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Posts Tagged ‘Golf

A Friend And A Golfer

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Roughly about six years ago, starting around a Delhi autumn and leading up to the coming spring, I spent a good part of the capital’s pleasant season where a visit to the Delhi Golf Club on Zakir Hussain Marg was not an anomaly. The outdoor veranda of the club where tea and snacks are served is a beautiful place from where one can see the lush green course and have a relaxed conversation (I don’t know if the veranda still looks like that). It was in this unrepeatable season that I learned a little bit about golf because a lot of things converged to make it possible.

An old friend and roommate of mine had left a job in Bangalore and found another one in Delhi. I had spent the past few years staying alone and I looked forward to having an old friend for company and someone to share the rent. The most-important factor was that my roommate had joined Golf Digest India, which was and still is, edited by a common friend Prabhdev Singh.

The benefit of Golf Digest coming to my house every month courtesy my roommate and the company of an avid golfer and a golf editor gave me some idea about the game. It made me appreciate Arthur Daley’s quote: “Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun; if you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart.”

The first television major I enjoyed watching was the Augusta Masters in 2005; where Woods pulled off a win in a playoff against Chris DiMarco. An anonymous one-liner says: “Golf is life. If you can’t take golf, you can’t take life.” The part below is from an edit Prabhdev wrote for the magazine he heads.

“I have seen the Woods effect on women from quite close. First, the 2008 Masters. Waiting at the crossover at the par-3 sixth, an eye-catching blonde parked herself next to me. Soon after she started emitting sounds, the kind people make when they see something they like. I shuffled and smiled but unfortunately she wasn’t into turbaned men. The object of her desire strode purposefully down the slope from the tee and quickly walked past us, eyes fixed on his golf ball on the green. There was no way he couldn’t have seen her (or heard her!) but Tiger had golf on his mind. I was impressed with his single-mindedness.

Last year my wife accompanied me to the U.S. Open at Bethpage, just outside New York. One of the days she decided to make the trip to the golf course to see what the fuss was all about. It so happened that while she was there, Tiger finished his day’s play, and he was then to come to the informal interview area just outside the clubhouse for a quick Q&A. My wife heard about this, and she started to wait for Tiger. It began raining and I ran for cover, but there was no budging her. A security official, who seemed to have seen plenty of this before, lent her a pen in case ‘the man’ happened to be in a mood to sign. When he finally arrived was the time I actually should have run for cover. The wife was suddenly transformed from an almost middle-aged (my golf clubs lie hidden as I write this) housewife to a squealing college goer. It became quite a task to get her to leave the place even long after Tiger left, the wife insisting that he might return. I did get sympathetic looks from my colleagues.

You would have to be carved out of stone to remain impervious to such adulation, and Tiger has been subject to this kind of attention on a sustained basis ever since he started playing big-time golf. People chose to think he is god, but Tiger has shown that he is human.

As for those who have invested large sums of money in him, they would have profited equally-well by all accounts. Money on the PGA Tour has grown more than four-fold since Tiger joined it in 1996. Journeymen pros have him to thank when they dive into their swimming pools in the backyard. Like millions around the world, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Tiger Woods play golf, and I hope I get to see more of the same.

He does have some matters to settle before that. There are three people he is answerable to—his wife, on an immediate basis, and then his two kids when they are old enough to comprehend what they are being subjected to. Of course, how he goes about that is his business.”


Written by Deepan Joshi

January 19, 2010 at 12:02 am

Is The Column One Doesn’t Understand Great?

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I still remember parts of an entertaining conversation that a small group of a couple of my colleagues and I had about a decade ago over a few beers at the Press Club on Raisina Road. It was against the norm of our daily life; where we rarely ever had an alcoholic beverage during the day. It was a day when we got free from the office around noon and decided to visit the-what-we-then-thought as an entertaining watering hole.

Somehow our group with an average age of about 25 found itself in the company of the late Chand Joshi. It would be an understatement to say that we had a good time because we had a blast and Chand Joshi of the Hindustan Times was hilarious, brilliant and thoroughly-captivating for almost three hours that we spent with him. I don’t remember the exact phrase but among dozens of spontaneous gems he also said something to this effect: he said he did a few stories in a year that everyone understood and he did at least one that his employers did not understand; otherwise why would they pay him. The punch line was that he did one story that even he did not understand and it was this one that brought him the maximum praise.

Chand Joshi was just having a go at the enthralled audience and I am quite certain he didn’t seriously mean it, but once in a while I am seriously-confused if the HT Sunday column ‘Red Herring’ follows this approach. The columnist has a decent grasp of subjects apart from sports but he stays true to the name of the column and allows himself a deviation once in a while. A piece headlined ‘The (a little too) beautiful game’ done on October 2 talks about cricket and assumes what would bring delight to the purists. A comment on the Hindustan Times blog ‘Page One’ on a post called ‘Story we all missed’ took on the October 2 piece and said: Moral of the story, those who don’t really follow the game, should not try writing about it; more so when it’s a national daily. And if it’s too itching, as smarter souls do, it’s always better to avoid those technical mumbo-jumbos.

On many Sundays it is a decent column with an eclectic mix of subjects. A recent one about Golf and adultery, though, was a complete wastage of expensive newsprint and real estate on the edit page. Why do I harp about it? Well because I read that ‘we the editorial writers’ are no strangers to insults and, therefore, enjoy having a bit of fun at the expense of others. I am also told that editorial writers find the ‘frustrations’ of others as a darn more enjoyable sight than fisticuffs. So an opportunity to have a go at the edit page is too tempting to avoid; but there is no point losing my shirt about it as edit writers are large-enough to encourage the less-then-fortunate souls having a crack at them. And I have taken this advice at face value when it was given with a straight face to people in one of the edits a while ago.

The real reason for my post, though, is that ‘Golf and Gomarrah’ brought back a lot of nostalgia about my school days in Kullu. Those were innocent times and were also the years when video parlours were a rage in small towns. The column had the quality for which we lied and cheated in our early teens to indulge in a pleasure that came with a bit of guilt, some fear of being spotted and a lot of excitement. A new film by Dada Kondke had hit the video parlours and we risked being spotted by the friends of our parents and sheepishly went in and sat in the back benches and enjoyed the sexual innuendos.

The films were pretty-close to the nature of the column that says: “I haven’t ever uttered this in so many words before, but I’ve always considered golf to be a dodgy sport. After all, how can you trust a man — let alone have babies with him — who swings a rod, thwacks a ball, walks a distance, swings and thwacks a ball again, and keeps walking until the ball plonks into a hole?

Now, would you have thought Tiger to have been such a randy dandy? I doubt it. Shane Warne? Of course. David Beckham? Very much possible. Rahul Dravid? Why not? Any basketball player? Goes with the job. But solid, upright, well-postured Brand Tiger? Who would have thought?

Well, I did.

Like incest, clunky gold watches and living-room fountains, there’s something hokey about golf. The sport is as what-you-see-isn’t-what-you-get as Deepak Chopra, double-breasted jackets and management workshops involving ‘trust games’. The sport is, I’m told, a complex, subtle mix of skill and mental toughness and silly shoes. That sounds ominously like the skills needed to be a good adulterer.”

I can’t question the author’s knowledge about the skills needed to be a good adulterer; but on golf I can safely say that he has missed the greens and the fairway by a mile and has not even managed to land in the rough.

Is The Tiger Lost In The Woods?

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As children my brother and I used to think, like I presume some other children also perhaps thought, whether celluloid heroes like Amitabh Bachchan and sporting ones like Sunil Gavaskar also had to answer nature’s call. For a brief period—at an age that I can’t pinpoint but can indicate by saying that it was characterised by an overwhelming feeling in which everything seemed larger than life—we found it difficult to place our heroes atop a commode. And precisely because our minds were in conflict we occasionally did wonder about what to us was then a profane thought. Nothing remarkable happened when the idea just dropped out of our consciousness; there was no ceremony and there is no memory of it and the only fact is that we grew out of that brief period as naturally and as simply as one season melts into another.

This unsanitary beginning is to make a point that childhood curiosity is one thing and a deep-seated interest in the life of others quite another; it would be a lie to say that I don’t have any interest in the lives of others but I will emphasize that with every passing year an interest in my own life has grown gradually while the interest in the lives of others has declined. And I think that is what happens with most people; my mistakes, just like those of most other people, can be traced back to me. The margin I am keeping here is for a small minority of good boys, who are capable of committing heinous acts and also ensuring that the trail never leads to them.

With that said allow me to start this post about the paparazzi culture and the Tiger Woods life uncovering mission which has become the latest obsession in the world. Is the Tiger Woods scandal a really big story with everything remarkable about it? Truth, by the way, is no defense in defamation cases and the saviour of a reporter and a publication is fair comment (public interest). I got to learn about the fact that it had become a big scandal only via a blog called Medium Term on December 1; and my comment to it suggested that I had reacted only to the last line and not the point of the whole post. Then I read a December 8 update to the blog and the various gormless comments on both the posts; including my own.

Tiger Woods is a genuine great on the golf course and he may not be an ideal husband but is there any shortage of less-than-ideal husbands that Tiger deserves to sit on top of that heap as well. This is typical Daily Mail journalism for you; just go to their website any day and you’ve got to give them credit that they do not lose a single opportunity to have two perfect images that would tell you how an X celebrity has lost or gained a stone since she was last spotted in public. Any female celebrity that walks out without wearing a bra underneath would be up on their website with her cup size and her success at keeping gravity at bay spelt out for the reader.

There is no doubt that the public is interested but I have serious doubts on whether it is in public interest. It is in the interest of our gusto for the lurid that justifies such excavation. There is no moral high ground to claim but I would prefer some erotic literature over what to me is boring tabloid crap any day. How about a paper that unveils the life of tabloid scribes; would that be any less interesting?

I have learnt from friends, who have more than a passing interest in the range, that golf is a sport that mirrors life very closely. I know the rules but only those who play can tell you that it is a simple game if you can keep it simple and can get as entangled as life if you start messing with it. Mark McCormack—the man who founded the first sports management company with just under $500 in capital and thereby gave birth to a multi-billion dollar industry—loved the game of golf and wrote in his bestseller What They Don’t Teach You At The Harvard Business School: “I have often said that I can tell more about how someone is likely to react in a business situation from one round of golf than I can from a hundred hours of meetings. Maybe golf cuts more directly to the psyche than other games and situations. Or maybe it is the venue itself—green grass and rolling hills. It’s astonishing how so simple a game can reveal so much.” Tiger Woods pulling out of golf is already being seen as a threat to the sport that is struggling amid the recession and one newspaper reported that the Tiger Woods brand alone is 50 per cent of the sport.

In a statement published on his Website Tiger Woods said he was profoundly sorry and asked for forgiveness. Golfer John Daly said, “I’m in shock over it all, a lot of our players are in shock. I’m not happy with the way some of our players have responded—that’s their way of getting back because they know they can’t beat him at golf…”

Heinrich Böll, one of Germany’s leading post World War-II writers and the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972, wrote ‘a marvel of compression and irony’, The Lost Honour Of Katharina Blum, that was translated into English a year after its publication in 1974.

The back of the book cover reveals the plot: “Katharina Blum is pretty, bright, hard-working and at the centre of a big city scandal when, at a carnival party, she falls in love with a young radical on the run from the police. Portrayed by the city’s leading newspaper as a whore, a communist and an atheist, she becomes the target of anonymous phone calls and sexual threats. Her life is ruined by the distortions of a corrupt press; she shoots the offending journalist and gives herself up for arrest.

Step by step, and with an affecting forensic clarity, Katharina’s story is reconstructed for the reader, gradually disclosing an entire panorama of human relationship and motive. The novel is a masterful comment on the law and the press, the labyrinth of social truth and the relentless collusion of fact and fiction.”

The Times said, “Böll sustains a masterly and insidious tension to the end. He is detached, angry and totally in control.” Heinrich Böll served for several years as president of International P.E.N. and was a leading defender of the intellectual freedom of writers throughout the world. He died in 1985.

The plot is revealed because it is not the plot but the narration that makes the book great. On one side is Werner Tötges, the journalist behind all the falsification and on the other is Böll’s narrator, whose profession remains unmentioned, but he consistently separates facts from assumptions. The Sunday Times said: “Such is the force of Böll’s conviction, the clarity of his vision and the icy economy of his unemotive prose that within this short space he has distilled a spirit that burns into the palate the unmistakable and lasting tang of truth.”

The thickness of the book is inversely proportional to its impact—just about 140 pages. It is the social milieu of late 1960s and early 70s that the book attacks indirectly; especially the Alex Springer-owned Springer Press that controlled almost half of the newspaper circulation in West Germany.

“Art is always a good hiding-place, not for dynamite, but for intellectual explosives and social time bombs. Why would there otherwise have been the various Indices? And precisely in their despised and often even despicable beauty and lack of transparency lies the best hiding-place for the barb that brings about the sudden jerk or the sudden recognition.” (Heinrich Böll from Nobel Lecture, 1973)

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