Four-Letter Word

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Title: Four-Letter Word
Creator: Sue the Android
Date(s): 1994
Medium: print
Fandom: British sports RPS
External Links:
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Four-Letter Word is a 1994 essay by Sue the Android about RPS, British athletes, and television. Specifically, golf.

The subtitle is "A 'solitary vice' you may not have considered."

The essay was printed in Friends Will Be Friends #3.

Some Topics Discussed

  • RPS and international golf
  • "emotional Spanish golfers make a fine sociological study"

Excerpts from the Essay

Without over-generalising, I think it is fair to say that fandom as a whole is not terribly keen on sport. With the exception of one person who has a thing about Brazilian racing drivers, one who gets slightly irrational at the mention of the Scottish rugby team and a third - alas no longer with us - who memorably bought Phil Edmonds a drink in the Tavern at Lord's, I would be hard-pressed to name anyone in my immediate circle of friends who does much more than sit and lust Andre Agassi for two weeks every June.

I, meanwhile, would take Radio Five to my desert island; am in constant agonies lest DEVACON [1] should clash with international cricket; have been known to heckle all the way through the Belgian Grand Prix; and have followed my sporting heroes to venues as diverse as Elland Road, Lord's and St. Mellion - with a trip to Hockenheim cancelled at the last minute.
I'm well aware that as far as most fans are concerned admitting to watching 'Grandstand' is tantamount to a confession that I barbecue babies for breakfast. No, prompted by a happy afternoon watching yet another BBC video, I'm here to speak up for the only slashy sport in existence; the glorious game of golf.

Given that the majority of 'slash' TV viewing is a question of interpreting glances and actions and getting inside the emotional transactions of the characters involved, logically it should also be possible to extend this interpretative technique to real human people - assuming you have the same opportunities to study them in depth that you do with fictional people; close-ups of their faces, long-shots of their body-language etc. If you're watching the responses of two sportsmen to one another over a period of, say, three days, you should be able to form some kind of idea of their relationship - right?

So where is all this verbiage leading, you ask? To that biennial extravaganza for sporting voyeurs the Ryder Cup, is the answer.

When you add two emotional Spaniards to an already emotionally-charged occasion, the results you get can be spectacular. Both Seve and Jose are compulsive huggers; Seve's bone-crushing embraces have been inflicted on the unlikeliest people, including a rather startled Nick Faldo; Jose seems to throw his arms around anything that moves, including Christy O'Connor Junior and once even Paul Azinger - and he's on the other side. It's when they decide to hug each other, however, that the fun starts.

Exhibit B. The Belfry, 1989. The afternoon fourball on the first day.

Seve and Jose started the day undramatically by drawing their morning match with Messrs. Tom Watson and Chip Beck but have spent the afternoon rather more profitably in trouncing Watson and Mark O'Meara, and by the time they reach the 13th green Seve has one putt to win the match 6 and 5. (You either know the difference between match play and stroke play or you don't. If you don't, it doesn't matter.) Seve hits the ball. The ball goes in the hole. Great; that's the general idea. Cheers from the gallery, polite handshakes all round ... except that having shaken hands with the opposing team, the caddies, the match referee, the match referee's Auntie Gladys from Brighton, the Dagenham Girl Pipers etc., Seve grins broadly, hauls his partner to him and wraps him up in a hug of epic proportions. What s more, they can't seem to break apart but exit stage left still all tangled up together like a courting couple. The scene is so entirely reminiscent of a lovers' reunion that even the usually staid commentator, one Bruce Critchley, is moved to speculate coyly on whether or not they have kissed.

In the post-match interview, which takes place while they are still hyped on success, they praise one another to the skies and are still grinning, hugging and looking totally enchanted with one another when the camera reluctantly leaves them and goes off in search of further entertainment.
So, what are we to make of all this? That Seve and Jose are buddies? Fine - but Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam are buddies, and they stop at shaking hands. Even in the heightened emotional atmosphere of the Ryder Cup, there is nothing to compare with the scenes between these two - and only the embrace between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin in 1969 even comes close. My intensive researches through the videos produced by BBC Sport will continue - not in the cause of vicarious enjoyment, of course, but in the name of academic enlightenment; emotional Spanish golfers make a fine sociological study.
I would like to point out in the clearest possible terms that I am not drawing any conclusions from their behaviour. The private lives of both men are a mystery to me and I think I would be quite happy for it to remain that way - although I would add that a professional golfer isn't the only thing it's difficult to be in Spain.

So, big deal, you're thinking. Well, you are if you have any sense. Every two years if these two guys make the team and if they win their match, they hug each other. All right, I admit this sounds pretty feeble - but as slash fans we're quite capable of sitting for hours in front of a video machine to watch for the moment when Character A's eyes swivel in the direction of Character B and unspoken emotions are exchanged. It's just that every so often I like to indulge myself by watching these two extremely pretty young men throwing their arms around one another, it's exhilarating and it makes a charming picture, and it usually has an exciting golf match wrapped around it. I'd watch the golf anyway, but it isn't the thought of that which makes me reorganise my diary around those nail-biting three days every second September; I'd rather watch Seve and Jose hugging in front of the world's press and TV than any love scene in any gay movie you could name.

The point I'm trying to make is that, far from being a thing which makes one gnash one's teeth when it over-runs and one's favourite episode of something is postponed, golf - Ryder Cup golf, anyway - is a happy hunting ground for the voyeur in every slash fan. You'll have to wait until 1995 to put my theory to the test - assuming they're picked, assuming they play, assuming they win.

Meanwhile, if anybody wants me I'll be in my room watching the videos. It's a solitary vice, and nobody understands me - but I'm used to that.

Not for nothing is golf a four-letter word.


  1. ^ This zine debuted at Devacon.