Golf has a lot of parallels with Life

jordan spiethWe love sports analogies, but many of those analogies really don’t work. In life we really do not have five power lifters to protect us from evil. In golf, as in life, you can get advice from other people but it is mostly up to you to perform. On Sunday we saw one of the best in the world in golf’s biggest tournament under perform when the pressure was the highest. Jordan Spieth fumbled the ball at the goal line.

Now, before anyone jumps on me for talking about Jordan, I really like Jordan for a number of reasons. I love the fact that he really never gives up. He is always out there trying to do better. His game is about precision and not power. For years commentators have marveled at the drives of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. We have been told that they are the wave of the future. Power. Jordan made all of these guys look foolish as he won the Masters and US Open last year.

In life we have those pressure moments. Sure, we don’t have millions of people watching our every move, but the pressure is on, nonetheless. Whether it is an important test that allows us to be certified as a lawyer, a doctor, a contractor or something else, it is pressure. Pressure can make us do stupid things.

On Sunday, Jordan Spieth was leading the Masters. He was struggling. He didn’t have his A game. He wasn’t hitting his targets. His driver was flaring to the right. Every now and then, his irons were also flaring. His scrambling was solid, but his putter was good. It was not red hot. He was leading by 5 strokes with 9 holes to play. Sounds easy. He bogeys 10. He bogeys 11. Now, he comes to short par 3. 150 yards. This hole is known for swirling winds, which make it hard to pick a club. The target area is small. Hit the ball short and you are in the water. Hit the ball long and you are in the bunker, which will make it very difficult to get a par from there. Seven strokes later he was staring at a quadruple bogey.

jordan masters

I have seen several folks who are very smart, but for some reason, they can’t pass the big test. They have taken the big test several times and they fall short. The track star who hits the last hurdle and loses the big race is kind of the same thing. I’m not sure why some people perform well under pressure and others simply don’t.

Here’s what I find interesting. Tiger Woods. There, I have said it. Almost no one mentioned Tiger Woods on Masters Sunday. Tiger Woods would not have lost on Sunday if he had a 5-stroke lead heading into the back 9. Somehow, he would have figured out a way to win. Once he had the lead on Sunday, it was a lock. So, how was Tiger able to handle the pressure and perform?

I think that Jordan Spieth will be fine. Rory Mcilroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have shown that they can win on the big stage, but they have also faltered on that same big stage.

Congratulations to Danny Willett for winning the Masters. He played Jordan’s mistake-free game. He hit his targets. He played steady throughout the tournament.

I guess the take-home lesson is to take a deep breath. Slow down and don’t let the pressure get to you…if you can.

Violence in America

tamir rice

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was playing in a Cleveland, Ohio park with a toy gun. Someone called 911 and reported that a “juvenile” was pointing a gun at passersby and that the gun was probably a toy. Two city police officers named Loehmann and Garmback arrived on the scene in separate cars. Critical information had NOT been related to them: they were not told that Tamir was a child, nor that Tamir appeared to be playing with a toy gun. It appears, however, that within two minutes of arriving on the scene Officer Loehmann had taken out his real gun, aimed, opened fire, and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

It is unclear to me how anyone, including a trained police officer, can assess a scene in under two minutes. It is unclear how a grown man can not recognize the difference between a child with a toy gun and a threatening adult. It is equally unclear to me how anyone with a conscience can ever again sleep at night after shooting a child to death. Yet two “independent experts” in police shootings stated that this police shooting was justified and/or reasonable.

In South Carolina, a female high-school student refused to leave the classroom, and security was called. The so-called “school resource officer,” Ben Fields, confronted the girl, grabbed her, and then turned over her desk with her in it, throwing her on the floor in the process. He then dragged her out of the classroom while choking her. Of course, everything was caught on a cell-phone video. Another student, who complained about her classmate’s treatment by calling out “Stop! What are you doing to her?” (or something along those lines), was then arrested for interfering. The security guard has since been fired – but was this the best way to handle a teenager?

America is simply too violent. It seems the only way we try to resolve a dispute is with a gun. Shoot first and asked questions later. It’s as if we live in the Wild, Wild West with Wyatt Earp and John Wesley Hardin, who once shot a man for snoring. Where is Wild Bill Hickok? We have to have a better way of resolving our differences.

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The Sad State of American Politics

There is a famous Bugs Bunny cartoon that opens with Elmer Fudd walking with his shotgun. He turns to the camera to inform us that he is hunting rabbits. Soon he finds Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, who get into an argument about whether Elmer should shoot rabbits or ducks because there is some confusion over whether it is Duck Season or Wabbit Season. There is a famous exchange where Daffy and Bugs are yelling at each other – “Duck Season!” “Rabbit Season!” “Duck Season!” “Rabbit Season!”

Sadly, this is the state of our political debate. There is no middle ground. There is only Black and White. There is Night and Day. Either you are a patriot or a commie pinko, terrorist-loving traitor. There is no compromise.

Not in a cartoon, but in real life, we saw everyone take similar positions after 14 Americans were slaughtered in San Bernardino, CA. On one side, we have Americans screaming that Obama and the Democrats have been soft on terrorism, and if Obama were truly serious about keeping American’s safe, he would have prevented this tragedy. On the other side, we have Americans shouting at the top of their lungs that this event was 100% predictable in a country where it is easier to purchase an assault rifle than it is to buy liquor in most counties.

The arguments on both sides are so routine and predictable they should be written down on the American Tombstone. “Here lies a Once-Great Nation, but everyone stopped listening to each other.”

Within the last decade we have hardened our positions. The Speaker of the House recently resigned his post – and his seat, which he’d held for 28 years – because one flank of his own party forced him out. The so-called “Freedom Caucus” took the stance that compromise on anything was wrong. There was no give. There was only “our way or the highway.”

While Boehner was less than ideal as a congressman or as Speaker, he has been replaced by Paul Ryan, who is even more extreme. We are going from worse to worser. (Yep, I said worser. And I hope and pray we don’t get to worstest.)

This whole political thing is un-American. America was built on compromise.

I don’t hate Paul Ryan. I think that his ideas would move America in the wrong direction and make it even harder for middle-class Americans to get ahead. Turning Medicare into a voucher program will leave thousands of elderly Americans out in the cold.

On the other side, I like Hillary Clinton, but I don’t think she is a saint. I recognize that not everything she says is brilliant, nor worthy of writing on stone tablets. But she’s smart, experienced and capable. We have to stop making some politicians into saints and others into devils. We really don’t need to elect a saint (think how many of them were fanatics); we need to elect a smart, decent human being who’s a good leader, a good listener, and a good judge of what’s right and wrong, what’s possible and impossible, and what is the best way “to promote the general welfare” of the United States and all its citizens.

Let me focus on the idea of compromise. This is the foundation of democracy. James Madison didn’t think that we needed a Bill of Rights. George Mason left the Constitutional convention because a Bill of Rights wasn’t included. Madison noted that without a Bill of Rights that the Constitution might not pass the states. So, instead of finger-pointing and calling his political opponents anti-American, King George-loving, mulletheads, he sat down and wrote the Bill of Rights based on what George Mason had laid out. By writing the Bill of Rights, James Madison made what may be the biggest political compromise in the history of our nation.
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