Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 6

Note: This is part 6 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, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.

Chapter 6 – Rules of Communication

While you are on the course, it is important to communicate effectively and fairly with your game companions. Whether you are enjoying a casual game, or engaged in competition, it is vital that you maintain the perfect blend of common courtesy and cutthroat trash talk. And let’s be honest, even if it is casual, somebody (don’t deny it is you) is keeping score.

“Hey, are we keeping score?”

“Nah, this is just for fun…and I’m two strokes ahead, sucka!”

The constant comparison between scores, throws, discs, bags, careers, successes, failures, religious views, and political opinions is ample fuel to turn the most casual of rounds into a social primer for the apocalypse. That is why we must stress the importance of balance.

It is perfectly acceptable to snidely remark on your friend’s OB toss into a water hazard, saying things like, “Keep it up, Christopher Columbus, you might eventually discover a new continent.” Or you could step to the tee and say something like, “Now let me show you how to make that throw using what I like to call, the right way.”

However, those comments must be balanced carefully with equal disdain toward your own wayward throws. When you hit a tree twenty feet in front of you, you must convincingly say how you wish you’d never discovered disc golf, or grumble about how your grandma could have thrown that better than you just did. Then when your buddy says something like, “You should have imagined the tree was a basket, then you definitely would have missed it,” you must be able to laugh in agreement, or at least (remember what we’ve learned so far) blame your disc. You only have the right to diss another player if you can diss yourself as well as take the same abuse from fellow players.

I once played with a relatively new disc golfer who was gifted with a very competitive spirit. He learned the game quickly, but still had the tendency to grip-lock a completely errant throw on occasion. I was accustomed to the communication code described above, so I initiated the playful banter. That was when he unleashed the death stare. I’m sure you have experienced the face-melting, soul-sucking stare of somebody who wishes that your disc would spontaneously combust in your hand. My lighthearted chuckles and well-meaning comments like, “Don’t worry, the day will come when you don’t completely suck,” were met with an immediate, non-contact throw-down. I had to take the hint that this was not somebody possessing a heart that had been sufficiently numbed and chiseled away by experienced players who understand the rules of communication. I immediately had to slather on a very thick layer of self-criticism to lower the tension, because only by self depreciation could the flames be doused on our fragile disc golf relationship.

There is another side to disc golf communication which can be very sensitive, but which simply must be addressed here. Moods and emotions can bounce from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a simple round of disc golf. Bring all the meditative, mind-chilling, zen-like attitude that you want to the course, but when the discs start flying, so do the emotions. I believe that the only way to achieve the complete peace that doesn’t fluctuate with the quality (or lack of quality) of your actual throws, where you remain perfectly focused and calm in any situation, is through a frontal lobotomy. Yes, that is where a piece of your brain is removed. So, barring that approach, things can get dicey out there, but we must remember that we are adults. We must project a degree of decorum and education as we chuck our plastic across the landscape. Let us make sure that we rise above the banal, bankrupt vocabulary of a thirteen-year-old that just discovered the “F word”.

I know that cursing is simply the way that some people choose to communicate. Every adjective, every adverb, and almost every word in between is reduced to a variation of a single swear word. Come on! Really? You can’t think of a better way to express yourself than that? I’m not asking for a pretentious, elitist vocabulary that might be found upon the ball golf greens of ritzy private clubs, but let’s not lower ourselves to the level of drunken gangsters, or junior high locker room dwellers, or drunken gangsters that hang out in junior high locker rooms. There simply must be a middle ground where we can express dismay with our game without unleashing a string of F-bombs. I sometimes play with my young daughter, and I’m irritated when we’re near a group of disc golfers that can’t think of anything better to say than a single curse word to describe both great throws and awful throws.

We all want the sport of disc golf to grow, and we want it to appeal to larger numbers of people from all backgrounds, all education levels, all income levels, and all ages. We want more cities, counties, and states to install courses in their parks. We want private landowners to set up courses and let the public play on them. We want more groomed ball golf courses to install baskets and invite disc golfers onto their grounds. But we may not see that kind of growth if disc golfers are perceived as a lower lifeform. A lot of that perception, for better or for worse, it projected through our words. So please, choose some good words, and let’s communicated in a way that is fun, emotional, expressive, and non-offensive to those within earshot. I’m not calling for a complete ban on profanity, but simply some sensitivity to our company, including those who aren’t in our small group of friends.

Coming Soon: Chapter 7 – Keeping Score

Previous Chapters:
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

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2 thoughts on “Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 6”

  1. Wait a second … you’re calling for a ban on profanity in “A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf”? Not a fan of censorship myself. The stigmatization of profanity has historically been used by the rich to “mark” the poor and keep the classes divided. I also know people who can string profanity together with jaw-dropping creativity, which, in most cases, releases the tension within groups, while others use a more acceptable language to vent disturbing anger that clearly takes the fun out of disc golf. I’d be more inclined to accept limitations on verbal aggression (that stuff is almost always sucky). Perhaps the Zenless Guide would consider a conditional acceptance of certain profane terms, or acquiesce to especially clever, or well fashioned instances of profanity. As Eric Cartman put it, “What’s the big deal? It doesn’t hurt anybody. *uck, *uckity, *uck-*uck-*uck!” I’m half kidding, but it’s an interesting debate, especially as it relates to the “best” way to grow the sport. Thanks for bringing it up. And, by the way, this is great writing. I look forward to Chapter 7.

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    1. I agree with your sentiment. And yes, it is somewhat ironic mentioning cursing in a “Zenless Guide to Disc Golf” as something that should be tamed. The intent when talking about communication during the game (keeping in mind that this whole series is a lighthearted treatise) is to say that it all should be approached with balance. Sure, make fun of the other player, but you must be able “take it” if you’re willing to “dish it out” and when it comes to cursing, be sensitive to who is around you. If that’s the way all your buddies talk…as well as those within earshot, then more power to you. But that often isn’t the case in a public park. So, when it comes to presenting the sport as a game where we want everybody to feel comfortable participating, we should at least be aware enough of our company to make sure everybody can equally enjoy themselves.

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