Friday, April 8, 2011

A Nod to the Gods



All tastes are subjective.

If your tastes run to bluegrass music, biographies, bratwurst, and brunettes, that’s what you like – and no amount of persuasion will change your preferences to rock and roll, romance novels, Ratatouille, and redheads.

That’s why I never defend Bob Dylan. Many people hate Dylan’s music – or at least, don’t understand his appeal. They acknowledge his greatness as a songwriter, but can’t for a second grasp why any sane person with working eardrums would choose to listen his raspy warble.

I could make a reasoned case for Dylan. I can explain his revolutionary role in American music, play songs from Blood on the Tracks that don’t have the nasally twang of his bigger hits, explain the complex rhyming structure of a masterpiece like "Tangled Up in Blue". I can argue that singing isn’t just about a perfect voice, it’s about acting – and that Dylan’s singing gift is the ability to convey humor, anger, sadness, intelligence, sarcasm, even surrender. I can logically argue that if all we wanted in singing was a perfect voice, opera would rule the charts and rock and roll would only be played on the ass-end of the AM dial.

But if you don’t like listening to Dylan, I can’t persuade you with reason, logic, and facts that you should.

(This post started out as a post on golf, but I'm half-tempted to change gears here and talk about the role of criticism. For what is film, music, literary, or art criticism but the very attempt to persuade others with reason, logic and facts that they should like or not like something? Nah, let’s get back to golf.)

I bring all this up because I got in a conversation with someone recently who was opposed to golf. I mean, really opposed. Morally opposed and emotionally opposed and athletically opposed. He railed on about how it’s not a sport and it’s an expensive time-waster and that the world would be a better place if golfers would spend their time and money on more constructive pursuits.

What a moron.

Okay, that’s not fair; he’s entitled to the things he likes and doesn’t like. But I found myself, against my better judgment, making the case for golf. Or at least, making the case for why he should give it a shot. And I came up with two arguments:

The first, admittedly weaker, argument is that the great and powerful golf. Presidents golf, billionaires golf, movie stars golf. My point isn’t that we should imitate these people, God no. Or even that they are, in fact, great. My point is that these people have options. Barack Obama and Jack Nicholson can do pretty much what they want on weekends, but they mostly choose to golf. And, in the case of Obama and Nicholson, these are not people who grew up at country clubs; they came to golf later in life and fell in love with it. This should say something to the non-golfer. This should say, hmm, maybe I should give this a shot.

But the second, and more powerful argument, is that athletes golf. Michael Jordan has options, too. But more than that His Airness, perhaps more than anyone alive, knows what it is like to perform majestic athletic feats – to soar through the air with grace, ingenuity, and power. To outrun, out-jump, outwit, out-compete and out-everything the opponent. To hear thousands roar in ecstatic approval of his physical prowess.

Well, Michael Jordan spends the bulk of his free time golfing. And it is not just Michael Jordan – seemingly every baseball, hockey, soccer, football, basketball and tennis star on the planet are passionate golfers. Even those like Charles Barkley, who remains committed to this pursuit even though all available evidence suggests he should try an easier hobby, like nuclear fusion.

Why is that? What is the appeal of golf?

Everyone who loves the game already knows the answer to that question. But for those who don't, I'll turn to Ron Shelton, the writer/director of Tin Cup (and, not incidentally, a former minor league baseball player). In the following exchange Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy (Kevin Costner) explains the golf swing to Molly Griswold (Rene Russo):




At another point in the film, Tin Cup offers a more direct explanation for the appeal of golf: “Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you're not good at them.”

I explained all this to the moron. Got nowhere. He probably likes Mariah Carey, celebrity self-help books, black licorice and pink Mohawks. There’s no accounting for bad taste.

1 comment:

Jim K said...

Golf, like a lot of seemingly easy things to do (the ball is waiting to be hit), is a lot harder than it looks and a good number of golfers will admit that they continuously feel like quitting and then you hit the one shot that brings you back next week and so on. You love it or hate it (watch the actions of some golfers after they miss hit a shit) but you are out in a beautiful setting with only your foursome watching what your are doing. What could be better than that!!!