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Keep The Best-Lose The Rest
by Peter Block
by Cathy Kramer
Business News Briefs
for a Change
to the Editor
by Peter Block
Sports have become a symbol of Western culture, and the
explosive interest in golf is a prime example. Golf shops have sprouted
in airports. Tiger Woods will soon run for President of the United States.Middle-aged
men stand in line clasping their hands and swinging their arms back and
forth in what I thought might be a form of exotic prayer.
It turns out they were just practicing their golf swing.
I have concluded that golf is not a leisure sport, more
an extension of corporate life.
Golf is the perfect corporate sport.
While it has always been the sport where buyers and sellers can play a game
together and call it business, it is more than that. It is a metaphor for
American corporatism. Corporatism is a mindset, an underpinning to materialism.
- Creation of wealth as the main point
- Belief in unlimited economic growth and development
- Domination of the environment and the consumption of
- A religious belief in control, consistency and predictability.
On the surface golf is an engaging, benign sport, social
in nature and played on rolling hills and wooded fairways. Its power, though,
has more to do with the affirmation of materialistic values. In that way
it is a disturbing sport.
Golf Affirms The Centrality Of Wealth
Stepping on the course is a ticket to a world of privilege, where money
and time are of little concern. For a few hours we are all rich and voting
yes to shareholder value. The game is expensive. Golf clubs can cost $1,000.
A driver alone costs up to $600. And you need a new one every couple of
years. A round of golf takes four to five hours, with most of the time spent
waiting or traveling between shots. Paying so dearly in dollars and in time
makes us each an insider, an elite, part of the ruling class, even when
playing on a public course.
Golf Is A Loss Leader For Economic Development
Many golf courses are built for the expressed purpose of selling real estate.
Deserts, mountainsides and farms that were previously 'wasted', are now
home to world class golf courses and it is these golf courses that sell
housing. Golf becomes a land development tool.
Sun City, Florida might still be the Everglades if it were not for the golf
courses that gave rise to a retirement community. Scottsdale and Palm Springs
might still be desert if it were not for the game of golf.
Golf Courses Assault The Physical Environment
Golf courses are one of the few structures that can be seen easily from
an airplane. Back on the ground, golf courses are like large, manicured
English country estates where the dangers of the jungle are pushed back
and the yard is mowed by someone else. Nature is harnessed with a manufactured
beauty that reinforces the sense of royalty, security and all things being
right with the world. What goes unspoken is that there are more chemicals
poured on to a golf course than on to Dennis Rodman's hair. But this is
not really a problem as long as you do not clean your golf ball with your
Golf's Love Of Rules Is A Favorite Child Of The Corporate
The "Rules of Golf" is a literature in its own right. There are
summer rules, winter rules, local rules. Each hole can have its own set
of instructions. Carts are allowed on the fairway, forbidden on the fairway,
used only at 90 degrees to the fairway, and these can change every day.
Some trees are in bounds; some are out of bounds. If you hit into some trees,
you can place the ball in the open, but hit into other trees, you are required
to back away under the branches.
What is redemptive though, is that, much like life in the corporation, the
rules are largely ignored. Everyone who plays the game bends the rules at
one time or another. So it is a game of both larceny and forgiveness. Except
when the game is played on national television. Then if you place a towel
under your knees so that you protect your pants while you are trying to
hit a ball on wet ground under a low lying branch, you are penalized two
strokes for improving your lie.
A Final Warning
If the above are not reminder enough of the corporate mind, golf is a consistent
assault on your self-esteem. It is a game that is impossible to master.
It is the only sport played with a ball where the ball does not move. And
you can still not hit it the way you want. You get so desperate for some
slight optimism that when you finally, accidentally, hit a good shot you
proclaim, "That shot will bring me back to play another day."
Which means that with the exception of that rare moment, you were in a constant
state of willingness to quit the game.
The impossibility of the game is so blatant, that the system for rating
your skill level is called a 'handicap.' Everyone who plays is handicapped.
Bad golfers have a high handicap, good golfers have a low handicap. Every
hole has a prescribed number of strokes, and this is called 'par.' In fact,
the vast majority of those who play the game can not meet this standard
even occasionally. That is why everyone is handicapped. How can we convince
ourselves to play a game where failure is so institutionalized?
So here is the bottom line, give yourself and the environment
a break and stop playing this game. It has no health benefit, it is bad
for your confidence, your wallet, and it reinforces some of the darker values
of this culture. Besides, if you stop playing or refuse to take up the game,
the courses will be empty enough so I can play a round in less than four