Culture, Its Delights and Distractions: How a Sport Benefits the Culture
In that moment on the 18th green at Augusta National, we saw a man overcome by the joy of winning, a man paying honor to his sport, not a man consumed by his paycheck or his celebrity stature.
Many golfers still remember the scene at the final hole of the 1995 Masters Golf Tournament-Ben Crenshaw weeping for joy, bent over, head in hands, while his caddy Carl Jackson comforts him. In that image, many of us noticed something almost lost, nearly extinct, in American manners-the gratitude of a pious man who loves his game. Among professional sports, golf is the last outpost for such a sensibility.
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.
In that image, many of us noticed something almost lost, nearly extinct, in American manners-the gratitude of a pious man who loves his game. Among professional sports, golf is the last outpost for such a sensibility. Tennis had it, but lost it after condoning a generation of rude and spoiled behavior. Hockey players, who nowadays are so busy getting stitched up, probably never had it. Baseball players surely felt nostalgic when they watched Crenshaw win.Football and basketball players lost it years ago, drowned by their PR, along with the rock music that noisily deafens the fans at their sporting events.
In that moment on the 18th green at Augusta National, we saw a man overcome by the joy of winning, a man paying honor to his sport, not a man consumed by his paycheck or his celebrity stature. Crenshaw didn't walk off the green to record a TV spot for Disneyworld or Nike shoes. Instead he talked about his golfing mentor Harvey Penick, of Little Red Book fame. Just a few days before the tournament, Crenshaw had served as a pallbearer at his funeral. As he received the green jacket, the new Master's champion credited Penick with helping him somehow throughout the final round-how rare a thing such piety has become!
Those who know Crenshaw, his love for the game, and its tradition knew he was overwhelmed by his awareness of winning his second Masters and taking his place in the history of golf. Manners like his require piety, reverence for the past, for tradition, for the accomplishments of one's elders, for those who have made the institutions that nourish us today.
As the writer Marion Montgomery put it, "Manners allow the soul to catch its breath." Manners take over where self-conscious reflection and deliberation leave off. Golfers tee off in an order paying homage to the lowest scorer on the previous hole-this is rarely discussed, it simply happens. Perhaps this is why golf is so refreshing, it has not taken on the confusion of contemporary life, particularly its deep skepticism regarding privilege and honor.
An older friend of mine recently said, "Golf is the last sport where a young man can learn to be a gentleman." Remaining quiet and motionless while another player hits, tending to the pin for a partner's putt, praising good shots, offering consolation for bad ones, lending good cheer at a round's conclusion regardless of scores, all are civilizing habits. They are hardly in evidence on our nation's streets.
Golf remains the only major sport to resist the thug element infiltrating our public life. One reason is that you simply cannot play decent golf with bad manners-it gets in the way of the game. Temper may help you make the downfield block, but it won't help you sink a short putt. Initially, playing golf is about learning the proper swing; ultimately, it is about learning self-command.
People wonder why public civility is on the wane, why so little respect is shown toward tradition, the greatness of the past. Some of us have accepted this as the price of becoming cynical, of exposing much of past glory as counterfeit, as camouflage for greedy self-interest and class injustice. No longer believing in the accomplishments of the adult world, we now venerate the scowl of adolescent rebellion. Why should our nation's youth try to grow up and overcome an attitude that the adult world, in large part, has chosen to emulate?
Just like in golf, bad manners get in the way of living well. To grow, to mature, requires great effort and much help-we are helped by God's grace and the efforts of good men and women who have come before us. The essence of rudeness is not listening, in not knowing when to be quiet and profit from those who know better. Ben Crenshaw's bowed head, Carl Jackson's fatherly consolation, the acknowledgement that help comes from beyond the grave-here are clear signs that manners are not dead, that they can flourish once again.
1. There is no substitute for good manners in culture.
2. We should expect gratitude and piety from our professional athletes, regardless of their sport.
3. A profound regard for those who have come before us and God's grace help us to grow and mature.
© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson\'s new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Keywords: Golf, Ben Crenshaw, Augusta National, athletes, integrity, ethics, honor, masculinity, friendship, Masters, happiness, virtue, beatitude, moral life, passion, beauty, culture, existential, search, Deal W Hudson
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