My Bromance(s) Explained

What’s your favorite golf podcast? Hard to narrow it down? Mine is “The Drop Zone” with co-hosts Sean Zak and Dylan Dethier.

The roots of my Zak and Dethier bromances are at least threefold. First, they have an endearing friendship. Second, their content is always smart and socially conscious and often humorous. Third, Dethier completed the best gap year of all time at the end of which he wrote a book titled “18 in America: A Young Golfer’s Epic Journey To Find The Essence Of The Game” which I still have to read. The book is described this way:

“Shortly before his freshman year of college was set to begin, seventeen-year-old Dylan Dethier—hungry for an adventure beyond his small town—deferred his admission and, “like Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey before him, packed his used car and meager life savings and set off to see and write about America” (ABC News/ Yahoo). His goal: play a round of golf in each of the lower forty-eight states.

From a gritty municipal course in Flint, Michigan, to rubbing elbows with Phil Mickelson at Quail Hollow, Dylan would spend a remarkable year exploring the astonishing variety of the nation’s golf courses—and its people. Over one year, thirty-five thousand miles, and countless nights alone in his dusty Subaru, Dylan showered at truck stops, slept with an ax under his seat, and lost his virginity, traveling “wherever the road took him, with golf as a vehicle for understanding America” (The New York Times).”

Man, what I would give to have had an 18 year-old Dethier in one of my First Year writing seminars.

The content of this fresh-off-the-press piece by Dethier, “How would a scratch golfer fare against LPGA pros? Now we know: not well.” which garnered about a third of today’s 36 minute podcast, kept me company on my chilly morning run to Priest Point Park and back. It exemplifies what makes “The Drop Zone” such a good listen. It’s a smart, funny, and wonderfully feminist take on just how good women professional golfers are these days.

So if you’ve been wondering what’s missing in your life, and you think it may be the lack of a truly excellent golf podcast, given Zak and Dethier a whirl the next time you’re practicing your chipping and putting.

That Time My Nephew Called Me A “Miscreant”

A “miscreant” is a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law.

See number 6. In fairness, it can’t be easy being a radical lefty in the wilderness known as Ohio. He’s also a diehard Ohio State football fan so he’s still reeling from the Wolverine ass whupping.

Put all that together and I’m gonna let it slide.

One noteworthy thing he sidesteps, he could never substack like that in China.

Louisville’s Lakeside Swim Club

Dig the pictures. From the time I was 3 to 9 years-old, my family lived on Cardiff Road in Louisville, eight miles from this gem according to Google Maps.

I did not know LSC existed until stumbling upon this article. My fam frequented the much closer Plantation Country Club on a daily basis. Yes, you read that correctly, Plantation Country Club. Here’s some history on it. In short, it was an inexpensive, decidedly middle class public swim/tennis/golf club that no longer exists. My sister and a friend taught me to swim there. My brother was a 10-meter dare-devil jumping legend. I started playing golf there when I was 5 or 6. It was a nine hole executive course with lots of par 3s and short 4s. The first hole was about 75 yards long and I dominated it. My tennis greatness can also be traced back to Plantation. As well as my chronic skin cancer.

Hard to believe that when I was 6 and 7 years old, I’d lay a couple of clubs and a putter across my bicycle handlebars and ride to the course, crossing a very busy thoroughfare on the way. A benefit of being the fourth child I suppose.

My most vivid memory of those years—besides the Twinkies—was a family dinner after a long summer’s day on the links. I was a young Tommy Bolt. Earlier that evening, unbeknownst to me, my dad drove past the course on his way home from selling kitchen appliances at General Electric at the exact moment I let a club fly into the upper atmosphere. As dinner drew to a close, my dad said, “If I EVER see you toss another club, those will be your last ones!” And then it kinda ramped up from there.

My dinner plate overflowed with tears. And I never threw another club. Half of this paragraph is true.

The Person, Not The Passport

Like me, I know you’re psyched for the Ryder Cup two weeks from now, that every other year team competition between the best golfers in the U.S. and Europa.

The U.S. team is set and although Patrick Reed was passed over, Bryson DeChambeau was an automatic pick. Which makes it a lot harder to root for the home team at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. I wholeheartedly concur with this Alex Kirshner dissection of DeChambeau:

“. . . his positive COVID test in late July knocked him out of the Olympics. Fortunately, DeChambeau healed up, though he said he lost some swing speed. Reporters asked DeChambeau if he regretted not getting the vaccine. He said he did not, and that he’d “tried to take all the necessary precautions” not to catch the virus (except, you know, for the most important one). But DeChambeau—who, it bears repeating, very much likes to fashion himself as a science guy and a deep thinker—had more to say. In one of the most embarrassing bits of vaccine misdirection anyone in sports had attempted all year, he tried to cast his decision as a move to keep vulnerable people safe. He explained that the vaccine needed to be preserved for those in worse health than himself. (By that time, the government had a surplus of doses.) ‘I don’t need it,’ he said. ‘I’m a healthy, young individual that will continue to work on my health. I don’t think taking the vaccine away from someone who needs it is a good thing.’

That bit should’ve ended anyone’s idea that DeChambeau is especially committed to science. But it mostly revealed his lack of interest in thinking seriously about anything. The audacity of framing not getting vaccinated as a way to help vulnerable people, rather than something that could literally kill them, makes him something between a fraud and the absolute thickest person in sports. Not getting vaccinated is a worse thing to subject other people to than anything anyone has ever hollered at him from along a fairway. There are people who command honest conversations about whether they deserve the grief they get. This isn’t one.”

Besides the inclusion of the American Knucklehead, the Euros are easy to root for because they WANT IT so much more and their fans and them celebrate their upset victories with incredible élan.

And so this golf fan says to hell with the political boundaries and passports, may the team with the fewest knuckleheads and the most dogs win.

Postscript: Last night after eighteen year old British tennis phenom Emma Raducanu won her semifinal match at the US Open, she attempted to give her wrist bands to some grade school girls standing nearby in the first row of Arthur Ashe stadium. But she couldn’t because some despicable twenty-something men intercepted the tossed sweat bands. Which I hereby offer as the most embarrassing moment for young males in Western History. As a non-young male I was ashamed of my gender. After pocketing the sweat bands from the younger Raducanu, they set their sights on her towel and other souvenirs she was about to dispense with. Instead of dealing with the six foot tall LOSERS, she huddled with a security guard who made sure the young girls ended up with her towel. Tar and feathers might be too good for those hapless dudes.

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Just Call Me ‘Ron’

Stop Calling Professors ‘Professor’. Nicely argued.

I’ve always asked my students to call me Ron. Partly because my first college teaching gig was at a Quaker institution which tried to be egalitarian. Mostly though because I’m wired to be informal. 

Some students are down with it from the get-go, for others it takes getting used to. They’re almost disappointed, as if they want me to be a know-it-all. It doesn’t take me long to disabuse them of that notion.

One of my first high school students in Los Angeles called me a “tough, young buck from UCLA”. That was cool, but don’t use any of my nicknames like Slip or HD (Heavy Duty), that’s a bridge too far. Oh, except one nickname is fine, Birdie*. You can use that one whenever you’d like. 

*Compliments of Lou Matz in high school. Sigh, these days on Western Washington links, I’m known as Bogey Byrnes. 

Just Because You Can Afford To, Doesn’t Mean You Should

A picture of a neighbor’s property from this morning’s walk. 

“Hey Ron, what’s the backstory of the University of Washington-painted tennis court/full basketball court with state-of-the-art plexiglass break-away rims?”

I’m glad you asked.

The owner, a friend of a friend who I have never met, bought this large wooded property a couple of years ago. And then proceeded to clear cut it. And then added a bunch of out-buildings and the primo lighted sport court for his children.

Granted I’m not omniscient, but I’ve never seen or heard the children using either of the courts. Which is why the lighting is a humorous touch, as if there’s not enough daylight to get in all the basketball and tennis the children want to play.

Meditating on that court this morning made me think of Venus and Serena growing up on Compton, California’s public tennis courts. Or any elite basketball player who routinely left their hood to find competitive games that helped them hone their skills.

But forget elite sports—whether college or pro—consider the opportunity costs, besides the obvious environmental ones of the clear cutting, of not having to play in public settings with a diverse assortment of other people. Some exceedingly difficult to get along with. Even though my parents could have afforded to, I’m glad they chose not to join a country club. I benefitted immensely from growing up on public golf courses, swimming in public pools, and playing on public tennis courts.

Like in public schools, places where I learned to mix it up with other kids. Which has proved extremely valuable throughout my life.

What My Critics Get Wrong

I refer to this as the “humble blog” because of the small readership. I routinely get proposals from search engine optimizers (presumably from India) who promise an increase in readership as a result of their coding prowess. But their pitches are impersonal and expensive, so you remain a part of a highly selective group of readers. 

Given that reality, I can’t afford to alienate any loyal readers, but that’s exactly what I did when I flippantly wrote that I wouldn’t be voting for Biden at age 82 in 2024. Check that, in hindsight, it wasn’t flippant, it was a semi-thought out point of view which of course anyone can disagree.

But one friend didn’t just disagree, he declared he was done with the humble blog. Who knew I was committing an unforgivable sin. Another very good friend somehow colluded with the first from across the country to ask if I’d vote for an assortment of especially revolting right-wing nut jobs if they ran against The Octogenarian.   

Since the infamous post first appeared, The Former Reader sent me a few text messages about “probably being too old” for this or that. For the record, he is 63 years young. Finally, a light bulb went off, he took it personally. Somehow, me not wanting an 86 year old President was saying his own expiration date was fast approaching. I wonder if the same is true for his Fellow Critic, who is two years the President’s junior.

That most certainly was not my intent. I would vote for both of my friends for President without hesitation. Here’s hoping someone shares that sentiment with The Former Reader.

The Former Reader’s and Fellow Critic’s doomsday electoral hypotheticals distract from the key question. Why the hell should any national political party have to settle for someone so elderly for one of the most difficult and important jobs in the world? Is there no man or woman as well qualified in their 40’s? What about their 50’s? 60’s? 70’s? An 82-86 year old Biden might do okay, and Fred Couples might win the Masters, but the odds are a lot better that Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, or Dustin Johnson is sporting the green jacket Sunday night. I probably won’t be voting for Biden in 2024, because I’ll be playing the odds.  

I do not expect this elaboration to have any salutary effect on my critics, known and unknown. In fact, I’ve probably just stepped into it a little deeper. Fellow Critic despises golf, so he’ll probably cancel me too. 

If a blog post falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?  

  

Wednesday Required Reading

1. What if the Great American Novelist Doesn’t Write Novels? I need to see a lot more of Wiseman’s work, but the little bit I have seen makes me think that question is not at all hyperbolic.

“The fact that Wiseman’s half-century-long project is a series of cinéma-vérité documentaries about American institutions, their titles often reading like generic brand labels — ‘High School,’ ‘Hospital,’ ‘The Store,’ ‘Public Housing,’ ‘State Legislature’ — makes its achievement all the more remarkable but also easier to overlook. Beginning with ‘Titicut Follies’ (1967), a portrait of a Massachusetts asylum for the criminally insane that remains shocking to this day, Wiseman has directed nearly a picture a year, spending weeks, sometimes months, embedded in a strictly demarcated space — a welfare office in Lower Manhattan, a sleepy fishing village in Maine, the Yerkes Primate Research Center at Emory University, the flagship Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas, the New York Public Library, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Tampa, Fla., a Miami zoo — then editing the upward of a hundred hours of footage he brings home into an idiosyncratic record of what he witnessed. Taken as a whole, the films present an unrivaled survey of how systems operate in our country, with care paid to every line of the organizational chart. They also represent the work of an artist of extraordinary vision. The films are long, strange and uncompromising. They can be darkly comic, uncomfortably voyeuristic, as surreal as any David Lynch dream sequence. There are no voice-overs, explanatory intertitles or interviews with talking heads, and depending on the sequence and our own sensibility, we may picture the ever-silent Wiseman as a deeply empathetic listener or an icy Martian anthropologist.”

2. Why Are Great Athletes More Likely To Be Younger Siblings?

“The roots of the little sibling effect may lie in the way younger siblings strive to match their older siblings on the field. This was the case with Michael Jordan, the youngest of the three Jordan boys and the fourth of the five Jordan children. When the siblings were growing up, Larry — who was born 11 months before Michael — was considered a better basketball player and regularly bested Michael in one-on-one games.

‘I don’t think, from a competitive standpoint, I would be here without the confrontations with my brother,’ Michael recalled in the ESPN documentary’ The Last Dance.’ ‘When you come to blows with someone you absolutely love, that’s igniting every fire within you. And I always felt like I was fighting Larry for my father’s attention. …

‘I want that approval. I want that type of confidence. So my determination got even greater to be as good, if not better than, my brother.'”

Alas, did not apply in my family. Oldest Brother routinely whipped my ass on golf courses and tennis courts alike. And Older Brother was a much better swimmer and water polo player.*

3. Amanda Seyfried Finally Stakes Her Claim. How to be wonderfully grounded, against the odds. Buy a farm.

4. Why Andy Mukherjee is losing hope in India. Given it’s impact on the planet, anyone who is not East-Indian owes to themselves to learn a lot more about India. This is an excellent start.

*that’s why this athletic accomplishment was so gratifying