PARIS (AP) — Bailed out by a German, liberated by a bunch of British lion-hearts fighting back against the odds, and inspired by a couple of Spanish masters. Told that way, the manner of Europe’s Ryder Cup victory sounded like the opening of a joke about European politics, history and culture.
The punch line gave the Europeans the last laugh. Commiserations to Americans everywhere, of course, but Europe really needed this pick-me-up. Because economically, the last couple of years since Europe’s last Ryder Cup win at Celtic Manor have been almost unrelentingly grim on this side of the Atlantic.
Economies tanking. Jobs, livelihoods, hopes and optimism plunging with them. The dream of a united Europe pulling and working together severely strained by a gargantuan financial storm.
The blue European flag with yellow stars has flown at many crisis meetings where politicians from Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and elsewhere have differed and dithered about how to dig their countries out of the rough.
So how striking it was to see that same flag, for once, fluttering merrily, over the leaderboard at Medinah, for a group of golfers who knew exactly what was required of them and just did it. Four Englishmen, two Northern Irish, a Scot, a Swede, an Italian, a Spaniard, a German and a Belgian refusing to accept that a difficult situation is hopeless.
It would be trite to suggest that there are political or economic lessons for Europeans to learn from the miracle of Medinah. Unlike a 10-6 Ryder Cup deficit, Europe cannot be turned around in a day. Still, this was a positive example of what being European can mean — individual nations being stronger when they work in concert than they are on their own.
Given how his country, Germany, has been using its wealth to help bail out other European economies, it seemed fitting that it should be Martin Kaymer who rescued Europe with his 6-foot putt on the 18th that secured the crucial 14th point the Europeans needed to retain the cup.
Deep in recession, Spain can no longer afford the rich array of golf tournaments it used to host. It will likely have just one European Tour event in 2013, the Spanish Open, down from seven last year. Yet this Ryder Cup victory was inspired and led by a Spanish captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, himself inspired and driven by his desire to honor and remember another Spanish master, his late friend Seve Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumor in May 2011.
The heroics of Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Paul Lawrie, with their string of singles match wins Sunday that swung the momentum Europe’s way, could have been speech-writing fodder for another stubborn, never-say-die Briton, Winston Churchill. Rarely in Ryder Cup history can Europe have owed so much to so few putts made at crucial times.
The magnitude of the achievement was such that Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president who spends much of his time dealing with the continent’s economic crisis, could be forgiven for jumping on the bandwagon of this sporting success.
“You have brought together under the European flag a team of players with many different nationalities, languages and cultures from many different parts of Europe,” he said in a message of congratulations to Olazabal. “Your victory will be an inspiration to so many people in Europe.”
For British sports enthusiasts, especially, it rounded out a year that will long be remembered.
First, Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to the win the Tour de France. Then Britain won 29 golds at its home Olympics in London to finish third on the medal table. Then Andy Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam tennis title, with his victory at the U.S. Open in September.
For the first two days at Medinah, with the U.S. team purring, the golden summer seemed to be ending amid the autumn leaves.
Then came Sunday and the improbable European comeback. It won’t make any difference to the lives of Europe’s millions of unemployed. But, at least temporarily, it did make Europe’s choice of official anthem seem not quite so inappropriate.
Its name: “Ode to joy.”
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester
More Related Stories
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11