A tough guy tees off on golf

Reprinted from

April 14, 2011

  Maybe Phil Donahue is to blame, or perhaps Alan Alda, although I tend to cut the latter some slack because his Hawkeye Pierce character frequently made me laugh.
  Actually, though, it’s Alda’s erstwhile television alter ego that played a significant role in shifting society’s general perception of what constitutes appropriate male behavior. During its wildly popular heyday, “M*A*S*H” showed Hawkeye evolving from an unapologetic nurse chaser to a virtual women’s-rights crusader, which might have been at least remotely possible had the Korean War begun sometime in the 1970s and lasted 11 years, like the TV program did.
  But we were asked to believe this attitudinal adjustment could have happened in less than one-third that amount of time and within an early 1950s setting. Uh-uh, don’t think so.
  Nevertheless, thanks to Hawkeye and daytime talk-show pioneer Donahue, the publicly accepted male of the past 30 years is one that critics deride as a “touchy-feely” type. Whereas anger and enjoyment once represented the full range of displayed feelings in guys, today’s gentler gentlemen are allowed — heck, encouraged — to bring to the surface whatever emotion a particular situation warrants.

 Like it or not, that describes the modern-day male in most instances. And one guy who most certainly doesn’t like it is James Pomerantz.
  Pomerantz is a 57-year-old man’s man who wrote a book with the longest title I’ve ever seen: “Tough Guys Always Play From The Tips: A Unisex Guide to Golf, Tough Guys and the Neutered Weenie Fraternity Created By Such an Insane Game.” Normally, I’d make a wisecrack, but after reading a brief bio about Pomerantz, I decided that might not be in my best interests.
  This is, after all, someone who has earned a first-degree black belt in Tibetan kung-fu, graduated from a professional bull-riding school and is a gun owner. My black belt, on the other hand, simply holds up my manufactured-overseas drawers, and the only bull with which I’ve acquainted myself is the kind I write down in this space each week.
  And as for guns — does one that squirts water count as a legitimate firearm?
  If those credentials aren’t enough to convince everyone of Pomerantz’s virility, consider some of these other aspects of his life: He once co-owned a bar with Steven Seagal, the martial-arts film hero, and Pomerantz has Mike Ditka’s phone number on his speed dial. Let’s face it, they don’t come any more testosterone-fueled than Da Coach.
  The point I’m trying to make — and one I hope Pomerantz clearly understands if he ever happens across this particular piece of journalism — is that we are talking about a legitimate tough guy here. But before anyone starts thinking Pomerantz is nothing more than a semi-literate musclehead, a glimpse at excerpts of his book should be required.
  I received a few of them, along with the aforementioned biographical information, in an email that was promoting his book. I was struck by Pomerantz’s deftness with humor, which is, of course, preferable to being struck by his balled-up hand.
  Even though he has golfed since age 10, Pomerantz still cites the game as one of the major causes of the “neutered weenie fraternity.” In fact, he apparently feels that it is as much — if not more — to blame than any one individual.
  While I could easily paraphrase some of Pomerantz’s observations, better to let him speak for himself:
  • “The popularity of golf and the decline of the American Tough Guy certainly have a direct connection. If they don’t, then can someone please explain plaid pants to anyone with an IQ above concrete?”
  • “Think about this: While alcohol is forbidden on the field of play in baseball, football and other manly sports, it’s not only available, but encouraged in golf.”
  • “On the exertion scale of physical effort, golf falls just a hair short of playing poker or sleeping. In summary, golf is an exertion-free game for alcoholic blowhards.”
  • “Football and baseball have complex rules and umpires to prevent cheating of any kind. Meanwhile, on the golf course, players are perfectly content to skip a stroke, take a mulligan, move a lie, concede an easy putt and kick a ball out of the tall grass when no one is looking.”
  I couldn’t have expressed those thoughts any better. Pomerantz went on to decry golf for its inability to separate the men from the boys — “Put Tiger Woods on a 150-yard, par 3 [hole] with Skippy the accountant, and let them each hit a bucket of balls toward the green. I guarantee Skippy gets a shot closer to the pin than Tiger at least once, if not more, during the challenge.” — and an overall cultivation of anti-competitive mind-sets.
  “Life is about confrontation and confidence, perseverance and integrity,” Pomerantz writes. “Golf is about drinking, cheating and competition with as little effort as humanly possible. After all, how has golf, a non-contact, don’t-make-a-sound sport become the most popular amateur sport in America for men of all ages?”
  Is Pomerantz being unduly harsh in his assessment? NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, for example, has never learned to conquer a golf course in the same manner as he once did a basketball court, and there are thousands of other links-related horror stories out there that almost anyone who’s spent much time at a country club can tell.
  Therefore, maybe some of Pomerantz’s criticism isn’t entirely warranted. Then again, we’re talking about a man who considers Walker and Texas Ranger Bobby “inspirational and relevant child names,” and who once took it upon himself to physically — and loudly — remove a drunken adult soccer coach from a park district youth field.
  So Pomerantz obviously adheres to a more rugged set of standards than most of us. I applaud him for that.
  And I’d expound on the point further, but I can’t because it’s almost time for the Masters to begin.