Golf means never having to say jihad
St. Paul, Minn. — By Ahmed Tharwat
All my life I have played and lived the game of proximity and improvisation: soccer.
Golf thrives in a culture of abundance. Each player brings his or her own balls, bag, shoe, umbrella, raincoat, hats, cart, clubs and caddy. Soccer thrives in a culture of scarcity. All you need to do is show up at the park. No equipment needed -- only one ball, shared by all players. One for all and all for one.
In soccer you can use your head literally and figuratively in handling the ball. It is a game of intellect and elegance. In golf you use only your instincts to hit this small ball straight on the fairway, every time. It is one of the most difficult simple tasks you will ever encounter.
For an Arab-American, getting onto the golf course is a refreshing experience and a wonderful treat. On the golf course, nobody sees me as a hyphenated American or asks me tough questions about the Middle East or Bin Laden. Golfers transcend race, color and ethnicity; the only color we see is the color of the green. We are just men in a man's world, no cultural sensitivity or diversity training required. I'm just another golfer -- a bad golfer, it may be, but not an Arab golfer.
Our human energy is consumed with hitting this small ball. The exhilaration of smashing the ball onto the fairway overwhelms any bias, racism or ethnocentric behavior.
On the first hole, we are golfers who have just met; by the fifth hole, we are golfing buddies; on the ninth hole, we are drinking buddies (non-alcoholic for me, please). And by the 18th hole, we all old friends, and nobody wants to know where I'm from or how I spell my name.
Golfing is a mental relaxation ritual. To stay the course, my intellect must give way to instinct. This is quite a treat for an Arab-American accustomed to the never-ending political wrangling, the years of jihad over the fate of the holy land. On the golf course, it's all about the fairways and greens and 18 holes. That's the only holy land I care about.
Ahmed Tharwat is the host of the Arab-American television program "Belahdan" which airs on Twin Cities Public Television's Minnesota Channel.
- Morning Edition, 03/31/2010, 8:45 a.m.