was a master at gamesmanship, especially during his Ryder Cup appearances.

It got so bad at one point that American players would carry packets of throat lozenges in their golf bags just in case Seve would cough or clear his throat at a critical moment. He would also wait until you stood over your putt before saying "It’s good, no need to putt. Didn’t you hear me say that?" in hopes of getting under his opponent’s skin.

Gamesmanship is much more prevalent in amateur play, especially amongst friends or acquaintances because, your friends know how to annoy you in more ways than a stranger could ever dream.

Tearing the Velcro strip on a golf glove during a friend’s backswing, rattling clubs, jingling loose coins in your pocket are all pretty much common tactics, as is a well-timed sneeze or cough. Asking a player if he "inhales or exhales at impact" is another way to drive someone nuts for a few holes if he’s foolish enough to fall for it and, for the record, it works for tennis players too.

When I play with some of my friends, we "chirp" like crazy during the round. Comments like, "don’t stub your club", "nice lake out there" and "does your husband play golf too" get thrown around like crazy. The difference is that, while it’s still gamesmanship, its so obviously blatant that its funny. Sure, there are times when we get serious, but if the stakes are not life-threatening, chirping is part of the fun.

As an experienced professional, Zidane should’ve just ignored the comments instead of blowing his top over nothing and invite disaster for his team…

Besides, winning would’ve been the best revenge.

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