The Rift Between the Golf and Non-Golf World in Comedy
How people talk about the professions or general activities of others as objects of derision never ceases to amaze me. Far more often than not, the object of the diatribe is something the attacker has never done, or in an arena where he or she has never experienced success . The stupidity of some impressions is a revelation of utter ignorance. Here in Washington state last week, an elected state official opined that nurses don’t really work, and spend nearly all their time playing cards. Cartoons instruct the symphony conductor to wave his arms until the music stops, then turn around and bow. In sports, curling is created for over-caffeinated cleaning ladies, or men who can’t find a date. The famous jabs taken at golf by Winston Churchill and Mark Twain are part of the modern comedy canon, but they seem innocent enough. We know that in ridiculing a game or sport, anything can be reduced to its simple core. Actually, the same goes for anything a human does in life. It’s the perfect insult, to trivialize the basics of the victim’s activity. For golf, Twain and Churchill aren’t the games’ real enemies. However, more than in other sport, golf takes it on the chin from the one-sided cultural, historical, and real estate zealots, mostly by people who don’t play the game. Yesterday, I ran into an old George Carlin clip on golf that went far past comedy, more like pure verbal acid, complete with language that would curl one’s hair. We who love the game, according to Carlin, are not fit to live, and were apparently raised personally by Mary Queen of Scots and her royal cohorts. We drive a Rolls Royce to the course before playing our fashion-disturbed round with our gold-plated clubs. Along the way, we seek wildlife to murder on our gargantuan tracts of stolen land, wasted on beautiful scenery and havens for wildlife displaced by the local WalMart, who tore up the land in the first place. My only sympathy here is with environmental concerns, but I believe that the industry is making good faith efforts in that direction.
Shaking off Carlin, I ran into a routine by Robin Williams. The language is still too raw for any but late night viewers, and I recommend avoiding it if your hair curls easily. At some level, though, this one hit my funny bone based on the sheer truth of it. Williams wasn’t criticizing the game, but ascribing its origins to an evil, drunken Scot with an eye on revenge against the human race. Golf was to be his weapon. It struck me in the right way, because the thought of golf as punishment is part of a golfer’s humor already. It’s a way to moan about our misfortunes on the course without just throwing a temper tantrum. The old Scot proposed hitting a small ball into a gopher hole with a stick. A stick? “Naw, a crooked stick.” Like pool? “Naw, much bigger.” You mean, like croquet? “Naw, put the hole hundreds of yards away, and a plant a flag in it to give ’em hope!” He went on to suggest a few bushes and trees in the way, a pond here, and a sand pit here and here. It really did come off as rather sinister, exactly how I feel coming off 18 at times. Put them through it just once? “Naw, I’ll make ’em do it 18 times!”
William’s look at golf soothed my anger over the sheer Carlinesque stupidity of minimizing another’s sense of enjoyment through lack of knowledge. So, why mention all of this? When you or I drive our Chevrolet to the course, bought with our middle class incomes, and pull out our clubs, some of which might be second-hand, we bear no resemblance at all to Mary Queen of Scots, or that world run by royal families. We are not tycoons making shady business deals over ten-foot putts. Spending the day with children and friends is not an elitist act. We may not play well, but we’re playing together. We play in an environment that promotes clean air and natural beauty, on land where a hunting license won’t get you anywhere. The golf industry is certainly more sensitive to environmental needs than the national government and corporate giants, many of whom could care less, especially if there’s oil under it. And regarding the creativity of fashion? Well, maybe you’ve got me there. We can’t hold off comedy forever.
Anyway, feel free to swing away proudly as a devoted golfer. You’re not acting like Rockefeller or the Queen of England. You’re following a primal joy that has undergone great sophistication through the centuries, on the most beautiful land in town. You’re doing it with the people you love to spend time with. OK, you’re up-watch the pond to the right. That was some Scot’s idea to punish you.