Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Forget The Chicken! Just Hit The Damn Ball!

In the most recent episode (#73: "Palestinian Chicken") of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David stands in a street between two groups of demonstrators. A Palestinian restaurant is attempting to open a second location across the street from a Jewish synagogue. David likes the chicken at the Palestinian restaurant, but he is a Jew. Art imitates life as the West Bank comes to Westwood. If this is a (fair & balanced) portrayal of the folly of our pastimes, so be it.

[x New Yorker]
By Larry David

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On the par-3, 175-yard fourteenth hole at Riviera, I hit my tee shot a mere ninety yards and a physics-defying thirty degrees to the right—almost sideways. It’s a miracle I got my right leg out of the way, or I could have shattered it with the club. As I walked to the ball, I remarked to my friend that after seventeen years of playing this course I’d never seen someone hit a ball anywhere near where mine ended up. He had never seen it, either. “What’s more,” I said, “I couldn’t care less.” My friend was taken aback. But I meant it. I didn’t care, and I didn’t particularly care about the next shot, either. I felt liberated, not unlike the way I felt when my wife left me, except this time I didn’t take up skipping.

Finally, after years of pain and struggle, I had accepted the fact that I would never be a good golfer. No matter how many hours I practiced, no matter how many instructors I saw, how many books and magazines I read, or how many teaching aids I tried. Then it hit me. According to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying, Acceptance was the final stage of grief that terminal patients experience before dying, the others being Anger, Denial, Bargaining, and Depression. I was in the final stage! When I started thinking about it, I realized that I’d gone through every one of those stages, but not as a terminal patient... as a golfer.

My first stage: Anger. There was a time when I was always angry on the course. Driving fast in the cart. Throwing clubs. Constantly berating myself. “You stink, four-eyes! You stink at everything. You can’t even open a bottle of wine! You can’t swipe a credit card at the drugstore! You can’t swipe. And you’ve never even been to the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim! And call your parents, you selfish bastard!” Then I’d walk off the course and vow never to play again, only to return the following week for more of the same. I hardly ever finished a round. Once, I bought a brand-new set of clubs, and then, after a particularly terrible day, I gave them to the caddy at the sixteenth hole and left.

The Anger phase lasted for years, and then I entered the next phase, Denial. “All I need are some lessons,” I told myself. “Why should everyone else be able to do it and not me? Why are they good? I’m coördinated. I have a jump shot! I can go to my left. Obviously I have it in me. I have it in me! Next year, I’ll go to Orlando and spend a week taking lessons with Leadbetter. I don’t care what it costs. How can you spend a week with Leadbetter and not get better? It’s impossible.” But I did, and I didn’t.

The third stage was Bargaining, and I did my share of that. “Please, God. All I want to do is hit the ball. What is it You want? Good deeds? Give me a swing and I’ll give You good deeds up the wazoo. I’ll help sick kids, the homeless... well, sick kids. I’ll stop all the mocking. I’ll give up cookies, coffee, coffee cake, cashmere. I’ll go to temple. Is that what You want? Temple? Done! Can I bring my BlackBerry? O.K., no BlackBerry, I promise! Just let me hit the ball! What do You care?” He didn’t. What kind of God won’t let me hit the ball? What did I ever do to Him? He took my hair, I didn’t complain. I joked about it! I was a model bald man. Was it the TV show? Did He not like the show? Too mean? I’ll make it nicer! I can be nice. “Tell You what—I’ll visit my parents in Florida three times next year. That’s right, You heard me. Three times! . . . Did I say three? Three’s crazy. No one can survive three trips down there. It’s suicide. Let’s make it two. What do You say? Two trips to Florida! I’m only human!” And, by the way, I wasn’t even asking to hit every shot. Or even every other shot. Or even every third shot. I said, “God, let me hit the ball every fourth shot and I’ll be happy.” Every fourth shot! But He didn’t. He wouldn’t. He won’t.

Then I drifted into the next stage, Depression. I was never going to be good. Never. Think what I could’ve done with all that time. Learned French. Piano. I’d be playing Chopin now if it weren’t for golf. Playing Chopin for Julie Delpy. But instead I wasted my life on this game. It looked so easy. The ball just sits there. Any idiot could do it. But every instinct I had was wrong. You’re supposed to hit the ball down to make it go up. That’s absurd. I want to hit it up to make it go up. When I try to hit down, it’s like I’m splitting a log with an axe. All I do is chop up the course. And then there’s this one: the easier you swing, the farther the ball goes. How can that be? So you hit down to make it go up and swing easy to make it go far?

And now I find myself in the final stage, Acceptance. I will never be good. There, I said it. I like saying it. I’ll say it again: I’ll never be good. It’s just not something I’m suited for. That’s O.K. I’m good at other things. What those are I have no idea. But I’m sure there are some. Flossing and dishwashing come to mind. Getting people I can’t stand to like me is another. But golf ? No. I will never stand over the ball without considering the disaster about to befall me. I’ll never line up a putt and think I’ll make it. Never face a chip without fearing the decel. And yet I’ll continue to play, because I do hit some good shots, especially when I’m on the driving range. I actually hit some great range shots. What the hell is that? I’ve had swing compliments on the range. “I love your tempo,” a woman once said to me. That’s right—I have good tempo. I’ve had many other range compliments that I won’t bore you with, but, believe me, I’m an eight or a nine on the range. So it’s clearly psychological. I wonder... what if I blindfolded myself ? Is it possible?! Have I stumbled upon the Secret? It makes sense. The reason I can’t hit the ball is that I can see it! Tomorrow I’m going to play blindfolded, and if that doesn’t work then I’ll definitely and unequivocally accept Acceptance. I just want to try this blindfold idea. I have a very good feeling about it. Very good. Ω

[Lawrence Eugene "Larry" David is best known as the co-creator and co-writer of "Seinfeld," and for starring as a semi-fictionalized version of himself in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." David graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in history.]

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

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