The power of print: Newspapers have something for everyone, even golfers

April 27, 2017

The best way to start a day (I believe) is to read a newspaper. And the best way to read a newspaper (I believe) is by turning actual pages. We get three papers at our home, and I start with The New York Times. The Wednesday paper had three particularly interesting sports stories, in a manner of speaking.
There was a sports section story on page B11 by Bill Pennington under the headline, “Golf Moves to Blunt Video Use For Rulings.” The Times takes the intersection of rules and sports, all sports, seriously. Yes, there are many lawyers among the paper’s readers. But this particular emphasis shows an understanding that the starting point for all sports—and one could say the same of all democratic institutions—is adherence to a system of rules or laws. Lacking that, there is chaos.
I happen not to agree with one particular sentence in the story, that the new decision announced by the USGA and the R&A is “a recognition that top golfers playing on television and subject to exhaustive video review were being held to a higher standard than every other golfer.” The implication is the existence of different standards. There is only one standard in golf: strict adherence to the rules. Every player should play every shot as if he or she is being watched by an incalculable number of people. That is central to golf’s standing as a sport in which the competitor is not trying to get away with anything. But to even have that conversation, reading Pennington’s story can only be helpful.
Yes, you could roam the internet and find other stories from other news sources that will help you understand this narrow issue in a deeper way. But on Wednesday morning, I was glad to keep turning pages and get to (as I do) the obits. I was, of course, not glad to learn of the death of a 59-year-old man, Greg Marius. Cancer. But what a life he led. He was the founder of a summer basketball tournament at historic Rucker Park in Harlem called the Entertainers Basketball Classic. Iverson, LeBron and Kobe played in it, on a court where Kareem and Connie Hawkins and Earl Manigault refined their games. Another world, sitting there on B16. Thank you, Mr. Marius. And also Daniel E. Slotnik, obit writer.
And then came the morning’s really unexpected moment and in an unexpected place, under the day’s editorials. It was the columnist (and golfer) Thomas L. Friedman, in a piece datelined Dubai, United Arab Emirates, writing under the headline: “On a Par 5 in Dubai, Good Humor and a Respite From All Things Trump.”
Friedman, who caddied for Chi Chi Rodriguez in the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine (T-27), writes, “So a Hindu, a Muslim and a Jew are playing golf together in Dubai.” The first of these golfers, Friedman explains, is “the famed Indian mystic, poet and yogi Jaggi Vasudev, who goes by his reverential name, Sadhguru.” The man doesn’t sound, by the way, like a sad guru. He sounds like a delightful golf partner. Ever hear of the man? I certainly had not. He founded an educational movement called Isha, and images of his long white beard and matching turban are all over the internet. (The internet has made the world a better place.) As my father said to me 10,000 times when I was a kid, “Broaden your horizons.” If he was annoyed, he’d add the word man. Friedman writes: “Sadhguru got addicted to golf while visiting followers in America. With about a 15 handicap now, he can hit a drive 220 yards.
“As a yogi, it was not surprising that he had probed the deeper meaning of the game: ‘The simplicity of it makes everyone attempt it, but the subtlety of it makes almost everybody get frustrated with it,’ he once observed in an interview with Isha’s magazine. Golf was also just like life (and yoga), he added: People mess up at both when their ‘interior is not settled.’”
You are maybe thinking what I am: It’s hard to imagine a better one-sentence summary of the game when she’s fighting you than those 11 words. After a passing bout of good golf, we all ask ourselves, “Where does it go when it goes?” That’s my question for Sadhguru. Where does it go, brother?
I finished the paper and my second cup of coffee and got to work (Tiger Woods and his idea for a seven-club tournament, on this day). Friedman’s morning column, and the yogi’s comments, made me feel that typing about golf and its mysteries is not the most ridiculous way for a person to spend his life. Next time out, I will try to settle my interior before I get to the 1st tee. Friedman may well file stories from four or five continents before he returns to the subject of golf, but I’ll be reading him when he does and, of course, before that, too.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your feedback at