A Good Walk Spoiled

It was Mark Twain who said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” All across the United States, Europe, and the world there are some 40,000 golf courses, The average 18-hole golf course covers some 150 acres. At 640 acres in a square mile, that means that some 9,375 square miles (24,281 square kilometers) across the planet are dedicated to golf courses—approximately the area of the State of Massachusetts.

That’s a fair-sized piece of land. What makes the statistic interesting is that golf is on the decline, at least in the United States. According to one source, “The number of core American golfers (those playing eight rounds or more per year) has fallen between three and 4.5 percent every year since 2006.”

The Three Stooges at the Golf Course

If that trend continues, I see a giant land rush forming to convert golf courses into expensive subdivided real estate.

In fact, in the news there is a big kerfuffle about a dispute between the PGA and Saudi Arabia’s LIV, which is making inroads on the PGA’s monopoly. You can read about it here.

So don’t spend too much money on golf clubs and golf fashions. They may not be around much longer.

“Nothing Is Easy”

Bengals QB Joe Burrow Grimaces in Pain

I am not known as a big football fan, but nonetheless I decided to watch today’s Superbowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams. After all, the game was being held in L.A. and featured the home team.

While it was nice that the Rams won, I was very conscious of the physical pain that is an inevitable part of the game. In the Second Quarter, Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr had a non-contact misstep which injured his left knee and sidelined him for the rest of the game—leading to additional defensive coverage on Cooper Kupp that made things rough on QB Matthew Stafford until the fourth quarter.

What particularly caught my eye was the sacking of Bengals QB Joe Burrow by Rams linebacker Von Miller early in the Fourth Quarter (above). For several seconds, Burrow lay on the field with his face contorted in pain. Fortunately for his team, he was able to recover, though I felt there will be something to pay for that takedown.

There was a lot of meaningless commentary by all the sports pundits, but only once did the truth come out when one of them said, “Nothing is easy.” No truer words were ever spoken in sport.

Grace Under Pressure

Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympiad—in 2021!

Japan was put in an untenable position by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). At a time when Covid-19 was surging through the island nation, the IOC said the Olympic Games had to go on nonetheless. Of course, we won’t know for a week or two whether Japan will pay the price by putting on the games during an epidemic.

I must say, however, that Japan reacted with competence and grace and managed to put on a memorable event. Even if the stands were mostly empty, these games were an utter delight, even if NBC’s televising was at times ham-fisted and soap-opera-ish.

My favorite events were the team competitions, such as men’s and women’s basketball, women’s indoor and beach volleyball, women’s water polo, and some of track and field events. I didn’t much care for golf, canoeing/kayaking, swimming and diving. Never before have I spent so much time glued to the television set watching sporting events. It was worth it, and I feel bereft now that the Games are over.

New Olympic Events

Get Ready for These New Events in Paris 2024

In the above picture, Moldovan women athletes are synchronously showing amazement at a random consonant, in this case the letter “T.” Below, however, are some actual events planned for the next summer Olympics:

  • Team Parcheesi. Expect the Chinese to win gold here.
  • Underwater Track Cycling. Canada and New Zealand are already gearing up for this event.
  • Low-Jump. Exactly what it sounds like: medalists must leave the ground, but only for a few millimeters. The world record is currently held by Burkina Faso at 11.68 mm.
  • Ballroom Balance Beam. Ballroom dancing with a man and a woman as partners atop a balance beam. Both are expected to stick the landing … but exactly where I am not at liberty to say.
  • Dog Walking. Contestants must walk a pack of at least ten dogs and are downgraded for the dogs’ disobedience, toilet, and sniffing stops.
  • Sand Kayaking. How fast can contestants be when they have to paddle on sand dunes of various heights?
  • Dumpster Diving. Exactly what it sounds like. The dumpsters are filled with plastic detritus from the Pacific Garbage Patch, from heights of 10, 20, and 30 meters.
  • Women’s Cubic Beach Volleyball. The same as beach volleyball, but the “ball” is an inflatable cube. What matters most, however, is the skimpiness of the bikinis worn.
  • Blind Man’s Buff. Played on a 10-acre obstacle course.
  • Weight Watchers Watch Party. Judges will look for the most vapid and overweight participants in home watch parties. The U.S. is expected to win the Lead Medal at this event during most Olympics.

Da Fambly

Athletes’ Families Back Home Rejoicing in Family Member Medal Performances

If you’ve been watching the 2020 (2021?) Tokyo Olympics on TV, you’ve seen it a hundred times. Cut from the proud medalist to his or her family back in the states howling and dancing like a bunch of Yahoos. NBC is using Microsoft Teams software to show the family response to the winners. And the result is usually pretty nauseating.

They are usually packed in large rooms as big as dance halls in groups of several dozen, usually wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts emblazoned with the name of their boy or girl in Tokyo. My usual response is to say to myself, addressing the athletes, “So those are the clowns you’ve managed to give the slip to. Time to stay far away from Podunk: Find a life for yourself away from these people.”

Oh, you can telephone them once every few months, but now it’s time to live your own life.

I imagine that some people get pretty weepy about showing the families of the athletes. My reaction can be summarized in one word: Flee! That’s what I did when I went 600 miles away from home to go to college, and then moved to the opposite side of the country to go to graduate school and begin a life of my own.

All of us eventually have to weaken those family ties in order to live our own lives. I find that the ones who don’t wind up leading stunted, dissatisfied lives. Seeing those T-shirted family mobs on NBC make me glad that I did what I did back in the 1960s. Not that I didn’t love my family, but I didn’t want to live as the college boy who never left home.

Unintended Consequences

Cuban Volleyballers Lidianny Echevarria Benitez and Leila Consuelo Martinez Ortega

I do not think this was the intention of the Olympic organizers, but one thing the 2020 Tokyo Games has done for me is to make me appreciate the beauty of young black women athletes. Especially those competing in 2×2 beach volleyball and the various track and field events.

Frankly, I prefer watching women’s events more than the all-male ones, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in this. When the U.S. team shut down the Cuban volleyball team of of Lidy and Leila—who had previously defeated Australia, Russia, Italy, and the Netherlands—I felt saddened. Not that April and Alix on the U.S. team weren’t cuties, but in that department they did not come close to the Cuban women.

U.S. Track & Field’s Dalilah Muhammad

Just to show that I am not unpatriotic in my morose delectation of young black women, I also am partial to such U.S. track stars as Dalilah Muhammad.

Now all these women are impossibly young, but that’s no bar to a dirty old man like myself.

Tokyo Tearjerkers

Olympic Swimmer Caeleb Dressel

I enjoy watching the Olympic competitions. What I do not enjoy is the attempt by NBC to turn the competition into a soap opera. I have watched only a few segments of the competition so far, but I am thoroughly tired with the number of times I have seen Gold Medal winner Caeleb Dressel with tears in his eyes after he won the 100 meter freestyle.

Then, of course, we had to cut to his family back in Florida with some hundred maskless people jumping and hooting for joy. Granted that Caeleb may love his family, but sure don’t, and I get tired of seeing their little super spreader celebration.

What annoys me is that there seems to be a 50:50 ratio between the sports and the soap opera. Are we all such weenies that we have to put up with this schlock?

An American Heroine

Megan Rapinoe, the Star of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team

She was nowhere near the biggest bruiser on the field (that honor goes to France’s Wendie Renard, who at 6’ 1” was the biggest in the entire tournament). But when there were a few inches of daylight between her and the net, Megan Rapinoe found a way to corkscrew the ball between the defenders and past the goalkeeper and onto the scoreboard.

I don’t watch sports on television much, but I have a soft spot in my heart for what the world calls football and we Americans call soccer. That is because my Dad played for a Czechoslovakian club in the 1920s and for various nationality teams in Cleveland during the 1930s. When I was a child, he would occasionally take me to Moreland Park, where he was widely recognized by the old hands at the game. Elek and Emil Paris were the Terrible Twins of the Cleveland clubs. I heard all the stories about the players whose legs were broken by my father’s powerful kicks. These stories may have been slightly embroidered, but I ate them all up with a feeling of family pride.

The fact that Donald Trump is highly critical of her makes me admire Megan Rapinoe all the more. When asked by a reporter whether she would grace the White House with her presence, she replied that “she was not going to the f—ing White House.” That set the Donald off, he being rather thin-skinned by any kind of criticism.

There was a follow-up to that, however. “I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House with exception of the expletive,” Rapinoe told reporters. “My mom will be very upset about that.”

Still, during the Star Spangled Banner, all her teammates stood with their hand to their hearts—except for Megan, who had her hands at her sides. I like this girl: She’s a rebel!



The Game Face of Death

Michael Phelps Introduces a New Rio Meme

Michael Phelps Introduces a New Rio Meme

While waiting for his next event, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps assumed the Great Stone face of Death, concentrating hard on his next medal(s). You may recall the 2012 London Olympics, when the award for best Oly-Meme went to gymnast McKayla Maroney, though hers was the “Not Impressed” face while the Phelpser went all-round death glare.

McKayla maroney Is Not Impressed

McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed

“I Hate That Kind of Guy”

Emile Griffith Kills Benny Paret in the Ring on March 24, 1962

Emile Griffith Punches the Life Out of Benny Paret in the Ring on March 24, 1962

I have just finished Norman Mailer’s essay for Esquire about the third Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston match on September 25, 1962. It was entitled “Ten Thousand Words a Minute.” As Patterson was knocked out a couple of minutes into the first round—so quickly that there was widespread disagreement about the number of punches that connected—Mailer wrote mostly about the coverage of boxing by the press and other matches.

What I remember most about the essay was Mailer’s description of an earlier match, between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret in March of that year. There was a lot of bad blood between the two boxers. Paret was on record as saying “I hate that kind of guy. A fighter’s got to look and talk and act like a man.” At the weigh-in before the fight, Paret touched his opponent’s buttocks and called him a maricón, in English:  a “faggot.” Griffith was enraged.

Mailer ruminated on the confrontation:

The accusation of homosexuality arouses a major passion in many men; they spend their lives resisting it with a biological force. There is a kind of man who spends every night of his life getting drunk in a bar, he rants, he brawls, he ends in a small rumble on the street; women say, “For God’s sakes, he’s homosexual. Why doesn’t he just turn queer and get his suffering over with.” Yet men protect him. It is because he is choosing not to become homosexual. It was put best by Sartre who said that a homosexual is a man who practices homosexuality. A man who does not, is not homosexual—he is entitled to the dignity of his choice. He is entitled to the fact that he chose not to become homosexual, and is paying presumably his price.

In fact, Griffith was bisexual. He designed women’s hats. But at that particular time and place, he was inhabiting his own closet. He came into the ring for blood, and in the twelfth round, he took his revenge:

In the twelfth, Griffith caught him. Paret got trapped in a corner. Trying to duck away, his left arm and his head became tangled on the wrong side of the top rope. Griffith was in like a cat ready to rip the life out of a huge boxed rat. He hit him eighteen right hands in a row, an act which took perhaps three or four seconds, Griffith making a pent-up whimpering sound all the while he attacked, the right hand whipping like a piston rod which has broken through the crankcase, or like a baseball bat demolishing a pumpkin….

And Paret? Paret died on his feet. As he took those eighteen punches something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us. One felt it hover in the air. He was still standing in the ropes, trapped as he had been before, he gave some little half-smile of regret, as if he were saying, “I didn’t know I was going to die just yet,” and then, his head leaning back but still erect, his death came to breathe about him. He began to pass away. As he passed, so his limbs descended beneath him, and he sank slowly to the floor. He went down more slowly than any fighter had ever gone down, he went down like a large ship which turns on end and slides second by second into its grave. As he went down, the sound of Griffith’s punches echoed in the mind like a heavy ax in the distance chopping into a wet log.

Paret was rushed to the hospital in a coma, where he died ten days later without ever regaining consciousness. You can see the climax of the fight on YouTube: