Gratuitous Violence

When the question of “most violent sport’ comes to the forefront, it seems like a variety of answers are suggested.  “Head injuries and broken bones make football the most violent sport,” says some people.  “Football is violent because players are beating the crap out of their loved ones,” says another person, with a much more accurate understanding of violence.  Some claim (ridiculously) that cheerleading is violent, as some poor girls are wont to experience bone-jarring bouts of violence as the result of a particularly jubilant round of team spirit.  Baseball can be violent, as wild pitches, bench clearing brawls, and Pablo Sandoval’s rising blood pressure are all indicators of danger and harm.  Soccer and basketball experience different kinds of violence.  In soccer, one questionable decision could lead to retaliation from fans, which apparently includes medieval forms of torture that incorporates both blood lust and a comprehensive team building exercise.  Some lucky fans get knocked out by Ron Artest during basketball games.  Even hockey, a sport which glamorizes and encourages violence, is far worse than we fear.  The most visceral play in sports history occurred during a hockey game, when Buffalo Sabres goalkeeper Clint Malarchuk had his jugular vein cut by an opponent’s skate.  Granted, this was not an intentional, run of the mill case of aggravated assault, but blood instantly shot out of his open wound, causing a huge puddle of blood to accumulate on the ice, and I suspect a few fairs of pants were thoroughly soiled that cold night in western New York.  Don’t worry, after Malarchuk’s injury the play-by-play announcers exclaimed, “oh god this is awful, just awful, can we please take the cameras off of this,” and the camera man, predictably, did not take the cameras off this.

So how can golf be more violent than that?  Easy, says I.  The psychological, mental effects of the game of golf can lead to internal episodes of intense violent behavior is left untreated (that’s called a thesis, kids, and that’s how it’s done).

I started playing golf seriously about 2 years ago.  I spent a decent amount of money on some clubs, and basically just taught myself to play over the course of the summer.  I’m no Rory McIlhroy, but I’ve managed to drop my scoring pretty significantly.  When I first started, I was shooting 40 or 50 over par, and I’m down to shooting about 80-85ish, which is about 10 or so over par, which isn’t too bad.  My level of talent or lack thereof has no relevance to the rest of this article though, so forgive my brief moment of golf bro-ness.

Over the course of last two years, a lot of my friends have taken up the hobby as well.  The summer before I was married, my friends and I played golf together 3 or 4 times a week.  At the beginning, they were like me; terrible.  Golf is an extremely difficult sport to learn, and playing made me realize why Tiger Woods made $80 million in 2013.  That being said, we were having fun.  When we first started, we would get some carts, play 18 holes, and kill off an afternoon before we grabbed Subway and played FIFA all night.  It was a blast, being out with your friends.  I was playing almost every day, so my skills were progressing a little faster, but it was never a competition in the beginning because it was just about being with friends.  We actually had laughs about how bad we sucked sometimes.

If you do anything four days a week, whether that be studying mandarin Chinese, attempting to make a statue made of hair you dug out of your drain, or even playing golf, eventually you’re going to make some noticeable progress.  Instead of becoming respected diplomats or expert hair sculptors, we were becoming pretty decent golfers.  But that’s great!  All this practice was paying off and we actually had skills now!  “Oh, how much more fun we will have,” we thought, with the complete and utter disregard for the foreshadowing I’m now doing.

If you ever watch professional sports, there’s a reason why athletes conduct demonstrative displays.  When Kevin Durant misses a jump shot or Calvin Johnson drops a pass, they both react with a display of anger and disappointment.  It’s because they know they’re better than that.  They are two of the best athletes in the world, so Kevin Durant expects to hit every jump shot, just like Calvin Johnson expects to catch every pass.  When Mark Sanchez throws an incompletion or Adam Dunn strikes out, they don’t get mad.  They accept they are terrible at their sport and quietly go back to the bench where they belong forever.  This paradoxical situation exists because better players are harder on themselves.  It’s just because they expect to not suck, like Mark Sanchez.

The reason for that convoluted analogy is this:  since we didn’t suck as much, we expected more from ourselves.  Missing the green on a 50 yard approach shot went from being “oh man, that sucks, maybe next time haha”, to threats of violence against each other, forest animals, and our golf equipment.  Gratituious violence I might add.  Not one of us went that summer without angrily throwing a club in frustration, completely insistent on equipment failure as the cause of the ball not doing what we want.  I once rolled a ball off the back of the green on a shot 15 feet away, threw my wedge in the woods, and said I was never coming back for it (that club was like $70 so I did come back for it, sheepishly i might add).  Mike’s brother Justin had the most hilarious displays of discontent.  Watching him hit a shot he was unsatisfied with was like watching an angry Texas father taking out his years of inadequacy on his football playing son.  It was amazing.  Justin caused the ground around his shots to look like Seal’s face after angrily slamming his irons into the turf in hilarious bouts of frustration.  Dan was hilarious too.  Dan never really flipped out or threw stuff, but his concerns were always more philosophical and existential than the average golf question.  He would walk to the tee box, smack his shot into a house 30 yards left of the fairway, and then question why the curvature of the earth caused the ball to rotate in such a fashion.  Particularly bad days had him questioning his existence and why the earth even existed.  “Why are we even here?”, he posited thoughtfully after missing a 10 foot birdie putt.

Anyway, the horrible, violent thoughts that inhibited us all made the game much more interesting.  Golf, traditionally, is supposed to be a form of stress relief and relaxation.  I can tell you right now if you are having a good time playing golf, you aren’t doing it right.  If you issue empty threats to your equipment with the very real intent of very fake violence, then I suggest you change some things up.  Maybe your form is all wrong.

I’ll leave you with this thought:  If I man gets mad at the bank or in line for coffee, he’s labeled a jerk.  In fact, there’s really nowhere in public a man can get upset without being viewed as immature or overzealous.  The golf course is a sanctuary.  For anger and violence.  So go there, hit some balls, and question life in such a pervasive capacity Aristotle raises from the dead to tell you to cool it.

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