At the Eric Peters Laboratory of Well-Timed Featurettes, I am constantly striving to bring you all manner of entertainment from near and afar. After reading and writing solely about such overblown mundaneities as faith, art, cinema, rechromed bicycles, rabbit coffee mugs, and picking apart such literati as East! Or Be Jostled, let us now turn our attention to a subject more dear to my fleshy heart than the ongoing health-care debate, or even whether Derek Webb is or is not a modern day prophet. I hereby predict three comments without having mentioned him. Now that I’ve gone and casually dropped a minor celebrity’s name in a public arena, that number surely rises to at least four.
Today’s topic — or at least until a more reputable post hastily bumps this one down the rungs — is sports, golf to be exact, a bandwagon I gladly hop aboard. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the game, or the age-old argument of whether or not golf can be considered an actual sport, even if you wouldn’t know the difference between a mashie niblick and a putter if they slipped out of someone’s grip and cracked you on the forehead, even if you could care less about stimpmeters, then you will no doubt recognize the name Tiger Woods. He has ruled the golfing world, not to mention the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) money list, for the better part of the last decade or more. Oh man, now that I’ve mentioned his name, my post-post commentary surely spirals to six. Choo choo.
I’m one of about fifty-odd weirdos who can and will sit in front of a television for hours on any Sunday just to watch grown men hit little white multi-dimpled spheres around lush, manicured layouts of Poa, Kentucky blue, and bent grasses. If Tiger is anywhere near the leaderboard, I will do anything I can to get out of just about anything else I’m supposed to do in order to watch him perhaps make a late-round charge.
This summer Tiger did something he never managed to do either as a touring professional or as a young, svelte amateur prodigy: he lost a tournament after leading 3/4 of the way through it. Oddly, the reason he failed to clinch the deal is due in large part to the failure of his usual strong-suit: putting. If you’ve ever played competitive golf (Imagine the level of my popularity in high school as I was twice selected to captain our woeful Bulldog golf team) then you no doubt realize, and can empathize with, the challenge of calming the equivalent of a legion of swallow-tail butterflies in your stomach as you stand with a mere flat blade in hand and nothing but five eternal feet of Poa annua between you and a 4.25-inch hole in the earth. It is never as easy as it looks. But Tiger has been the master of this domain, reeling in untold numbers of ungodly long and short putts over the years eliciting responses of systemic euphoria from normally stoic, polite crowds, or “Yerg! Why did I have to become a pro now?” thoughts from fellow touring comrades who suddenly found themselves on the losing end of Tiger’s antics.
Normally, with Mr. Tiger standing on the 72nd green, either tied for the lead or with a chance to tie or win, with nothing but a yawnful seven-foot putt standing between him and even more legendary status, the odds of that putt falling were nothing shy of a done deal. But in the last of this year’s four annual majors, the PGA Championship, Tiger missed when it counted; often enough to let his lead slip away for good. Sportswriters gave him Hades for it. Eureka! The man is human, after all. People who expect perfection from him have no business doing so, and if they expect it of him, they must surely expect it of themselves. And if they expect it of themselves, they probably expect it of their offspring. So goes the cycle.
I have wracked my, by now, out-of-shape athletic mind for a squat-thrust of minutes trying to exhume some sort of spiritual parallel, or at least offer a simple moral to the story. I came up with nothing except this: no two putts and no two greens ever roll the same, most golfers have a favored putter which only occasionally does not feel like a viper in the hands, and if perfection were ever humanly possible, if everything were predetermined, if fate were so predictable, there would be no need for sport, for healthy competition, for gravity, for choice, for an ounce of God, or for one another.
Eric Peters, affectionately called “Pappy” by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He’s a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he’s not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he’s touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.