Sports, The Pandemic & Excellence Under Pressure

Father's Day, Golf & George Will

I hope all the fathers reading this had an enjoyable Sunday. Mine was enjoyable, if low key. We went to church, had brunch out our favorite place, I took a nap, and watched the end of the US Open golf tournament. Classic dad stuff. I even managed to survive seven teenagers in the house (both my kids had friends over).

Sports and the Pandemic

One of the unexpected effects of the pandemic for me was that I watch a lot less sports these days. When the work from home and then lockdowns began there was something about watching sports on TV that just seemed frivolous or not a good use of my time. I know that for some this is counter-intuitive; that sports was a badly needed distraction and source of joy. But I cancelled my subscription to the Athletic, stopped paying attention to sports Twitter, and disengaged to a large degree.

Like so much during the pandemic, this reaction was a jumble of emotions, attempts at better time management, and reaction to complicated circumstances, but the pandemic reinforced my determination to spend my time wisely. And spending large chunks of time watching sports only to be grumpy or depressed afterward seemed particularly bad when life was extra stressful. The other element was that watching my favorite teams can be a stressful passtime (see football, University of Michigan, & Pittsburgh Steelers).

I used to feel a compulsion to watch if some big sporting event was on; a sense that if I didn’t watch I would miss out on something. For the most part, I have pushed this feeling aside.

Excellence Under Pressure

I did watch the US Open on Father’s Day, as one does, and I was reminded why I enjoying watching golf; particularly the majors. Watching what golfers do when everything is on the line is fascinating.

Jon Rahm was the definition of clutch on Sunday making birdies on the last two holes to win his first major. In contrast, Louis Oosthuizen had multiple chances to tie Rahm but failed. His tee shot on 17 went out of bounds and likewise on 18 his tee shot prevented him from going for the green in two, and thus giving him no real chance to match Rahm’s score. It highlighted the pressure involved in playing at the highest level. Perhaps it is unfair, but Oosthuizen now seems like a perennial runner-up.

Another example of this is Russell Henley who missed a short par putt on 18 to drop out of the top ten. There are potentially significant financial and qualifying ramifications of this missed putt. Needing to concentrate and execute, but probably exhausted and disappointed after a tough day, Henley instead missed the putt.

There is something about golf that seems like a challenging blend of the mental and the physical. For both Rahm and Oosthuizen Sunday was a chance to accomplishing something but also to change their standing in the sport. Imagine standing on the tee on a challenging golf course with all these thoughts and emotions swirling around in your head plus the need to come up with a strategy of how best to play the whole or make the putt. Oh, and the big chunk of the world is watching. With just a couple of swings one reinforced his runner-up status and with a couple of putts the other joined the ranks of major winners (the first from his nation to win the US Open!).

I find the psychology and drama of this fascinating. Not enough to watch a lot of golf every week (I didn’t even watch any of the Memorial Tournament held in Columbus for example. Which Rahm was likely to win but for a COVID testing issue that forced him out), but enough to tune in when a major is on the line.

The Evolution of George Will

Fascinating piece from Guy Denton over at The Dispatch on George Will. It might seem counterintuitive to quote the last two paragraphs but I think that is a great way to get you to read the whole thing.

Some conservatives will be delighted by the direction Will’s philosophical journey has taken in recent years. Others will resent it, preferring instead to savor his more Burkean writings of days past. Progressives, meanwhile, may only read any of his work for the sake of acquainting themselves with ideas antipodal to their own. Perhaps this is what makes Will’s career so endearing: Anyone, regardless of persuasion, can derive inspiration from it. 

For young conservatives who wish to be known in the United States, Will’s advice is simple: “Read.Read Hayek, Friedman, Schumpeter, Matt Ridley. The world belongs, in the end, to those who know things, and who know how to argue.” His own life stands as decisive proof of that statement.

I recently bought Statecraft As Soulcraft (I seem to have misplaced my ancient paperback version) and hope to read it soon. I am intimidated by the scope and length of Will’s The Conservative Sensibility but probably should read that in conjunction with his earlier work.

Like Will, but for different reasons, also see myself as a classical liberal these days even if I am not really thrilled about that designation. But almost every thoughtful right of center person is likely wrestling with these sort of things in our chaotic times.

I think the article shows the challenges of trying to make sense of changing times and circumstances while learning and changing yourself. It also show the limits and brittleness of many political labels over time, IMO.

Two Podcasts and a Book Review

Give a listen to Donald Shoup, author of The Hgh Cost of Free Parking, talk with Russ Roberts. A podcast about parking? I know, doesn’t sound exciting. But this EconTalk episode was fascinating to me. If you are a policy wonk like me, you will enjoy it. Plus, I was encouraged by the examples of cities that made changes and reaped the rewards. We need more stories like this.

Also, be sure to check out the Cultural Debris podcast with Jeffrey Bilbro, editor of the The Front Porch Republic and author of a book on my Want to Read list: Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News.

Lastly, for something a little different, Sarah Schutte looks at Marguerite de Angeli’s beloved tale The Door in the Wall.

Always end with a question?

Did the pandemic change your habits when it comes to TV consumption or some other cultural habit?

Leave a comment