Martin Smith column: Jason Day is a million-to-one off

Jason Day, of Australia, kisses his wife Ellie Harvey after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis.
Jason Day, of Australia, kisses his wife Ellie Harvey after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis.
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He lost his dad when he was a kid, he was getting drunk at the age of 12 and his mother struggled to provide for him.

Aussie golfer Jason Day’s victory in the US PGA is the triumph of the individual, of the human spirit overcoming adversity, the oldest most potent story in the world.

It’s also bad news for sport. How so?

How can a heartwarming, tear-jerking tale of one man’s triumph be anything but good news?

From The Bible to the back pages of our newspapers tales of man’s triumphs over adversity have fired emotions and imaginations. We know that sport doesn’t care who you are, where you grew up or which school you went to. Sport is about the truth of who a person really is and what they can push themselves to do. But to pretend that talent always wins through is a myth.

To imagine that a true champion will always find a way to succeed is nonsense. Sport may not care where you’re from but our chances of being a top-class sports person are directly related to education, coaching and facilities. Champions cost money.

Giving more people more chances to develop their talents is the way to make more champions – look at British cycling – eight gold medals at London 2012, British rowing - four golds. We invested and recruited, widened the sports appeal and created champions. Stories like that of Jason Day bring a tear to our eye and we have deep respect and awe for his determination and for the belief and perseverance of those that helped him to achieve his potential.

Good on all of them. But for every Jason Day there are a thousand dead-end job workers, five street drunks and a million ordinary people living ordinary lives who never discovered or developed their talent. And for every Jason Day triumph there are also millions who see his story and feel somehow that the world finds a way for the best to emerge. But in fact the opposite is true.

Jason Day is the million-to-one exception, wasted, undiscovered, undeveloped and undisciplined talent is the norm. Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story, particularly in sport and of course we can’t all be champions. But let’s not pretend that the triumph of one individual somehow means that all is as it should be in the sporting world.