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Ridin' That Train
Richard Hoffer
March 23, 1998
Increasingly, there's this ideology juggernaut. Some cause comes along that brooks no sensible opposition. In this case, it's moving kind of slowly (top speed in a Cushman golf cart, turbo and all, is about 12 mph), but it's still nothing you'd want to get in front of. The very rightness of it has mass. In other words: The first person to say he's sick of Casey Martin gets flattened by political correctness.
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March 23, 1998

Ridin' That Train

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Increasingly, there's this ideology juggernaut. Some cause comes along that brooks no sensible opposition. In this case, it's moving kind of slowly (top speed in a Cushman golf cart, turbo and all, is about 12 mph), but it's still nothing you'd want to get in front of. The very rightness of it has mass. In other words: The first person to say he's sick of Casey Martin gets flattened by political correctness.

Yet, don't you (secretly) think it's all a little much? The initial debate was fun, with the PGA assuming the role of moral speed bump in its stance against physical diversity (if allowed a cart, Martin would have the unfair advantage of cup holders), but once his position was upheld in court and accepted by most people, couldn't it have been left at that, with the promise to check back when he had actually done something?

Can't wait. U.S. culture doesn't have a lot of patience when it comes to actual performance. Americans like their drama packaged to play a little quicker than that: in news bites and portentous commercials. Casey Martin, who will probably be used up in some final spasm of advertorial celebrity, has been on stage longer than most. But now that he has been handed his endorsement deals, shared the couch with Matt Lauer, been sponsor-exempted into a few tournaments and proposed as a golf partner for President Clinton, is there anything left for him but to appear, unbilled, in a milk ad?

That he hasn't played much golf seems beside the point. In fact, Martin may be more valuable as an icon than as an athlete, certainly to advertisers and news outlets, who much prefer their protagonists unspoiled by failure. Better to be ordained the hero than to chance something heroic.

As it happens, this goes against Martin's every intention. It's no fault of his that he has become more important for his news value than his swing. And it's too bad because, if he's not quite mythic, he's certainly decent beyond the requirements of his role. The other day, when more than 175 journalists showed up at a minor league tournament to see him ride a cart, his motorized progress was held up when one of them, blathering away, stood in his path. A minute passed before the journalist realized he was obstructing the entire point of his attendance. He moved, and Martin, who'd been too polite to interrupt, continued to make what passes for history these days.

A sudden thought: It would be a shame to be sick of a guy like this. Yet the course of fame, however accelerated these days, is unvarying. Martin is just one milk mustache away from a national backlash. It's too bad, but it's true. In any case there'll be somebody newer and fresher next week.

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