One of my favorite sports writers, Bill Simmons at ESPN.com, recently wrote a column that included a funny section on how everybody loves to tell a fantasy football war story, but no one wants to listen to them. It struck me that this is EXACTLY the same in golf. At the conclusion of every round, we sit together, each of us desperate to explain how the forces of nature and other golfers conspired together to rob us of a stroke (or three or four), pretending to listen to the others and hoping they’ll shut up soon so we can start OUR story.
There’s actually a real structure to the process:
1. It was a Dark and Stormy Night. The story always opens with an extremely dramatic description of the backdrop for the story, involving Earth (“It was a 450 yard par four, with at least a 225 yard carry to carry the crap, and then a tiny green WAYYYYY up hill”), Wind (“Dude, the wind was just HOWLING – I mean, this was probably at least a four club quartering head wind”) or Fire (okay, I haven’t heard one of those yet).
2. In Da Club. “I was thinking maybe 7 iron, but then I would have to really nuke it, so I decided to go with an easy 6.” Why would anyone in the world ever care what club you used? In what possible way could this have any impact on my life? And secondly, we all know that you have absolutely no ability to “nuke it” or hit a “stinger” on command…
3. Diplomatic Immunity. “So I absolutely PURE the ball – I mean I caught it about as well as I can hit it.” This is clearly the set-up – what this literary device does is make it clear to the listener (who really couldn’t care less) that what happens next is without a doubt not the fault of the storyteller.
4. The Perfect Storm. Enter the villain of the day – this is a continually changing cast, which can include the OB stake, the idiot who didn’t rake the bunker, the shadow of one of your playing partners, and my personal favorite, the groundskeeper who pointed the tee box the wrong direction. “So then the ball goes OB right. Can you believe that? It’s just ridiculous that I have to deal with [enter the name of the villain]. If it hadn’t been for [enter the name of the villain], I would have at least been putting for par. It totally sucked.”
5. It’s a Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever. As your friend concludes his tale, the key is to nod just long enough to seem like you care before you launch into your own saga. Jump in too quickly and they’ll likely still diesel on a bit, knocking and pinging to interrupt your story with insights like “Oh yeah – that’s totally just like what happened to me. I still can’t believe that. I mean seriously…” Nod too long, and they’ll think you want MORE and give you the 12″ extended dance re-mix of their story. “I mean who, I mean who, I mean who, I-I-I-I-I-I mean who doesn’t rake the bunker – the bunker – the bunker – the b-b-b-b-b-bunker? That reminds me of LAST week, LAST week, LAST week, when I was s-s-s-s-standing on the tee box…”
But hey, who are we kidding? We’re not going to stop telling our own stories. And we’re DEFINITELY not going to start actually listening to other people’s stories. Let’s just accept that it’s all a part of the secret pact of golf and move on. So did I ever tell you about the time I almost birdied the par 3 16th at Cypress Point? I pulled out driver because the wind was whipping…