John Updike writes somewhere that sports are a rational, justifiable waste of time. (Spoken like someone who was a huge NBA fan.) I would cite the actual sentence, but the piece it’s from is somewhere deep in a Collected Essays, Vol. 8 or whatever, and I don’t feel like hunting for dog-ears. This isn’t a scholarly blog anyway. Got a feeling y’all wouldn’t want footnotes.
There are no dumb sports. Except for golf—golf is a dumb sport. I don’t say this just because I find it astonishingly dull. There are broader reasons to dislike the game. First, it is an environmentally destructive one. By this I mean that, for all the pretensions of its new “green” landscape engineers, golf is a huge waste of space that requires the conversion of existing, functional ecosystems into heavily managed (think of all the lawn mowers and herbicide . . . ), entertainment-oriented, homogeneous, artificialized environments. Shaved Bermuda grass replaces deer and wetlands and herons and cacti and what have you. As such, the golf industry is a coeval of the big-box stores, suburban subdivisions, gas stations, and ugly highways which have metastasized across the U.S. since World War II. Second, it is, socioeconomically speaking, a proud register of divisions within industrialized Western societies which those societies like to deny: clubs and green fees are pricey, and so only relatively privileged people, most of them white, can afford to indulge. There’s a reason American presidents must pretend to like golf; and I suspect that one of the reasons Barack Obama makes so many middle-aged white voters uncomfortable is that he doesn’t love the links. Golf isn’t like basketball (the President’s preferred sport), which poor people can play because all you need is a ball, a hoop, and some flat space. It ain’t gonna colonize the South Bronx.
S0 I guess it makes a kind of evil sense that someone has finally built a golf course in the Amazon basin. It’s in a remote area of Peru that the course’s website—I can’t believe its URL wasn’t already taken by someone with a sense of humor—calls the “last outpost of civilization.” Evocative, eh? The company that runs the place is working hard to convince prospective visitors that the course is perfectly integrated with its natural surround, that it may in fact be totally natural! There are boas in the sand traps and piranhas in the water hazards. And native trees along the fairways. And colorful nature reserves and indigenous peoples nearby.
To be fair, the course was hacked out of “second-growth” forest, which means land that had already been slashed-and-burned by people out to get valuable old-growth rain-forest lumber and (temporarily fertile) farmland. Surely this will speed its recovery.
I can’t decide if this exemplifies reductio ad absurdum or ad nauseam.