Monday, 25 July 2011

Darren Clarke. A role model?

During the last round of the Open, Darren Clarke was seen quite clearly to be enjoying a cigarette while out on the course. Unsurprisingly a few people took issue with this. One of them, Eamonn Mallie tweeted his displeasure and disappointment and was, perhaps even less surprisingly, admonished by fans of Darren Clarke. The thing is, Mallie was correct and they, I'm afraid, were wrong. It wasn't just Clarke's smoking that caught my attention though.

Following his win, there was endless talk in the media of the big night that Clarke would surely have. There were direct and indirect references to the amount of alcohol he, his friends & family and his supporters would get through in celebration. Even during his press conference, a pint of Guinness sat in front of him as would a trophy. A couple of days later, a photo emerged of Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell having a contest to see who could sink a pint of the black stuff the quickest. 

I should say at this point that I am the worst kind of anti smoking advocate - I'm a former smoker. I also drink alcohol. Not very often, I might say, but when I do I nearly always end up very drunk. So any accusations of hypocrisy on that score are fair.

With regard to his smoking on the golf course, it is quite simply the wrong image to portray. However, I don't limit that to Clarke. I actually think young kids should never have to see anyone smoking, at any time. A hopeless ideal, no doubt, but one I think it's healthy to aim for. Most people would agree that people smoking in cars whilst their kids are in the same car is a very sorry sight. But that disapproval is mostly based on the proven medical risks involved in that scenario. For me, it is more the example being demonstrated that worries. Unless the child is exposed for significant lengths of time to second hand smoke, it is still unlikely that the child will suffer any serious medical issues.

What is more likely to hurt the child is that eventually, after growing up in an environment where smoking is normal, they themselves will start to smoke. Fortunately, the fact that Darren Clarke having a smoke on the golf course raises the argument, shows that we are already getting to a point where smokers are the exception, rather than the rule and the example of normality is one of not smoking.

When it comes to alcohol it's a different issue. It is foolish to try to compare smoking to drinking because for one, drinking is in many cases a social enhancer, whilst smoking is nearly always the opposite. Drinking is actually pleasurable in itself. Smoking is not. However, there is no doubt that alcohol abuse is a major problem for society, the health service and, consequently, the economy. As such, the right balance has to be found.

I don't begrudge Darren Clarke for celebrating his win in the way he did, but that aspect of the celebration should either be a non story or a negative one. The media should never portray it in the positive light it did. Children reading about it would be left in no doubt that heroes and champions are the sort of men who can drink to excess and continue to do so. That can't be the example we set.

Darren Clarke IS a role model. At least in terms of his approach to his golf. He certainly appears to be a very nice guy and the respect  & apparent affection he is afforded from his peers would suggest that he goes about his daily life in the right way. That doesn't mean those of us who criticise his smoking on TV or his compliance with the media's promotion of his drinking can't see the overwhelming positive aspects of his image, we just feel it's important the negative parts are addressed properly.


  1. Wind your neck in.

  2. Brilliantly insightful comment.

  3. Who is the better role model - Darren or Tiger (who doesn't drink or smoke)..

    is this the most pressing issue in NI politics today!! The man likes a smoke & a drink, like a majority of other northern Irish people - doesn't make him a bad man nor should he be lambasted for doing so. with respect to being a role model - that should be the parents and not golfers/footballers/singers/actors/drug dealers etc.

  4. Missing the point completely. Not even sure you read the post at all.

  5. I'm getting quite sick of the (future of our) children having primacy over my ability to engage in perfectly legal adult activities like drinking. Should we be banning people from being even slightly intoxicated where a child might observe how much fun the drinker appears to be having and so is more inclined to take up drinking?

    Darren Clarke's reaction and celebration appeared to be a wonderfully human and apparently quite personal one. It is an insult to him (IMO anyway...) that you would constrain his life and his celebration in case he adversely affects some nebulous group of children in indeterminate, but apparently harmful, ways.

    I grew up with two very heavy smokers for parents but neither my brother or I have ever smoked despite my parents smoking in the house, car, whatever... or any of my sporting heroes doing the same for that matter. Children will always make their own decisions in their own way at their own pace and often in surprising ways often unaffected by nature or nurture.

    Children may be the future of the human race but we adults are going to be around for a few decades yet and I would really like to retain the right to enjoy my adult pursuits without having to every second wonder if a child might see me and somehow something bad happening to the child at some point. I suspect Darren Clarke might feel the same.

    And yes, to me Darren Clarke is a bit of a hero. How good to see a bloke in his 40's that drinks and smokes beating the highly tuned, trained and apparently clean living younger golfers!

  6. how many people would really have cared if Big Darren had drank himself to oblivion if he had not won the open, why should he have to change his life style now. Think your correct he is a bit of a hero and a character good luck to him.

  7. Ed,

    Couldnt agree more with your opinions on the matter. However Darren Clarke celebrates his victory is his business though and I dont have a problem with him or anyone elso going on booze benders.. What annoys me is why we are reading about it and sadly it is not just the media who is at fault. Darren Clarke himself seems to be quite happy to promote the idea of him being a big drinker, why im not so sure. Its almost as if he is trying to show off about his drinking exploits, if not, why talk about it so much.