I’ve watched much of the 2012 Ryder Cup golf match. I will watch much of today’s singles matches as well, but I will likely miss the ending. We have tickets to see Arlo Guthrie tonight, and I’ll take Arlo over Golf any day, even for the Ryder Cup or The Masters.
I do enjoy golf. It’s a very introspective game. Your success depends on you, and your demeanor and attitude are vital to your success. Not many score well while guzzling beer or debating politics. Golfers like quiet, austere, bucolic settings where they can flourish, where their internal intensity can take hold and take over the body. Golfers hate extraversion: noise, cameras, birds, little children, and disrespectful crowds.
Doesn’t this sound like writers want?
The Ryder Cup is different. Or it should be different. It’s a team competition, and the competitive juices flow strong.
In the last 20 years or so the American teams have taken bashings. The stoic Americans, the better players, the better teams, the best of the best have more often than not been steam-rolled by a fired up European Team. Take a peak at the 1995 competition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7F4KB6WOps Notice how researched even the hyperboles were. The video of course is edited by golf aficionados who couldn’t stand including emotions and grandstanding, but it was there.
In 2008 Sergio Garcia and Steve Stricker went nuts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAb7kHuQYXY&playnext=1&list=PL16D4A0C72CDD9394&feature=results_main This was radical. You don’t see this stuff in golf. It’s un-golfer-like. Real golfers might pump a fist and yell within the confines of crowd-din, but they stay reserved. They stay composed. They focus on hitting the little ball.
Curtis Strange, the holder of the illustrious 6-12-2 Ryder Cup record. In five Ryder Cups his teams won one match. He’s a great tournament player, but he’s the kind of Ryder Cup player I abhor. Boring.
As this year’s matches began and the morning coasted along, I needed to resort to reading a book. I thought: “here we go again. The sleepy old dogs are going to miss out on the hunt.” *yawn* But then it picked up. Then it got going. Then it got fun. But ole Curtis, he couldn’t accept it. I remember watching the last match where Furyk and Snedeker fought back from three down to tie; I think it was the 16th hole, maybe 12th. Strange now warned that even though Jim Furyk had led the comeback with emotion, he now needed to slow it down and stay in check. That’s where he performs best. What? Jim Furyck is a great golfer, no doubts there, but his 7-12-3 record is only marginally better than Strange’s. If you matched players onto teams by records, these two would be paired all the time, age differences excepted. I could only think at the time “shut up you stupid talking head. This is competition between teams, not between man and ball. You will only win if you accept the challenge and rise to the top. Avoiding the fury is wrong! Furyk and Snedeker went on to lose.
And then there was Bubba Watson. He alone tightened the drawers of a million golfers around the country trying to avoid getting swallowed by emotion. Golfers who scowl at their morning foursome members’ noisy flick a cigarette butt just before teeing off. Not. No, Bubba got the crowd fired up, he got television personalities fired up, and he got television watchers fired up. Here’s the first tee of Friday afternoon’s matches. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia4i7lLa_pU Curtis Strange: “that’s about as loose as you can ask a player to be.” Pft.
Now let’s look at Saturday’s first match, Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter revisited. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o573pqCNvAE The cheers are normal, but nothing else is. They were supposed to stop while players hit. Instead, the players encouraged the rowdiness. Old stuffy Nick Faldo can barely take it. “I’ve got a feeling [Old] Tom Morris might be turning in his grave right now.”
I’m a hockey player. I say crank it up and let’s go. I’ve played football. The best football games are emotional wars, even though much of the game is finesse and skill. Baseball too. October ball is far more intense than April patsy ball. World Cup soccer, US Open tennis, and even championship chess — I have watched candidates matches — are much more exciting when the crowd is into it and emotions rise. One of my personal memories is of Grandmaster Mikhail Tal winning the first World Blitz Chess Championship to a cheering crown in 1988, a very Ryder Cup moment: a couple of dozen Grandmasters playing chess displayed to a cheering crowd.
So how should we write? How do we get our emotions ratcheted up? Should we? Can we really write that emotional scene sitting in a quiet room alone with no stimuli? Maybe we should buy Samurai Swords and hack an old punching bag before we right. Maybe we should gather our families into our writing caves and give them pom-poms. Instruct them to chant “write, write, write …” Maybe we should search for those internal triggers that get us excited. Maybe we should read emotional books and watch exciting television dramas. Maybe we should participate in life with our families. Many of us claim we can open doors to world unseen by others, imaginative, creative world of dragons, mass murderers, and lovers.
Ramp it up people. Get into it, whatever it is. The final matches are about to start. I can’t wait.