Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 18

Note: This is part 18 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.

Chapter 18 – Coping With Loss

The Zen of grieving tells us that we will miss many things in our lives. We will grieve for things we lose, whether they be people we love, things that we treasured, or the loss of opportunities and the loss of ourselves along the winding path of life. Yet no amount of mourning and grief can bring back the things that we’ve lost. No amount of despair should rob us of celebrating the new person we’ve become, even in the absence of what we’ve lost. Unless…it’s a plastic disc. Then scream, cry, and wave your heart goodbye because it isn’t coming back! Ever! And you’ll never be the same! Your bag will never be the same! Your game will never be the same! And curse the skies above, your wallet will never be the same!

Spring is a beautiful time of year in the rocky mountains. Maybe it is beautiful in other places too, but I don’t live in those other places. The mountains are green, the valleys are green, the skies are blue during the one day a week it isn’t raining, and birds are chirping in the air as young farm animals explore the alfalfa fields. But the lovely little creeks are raging with springtime runoff and swallowing stray discs left and right, because nobody seems to want to put a public park with a disc golf course anywhere unless there is a river or stream running through it. Last week I lost two favorite discs in two days to those torrential, unforgiving, watery, disc graves.

I’ve mentioned without hesitation that hazards are what make a disc golf course more fun. The danger introduces a sense of trepidation with every throw that adds a dose of excitement where there would otherwise be nothing but a soulless frisbee flying across an empty field. But I was talking more specifically about the fun of watching other people throw their discs away while I laugh at their futile attempts to follow the colorful blob downstream, hoping that it will somehow get stuck on a branch within arm’s reach. I wasn’t talking about my own discs. My discs are irreplaceable. That isn’t to say that I can’t buy new ones, because there are always more of such-and-such a disc on the market, but that lost disc was unique. It has been thrown already, by my own hand. It has been dented by the rocks and trees that I managed to hit. It has been warmly embraced by the chains when I’ve anger-putted my driver into the basket after missing my 15-footer. A shiny new disc can’t replace the old, loved one. Maybe. OK, it probably can, but it’s hard for us to believe that.

I’ve already covered the ins and outs of writing your name and phone number on your discs and the ramifications of throwing away unmarked discs. So, let’s move away from the agony of losing our discs and move on to another kind of loss that may need some coping– the losing of a round.

Whether playing a casual round with a friend or competing in a tournament for which you’ve paid for the privileged of losing to much better players, you will inevitably lose. That loss will help define you, transforming you into a man child that throws a fit and stomps away, vowing to never play the game again because it was “no fair!” Or, it can transform you into a higher caliber of human being that quietly leaves the fairway with head held high in complete dignity, until you cry into your pillow in the privacy of your own bedroom and prayerfully beg to die. Either way, losing sucks. We can pretend we don’t care, but for some reason, we always do.

I’d like to tell you that there is a sure-fire way to avoid losing, but I can only think of one, and that is to always play alone (booooring). Even the top pros lose sometimes. If somebody else is playing with you, then somebody is going to be keeping score, and that will result in a loss for one or more of the players.  If the loss falls upon you, then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you will be victorious on another day. You can always paint a smile on your face and look for a neighbor who has never played before, convince them to come try disc golf with you, then keep score on their first round so that you can finish by saying…

“Good job! You’re getting the hang of this really quickly! I only beat you by seventeen strokes, but you’ll get there.”

They’ll admire your fine skills and hope to be like you some day…or they’ll cry into their pillow that night. Yet it is surprising how much better you will feel. It just goes to show that despite any meditative mantra you may adopt to get past your inevitable losses, the best panacea for the pain of loss is simply to win.  Win big and win often enough that any loss will be followed by a belief that you’ll take the game “next time.”

There is one more loss that I’m ashamed to address. The loss of dignity. Ultimately, no matter whether you’re losing a disc or losing a round, you have to put yourself in check before you surrender your dignity to your teetering emotions, because when all is said and done, we’re talking about a game where you throw frisbees into strange, metal baskets. There are those who don’t even consider disc golf to be a true sport, so how could it be worthy of either braggadocios victories or agonizing defeats? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Let’s just shake it off when things don’t go our way and take a long sigh of relief that at least we aren’t bowling.

Read More:

Chapter 1 – Why Do We Play?
Chapter 2 – Be the Basket / Be the Disc
Chapter 3 – It’s Always the Disc’s Fault
Chapter 4 – Achieving True Disc Lust
Chapter 5 – The Need for Companionship
Chapter 6 – Rules of Communication
Chapter 7 – Keeping Score
Chapter 8 – Disc Golf and Sports Injuries
Chapter 9 – Disc Prejudice and Brand Elitism
Chapter 10 – Golf with Frisbees
Chapter 11 – Properly Marking Your Disc
Chapter 12 – Crash Course Course Design
Chapter 13– Maintaining Relationships Outside of Disc Golf
Chapter 14 – How to Carry Your Plastic
Chapter 15 – Are You Ready for Tournament Play?
Chapter 16 – Pros are People Too
Chapter 17 – Loving the Hazards
Chapter 18 – Coping With Loss