Four weekends a year, I can guarantee that my father, my grandfather and I, all cozy in homes that are a thousand miles from one another, are doing the same thing. It's a Major Tournament weekend. We're watching golf.
When I confess that I spend four weekends a year fixated on the meanderings of a little white ball, people express surprise. I'm not really the sort that likes sports. I'm lucky when I can tell one from another. But I grew up with golf. As a toddler, my grandmother threw me in the back of her cart with her clubs and I bounced across the fairways. My father was desperate for me to be a golfer (I play, but too poorly to be anything but a disappointment.) and tried to give me lessons in the backyard. And some of my fondest summer memories are running in and out through open screen doors as my father snoozed on the couch and the sounds of televised golf melted into sun-warmed carpet. I knew all the golfers names, the Jacks and Toms and Fuzzys. Even as a child, I knew who I wanted to win.
I occasionally try to explain my love for televised golf. It's the staid announcers, whispering in British accents about a difficult lie, an excellent tee shot, a bad club choice. It's the sound of the wind on microphones and the crack of club against ball and ball thumping to a stop on the green. It's the polite smattering of applause even after the most abysmal putt. (I must admit that I do not enjoy the recent trend of men in the crowd bellowing "IN THE HOLE" after every shot. Golf is a quiet game. Plus, it's harder for me to nap during the middle of round three if someone's bellowing.)
But the real truth of my love for the sport, I think, is in its sentimentality. Golfers are a sentimental group, and when you give the lot of them a weekend of air time and the resources of television commentators and advertising agencies, they can outdo Hallmark at Christmas without breaking a sweat. I cry during every major tournament at least once. When Jack Nicklaus played his final round at St. Andrew's two years ago, fighting off his own tears as he was greeted by a standing ovation on the 18th green, I cried like a baby. Tiger Woods cried in his caddy's arms after winning his first major after his father's death and I can't imagine there was a dry eye in the house. There wasn't in mine.
This year, I've cried already. (At the golf. The commercials are also an astounding exercise in sentimentality, but that could be a post in itself.) Steve Sticker, a golfer whose game had been so bad he'd been written off by many, actually cried during his post-round interview when he was told that he'd set a course record and was asked what it meant to him. I'm sorry. Who doesn't cry when they watch something like that? Who doesn't need an occasional cathartic cry, not about evil or politics or an incredibly sad afternoon movie, but instead about individual triumph over demons and habits? Ok, so maybe most of you. But the scenery ain't bad.