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Farewell to a Spanish sporting genius

This has nothing really much to do with some sort of grand political idea or anything, but sport is part of life – however much that upsets anti-sports folk or the plain uninterested – and this man, more than most, enhanced the life of anyone who follows the maddening and beguiling game of golf.

Seve Ballesteros, RIP.

13 comments to Farewell to a Spanish sporting genius

  • Spectre765

    Had a reputation as a good guy. 54 is too young to walk off the last hole, for the last time.

    Modern medicine still can’t find its ass with both hands.

    R.I.P. SB

  • RAB

    Thanks for posting this Johnathan. I know how SI loves its Cricket, hell I love it too, I was opening bat for the school team, but all my family are fanatical golfers, and we all loved Seve for his sheer magical spirit.

    He wasn’t longest off the Tee or the straightest, in fact he often found himself in places and lies that lesser golfers would have found impossible and taken a drop, but not him, his spirit saw him make recovery shots that left us spectators slack jawed.

    That was because he learned the game as a penniless Caddie, sneaking onto the Course with just a couple of clubs in his hand just as the course was closing, learning to play those miraculous shots with the minimum of tools.

    First European to ever don the Green Jacket at the Atlanta Masters, three times British Open Winner, and a Captain of the Ryder Cup team that the other players would have died for (unlike bloody Nick Faldo!).

    Goddam I am sad! He was younger than me.

  • My sister got sick when on holiday and spent time in a Spanish hospital last year (she’s fine now) and one of the senior doctors who looked after her was a Dr Ballesteros. The rather world weary, I get this a lot way in which he said “I don’t play golf” was quite amusing.

    This is sad news. A very fine player.

  • Kim du Toit

    Pure genius. Only people who’ve played golf can understand just quite how brilliant a golfer he was. And he single-handedly changed the Ryder Cup from a ho-hum biennial drubbing into the exciting event it is today. Seve was Europe’s Arnold Palmer — and that’s just about the highest accolade one could get.

  • Laird

    I’ve got nothing to say about Ballesteros, RIP. But can we please stop throwing around the word “genius” is such an inappropriate manner? However skillful a golfer, and wonderful a human being, he might have been, as far as I am aware he wasn’t a “genius.”

  • Johnathan Pearce


    The Oxford English Dictionary definition:

    “Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. An exceptionally intelligent or able person.”

    The word of note here is “ability”. Ballesteros may not have been incredibly intelligent – I have no idea – but he had exceptional ability in what he did.

  • I tend to think that exceptional intelligence of some kind is necessary to excel in anything, including sports.

  • Laird

    I don’t accept physical skill at something, especially sports, as “genius” (OED notwithstanding). That’s a perversion of the word. As, Alisa, is the application of “intelligence” to anything other than true mental facility (as seen in the reprehensible “different types of intelligences” tripe). I’m not denigrating physical skills; some athletes are truly amazing. I’m just asking that we use a different word for it.

    Personally, I think people are so intimidated by raw brainpower that they debase words like “intelligence” or “genius” to compensate. But that’s just me.

  • “Different types of intelligences” is far from being reprehensible tribe, Laird, your dislike of the idea notwithstanding – it is simply a reality. Even if we confine ourselves to a discussion of purely-mental activities, we will see many examples of people who are/were geniuses in some specific fields, while complete idiots in others.

    Regarding purely physical skills, there is simply no such thing, because muscles or even eyesight are no use without a brain mentally directing them. That ability to mentally direct one’s muscles to do the right thing is a type of intelligence.

    Regarding the use of the word ‘genius’, I think that it’s etymology is not necessarily in favor of your preferred use, but I concede that it (your preferred use) has a long-enough history and widespread use to to call it a tie.

  • ‘tripe’, not ‘tribe’ – I did preview, but I’m no genius…

  • ‘purely mental’, not ‘purely-mental’ – sigh.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Laird, I think the problem you identify is how creative achievement gets devalued by being described by the same word as is used in something such as sports. But I am afraid I cannot quite agree with you here: “genius” touches on the fact that certain skills and talents are nature-given; some people can become exceptionally able in a chosen field, but some people are blessed with a talent that seems to come from the gods. And that surely applies in areas such as sport, which is why I don’t have a problem with using “genius” to describe a Ballesteros, or George Best, etc.

    Anyway, I think the OED’s authority on the matter is fairly powerful!

  • Kim du Toit

    I don’t accept physical skill at something, especially sports, as “genius” (OED notwithstanding).

    That’s fine, Laird; you can accept the definition or not: your prerogative.

    So I’ll stick with a commonly-accepted definition of genius (in the sporting sense): the combination of imagination with matchless ability. That’s may not be acceptable to the ivory tower, perhaps; but it works for me, and for millions of Seve’s other fans.