Wednesday, November 22, 2017

COLUMN: Golf Classic

My name is Shane, and I'm a music nerd.

For as long as I can remember, my love for music has defined the paths and friendships of my life. Quite often, the music nerd in me speaks louder than the rational part of my brain, and I'm okay with that. In fact, the only times I second-guess myself is when the rational part of my brain supercedes the music geek in me.

Last Sunday was a toughie for me. The British band Ride was making a rare Chicago appearance. Ride is my favorite band of all time, yet I decided to listen to the rational part of my brain and elected NOT to attend. I hope this doesn't mean I'm growing up.

In retrospect, it was a smart decision. Yes, my favorite band was playing Chicago, but only as part of the weekend-long Pitchfork Music Festival. This would have meant spending $75 and driving 3 hours to stand around in the sun and heat admidst thousands of smelly, sweaty hipsters, all just to see one terrific band play a quick festival set. Painfully, my rational voice won out and I decided to stay home.

Well, not ACTUALLY stay home. I wanted to do something to take my mind off the show, so I decided upon the most un-Shane-like activity I could think of: I called up my friend Jason and we went to the final day of the John Deere Classic. If I couldn't see my favorite band on the planet, at the very least I could see famous professional athletes like, umm, that one guy. And some other guy in pink pants. And a guy named Ollie Schniederjans who exudes a confidence you wouldn't normally think possible from anyone named Ollie Schniederjans. Personally, I was nowhere near as confident as Ollie.

Prior to last Sunday, I had never been to a professional golfing event. I had never been to ANY golfing event. The closest I came was college, when I talked Jason into taking Golf 101 with me because it sounded like the class in which I would be least likely to break my coccyx. Part of the class requirement was playing a few rounds of golf on your own time, so Jason and I went to Saukie one Sunday and played... something, but it certainly didn't deserve to be called golf. It was more like a game where we'd swing at a tiny ball and repeatedly miss it. Then, every once in a while, we'd hit it -- never to be seen again. I'm pretty sure at one point we teed off at the 7th hole and ended up on the green at the 9th.

So honestly, I had no idea what to expect as a spectator at TPC. I knew I had VIP parking, and was told a shuttle would take us to the course. In my mind, I pictured a cheery, oversized, air-conditioned van with decadent cushions. I did NOT picture a rickety school bus designed to accommodate all the travel needs of toddlers and/or Fantasy Island's Herve Villechaize. Jason is super tall and built like a stick. I am kinda tall and built like a bean bag full of tapioca pudding. Neither one of us fit into this bus with any semblance of grace and it's a miracle we made it to the course before our VIP stood for Very Injured Prostates.

Once there, though, I ended up having a shockingly decent time. The course is beautiful, and as we strolled down the valley of the back nine, I was overwhelmed by the politeness of the staff, the cleanliness of the facility, and the good behavior of our fellow attendees. Right away, I learned a few universal truths:

(1) Based on unintentional eavesdropping, it is MUCH better to know nothing about golf than to think you know EVERYTHING about golf. (2) I want one of those "QUIET" signs and would like to reserve the right to use it frequently in life. (3) Why do golfers and tennis players earn respectful silence from the crowd yet Lebron has to put up with 21,000 screaming idiots every time he takes a free throw? (4) By and large, pro golfers are nice guys. Even in the heat of the final round, I saw players stop for autographs, bump fists, and toss golf balls to fans. Respect.

The only negative was at the end, when I discovered that a pleasant stroll down the valley of the back nine meant facing a mountainous uphill climb back to the bus, which became a quick reminder of just how out-of-shape I am. I didn't want our headline the next day to read, "JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MARRED BY DEATH OF FATBOY." At one point, I saw a golf cart labeled "media shuttle" and almost tried yelling, "I'm media! I'm the guy who writes the cat columns!" but I couldn't gather the oxygen.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. Better yet, I got home in just enough time to log on to the live stream of the Pitchfork fest and caught Ride's entire set from a vantage point far better than I would've had in that sea of hipsters. So what does all this mean? "I'm Shane, and I'm a golf nerd?" Probably not. I don't have any plans to trade in my concert tees for pink golf pants anytime soon. But if I have to spend a day NOT seeing my favorite band, there's a lot worse places I could have been. 

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