In anticipation of my stint Thursday morning on “For the Love of the Game” (NBC Sports Radio, AM1060 in Phoenix at 8:32 MT), I tuned in to catch a bit of the show in that time slot. Mike (Uncle Buck) Rafferty, the show’s host, was in the middle of a conversation with John “The Hawk” Hawkins, the writer at the Golf Channel.
They were discussing this week’s opening salvo of the post-holiday schedule on the PGA Tour, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the Plantation course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii. And Hawkins didn’t have a lot of good things to say about it.
He went through a series of riffs on a winners-only tournament that wasn’t good enough to attract the marquee players and attracted only “B” players. A course that was too mountainous, too windy and had strange grasses on it. He complained that the PGA Tour was too long, there were only a handful of really big tournaments and the others all were won by a bunch of nobodies.
As a golf writer, he gets paid to provide pointed observations and critiques, but this seemed to go beyond that. It was caustic, cynical and dismissive of players who had literally given their lives over to the game; indeed, to become one of the best players in the world even if some of them remain unknowns as they continue to strive to get the best out of themselves.
The Plantation course may be too mountainous, too windy and be played on strange grasses, but the guys who showed up for the tournament bet their golf games and reputations on the outcome of their willingness to confidently take that on.
We all know people who speak about others in accusatory, evaluative and dismissive ways. They are everywhere in our daily interactions. There is a spiritual tenet that this approach to the world stems from “attack thoughts,” the preemptive attempt of the ego to rebut what others “must” be thinking about them.
And that comes from not realizing that there is a spiritual essence underlying all of these egos that is good and pure and capable of amazing feats. In its fear, the ego is unable to look beyond itself.
In practical terms, what this means is that one of the reasons that players are unable to get beyond their nervousness or fear or skittishness is that their egos are afraid that others are saying the same things about them, even if only on a subliminal level. They may have no idea what these feelings stem from.
So if the optimum way to play the game with mastery is with a calm, clear and present mind in order to be in the moment, egoic thoughts produce way too much clutter. I can remember a tenth tee in my amateur days that backed up against the restaurant’s plate glass windows, behind which patrons innocently munched their lunch. But my ego raged, “What will they think of this swing?” “What will they think of this shot?” And by inference, “What will they think of me?” The shot ended well enough, but riddled with tension, it wasn’t the majestic vision I held in my mind.
So when you begin to understand these feelings and where they come from, you can begin to look at these thoughts as the defensive measures they are. But when you finally buy in to the goodness of spiritual essence in most people and calm down, you can begin to see the “attack thoughts” of others as aberrant behavior from a frightened ego.
And perhaps, instead of recoiling in fear, to summon up the greatness of your own essential goodness…and have compassion for a fellow traveler blind or unaccepting of their own.
At least that’s what gets me by those tenth tee situations now.