A Never Trumper’s Advice For PGA Golfers On Dealing with Asshole Colleagues Getting Rewarded for Bad Behavior
The blood-stained LIV golfers get their 2016 election moment.
Before we get started, Charlie is hosting Thursday Night Bulwark with Mona, Joe, and Will tonight starting at 8:00pm ET. Mark it down. There will be lots to talk about on this newsiest of weeks.
Today, I bring you a classic Tim Miller joint. Enjoy! And please share it.
1. Where Is Karma When You Need It?
One of the hardest parts about growing up is coming to terms with good things happening to bad people in your life. This experience is the inverse of what JVL describes as life’s most wondrous delicacy: watching bad things happen to bad people.
Alas the joy of schadenfreude—which we might be getting a taste of this week thanks to Mark Meadows—is a delicacy precisely because the experience is so rare. Rather than be hoisted by our own probity, the vast majority are forced to confront the grim realization that many of their peers are rewarded for duplicity, hackery, or dumb luck.
By middle age we’ve all come to know good men and women who’ve taken on life-crippling levels of resentment and/or filled the coffers of therapists charged with rebuilding cracked egos thanks to the egg they think they were handed by life. My mother called it “the green monster” and has always felt gratitude that she was never sucked in by it.
Our great religious and philosophical traditions have done their best to provide a roadmap for dealing with this type of envy. They encourage their adherents to do good deeds for their own sake and process the psychological torture of virtue’s consequences with the understanding that there will be delayed gratification either here on earth or in the afterlife.
Cicero got it half right, declaring that “virtue is its own reward” before coddling his audience and following that sage wisdom with the false promise that “glory follows virtue as if it were its shadow.” Sorry, it does not.
Jesus offered his followers the eternal carrot in the Sermon on the Mount: “blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” While in the Sermon at the Diner, Jules wrestled with the Old Testament’s more bloodthirsty pledge that “the path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men,” but a vengeful God will strike down those who attempt to “poison and destroy” his followers.
The Buddhists offer the promise of a more worldly recompense in the teaching of Karmic retribution. Buddha assures his followers that wholesome thoughts and actions produce wholesome effects, while unwholesome thoughts and actions produce unwholesome effects. It’s only a question of whether this karma bears fruit in the present (ditta-dhamma-vedaniya) or in later lives (aparapariya-vedaniya-kamma).
All that sounds nice. Karma’s a bitch. There’s a bounty in heaven. Etc. etc.
But with respect to Jesus, Jules, Buddha, and the rest, lived experience suggests that the ancient wisdom is mostly just a bunch of cope.
Here on earth, assholes are rewarded constantly with no sign of karmic abatement. Bitcoin billionaires walk the planet as I type! What more proof do you need?
Before this week I’m not sure there was a more extreme modern example of history rewarding selfish and evil men than when we made our nation’s most unethical, morally decrepit, irredeemably malignant citizen the president of these United States.
Watching Trump’s cadre of deplorable confederates enter the White House was a bitter pill. I have to admit that, as a personal matter, watching contemporaries who were complicit in making the atrocity that was a Trump presidency happen be rewarded with trips on Air Force One, security details, and honorifics nearly gave me a stroke.
I had been owned. They knew it, I knew it. There was no spinning it any other way.
And despite seeing some of them (though not enough!) experience a karmic faceplant and making my own progress by cultivating a ujjayi breathing practice, my blood pressure is still rising just writing about all of this. And we’re nearly a decade on.
These feelings of resentment resurfaced this week as I watched the devil once again get his due when the PGA Tour gave in to an attack on their business from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and agree to create a partnership with a barbaric regime that is using its unlimited resources to create a cover for their human rights atrocities.
Amidst all this it was the people involved in the PGA who had done the right thing by resisting the Saudi advances who were punished, mocked, and forced to watch their treacherous peers bathe in the blood of their success.
Given my experience on the losing end of a high-profile gut punch, I thought I’d give the righteous losers some unsolicited (and likely discomfiting) counsel.
2. Damn You People, This Is Golf
A brief summary of how we got here for those who haven’t been following the PGA/Saudi drama.
Last June the Saudi government started a golf tour intended to compete with the PGA. They called it LIV Golf. This is part of a broad-based “sportswashing” strategy by Saudi Royal Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in which he buys various cultural institutions to help launder his country’s reputation. (Just 24 hours after the PGA folded, soccer star Lionel Messi rejected an insanely lucrative Saudi overture. Expect more attempts in this vein.)
The LIV golf tour was the Kingdom’s most aggressive move to date, trying to force a seat at the table not by finding a willing seller or client but by using their unlimited resources to attempt a hostile takeover of an entire league. They offered ungodly sums of money to top golfers and were successful at attracting big names such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, and Bryson Dechambeau, who in turn became brand ambassadors for LIV’s attempt to bring the PGA to its knees.
Many on the PGA tour resisted, including the biggest star of all: Tiger Woods. But the resistance went far beyond Tiger. ere are just a few of the golfers who gave up 9-figure payouts (!!) to stay loyal to the PGA, which was at the time making a high-minded pitch about how the Saudis threatened the moral purity of the game.
Some of them were vocal about the righteous rationale for abdicating this payout. Rory McIlroy, the most vocal critic of LIV said this about why he wasn’t taking their money:
[R}eputation . . . at the end of the day that’s all you have. You strip everything away, and you’re left with how you made people feel and what people thought of you. That is important to me.
Golf commentator Brandel Chamblee tried to be the voice of virtue, reminding the golf world that the Saudis are “anti-semitic, misogynistic” and “there’s no freedom of speech” in monologues on the Golf Channel.
So when the PGA Tour announced yesterday that they were accepting the Saudis as an “investment partner” as part of a unification of the tours, the players who did the right thing were the financial losers while MBS, Trump (who had a lucrative deal with LIV), and the most selfish people in the sport were the big “winners.”
“Welfare check on Chamblee,” LIV golfer Brooks Koepka tweeted gleefully, rubbing the commentators face in shit following the news. Trump fans were giddily sharing an old bleat where he predicted that the guys who didn’t take the Saudi money would get screwed.
DeChambeau took a victory lap on CNN in which he both explained why the victors earned the spoils and in the process gave MBS the tongue bath he paid for.
What they’re trying to do, what they’re trying to work on is to be better allies . . . they are trying to do good for the world and showcase themselves in a light that hasn’t been seen in a while. Nobody’s perfect but we’re all trying to improve in life.
Now back to DeChambeau:
I really feel bad for the information that was delivered to the players on the PGA Tour, the ones that stuck with them, we did take a risk, the players that did go over [to LIV] did take a risk and there was a reason for taking that risk relative to the capital that had to be paid out for that to occur. But I do feel bad for the PGA Tour players.
The emphasis there is mine.
Here is the crux of the matter.
In the nihilistic world of deal-making, winners/losers list-making, and $100 million contracts, DeChambeau is correct. He and the other defectors made a bet. Their bet paid off. Now they get to drink Rory McIlroy and the virtue signaling brigade’s tears in their Olympic-sized pool of gold bullion.
But what is unsaid by Dechambeau is the reason for their risk. It was a risk only because they couldn’t be certain that the Saudi’s taint wouldn’t rub off on them. It’s not as if they were taking a risk in the traditional entrepreneurial sense. They didn’t invent a widget and then take out a loan to start a business. They were merely risking getting caught doing something they knew to be . . . at some level, just wrong. Which is the cheapest of risks to take. There will always be deals to be had where those who are willing to skirt the rules or partner with an evil interest can get an advantage.
But for the DeChambeau’s of the world there was a lingering worry that the cost of this payday would be that this would be the time that someone would be punished for aligning with nefarious actors. Maybe they would carry the blame for their business partners' ongoing kidnapping of children, such as Omar and Sarah Al-jabri. Maybe they would be judged for having a sugar daddy who ruthlessly murders critics, imprisons women’s rights activists, and performs mass executions of those whose crime was “participating and inciting sit-ins and protests.”
This reputational risk was all that the LIV golfers took on. (Unless you also count the small, but nonzero, chance that their new boss took a bone saw to them if they got out of line).
But, as it turns out, their reputational worries were unfounded. Less than a year later, the PGA Tour and our society have decided to reward them for their “risk taking.”
Meanwhile, the golfers who did the right thing won’t get any reward for their decision, at least financially, on this earth. And by the by, neither will Mike “Kept His Oath!” Pence, who announced his DOA campaign for president yesterday.
Instead the soulless, corrupt, oligarch-golfers who get to spend the week rubbing it in the face of “virtue-signalers” feel smugly victorious. Jared and Ivanka will continue to live off the Saudi largesse, through no special talent of their own. MBS will find other celebrities like DeChambeau to tout his desire to do good in the world on TV.
Waiting around assuming that these assholes will get theirs in the end is a fool’s errand. Some will, some won’t. Letting your life be affected by this truth leads to the bottle or the crazy house.
The path back for Rory et al. doesn't include drinking Mickelson tears (though it would be nice). And it isn’t even counting on the fact that doing the right thing will, in the end, burnish his “reputation.” (It might, it might not.)
It’s recognizing that all they can do—all any of us can do—is:
(1) Act in your own integrity,
(2) Accept that virtue truly is its own reward (even without the glory), and
(3) Continue to make life choices that you feel good about.1
As hard as this might be to accept, in the end, the only assessment of your choices that actually matters is the one that comes from deep within, from that place that you cannot fake or fool.
Here’s the greater truth about the PGA/LIV brouhaha:
Rory might not have won. He might even have gotten owned. But he made the right choice. One that deep down, he knows was right.
One day in the future, I hope that he and the others who rejected MBS understand that it’s not cope to know that doing right by yourself is enough.
3. A Pickup Truck Doing Ballet
ESPN has gotten so used to the personality clashes, the identity politics narratives, and behind the scenes dramas, that when a magical, humble, highlight-rich, goofball, dad falls in their lap and gives them one of the top five greatest runs in playoff history, they don’t know what to do about it.
But that’s Adam Silver and Jimmy Pitaro’s problem, not mine. Frankly, their promotional failure just leaves more of the good stuff for the rest of us.
Nuggs in 5. Enjoy:
A Pickup Truck Doing Ballet: Nikola Jokic is Making the NBA Finals His Masterpiece:
This is a player who was famously drafted by Denver in the middle of a Taco Bell commercial for the quesadilla-burrito mashup known as a quesarito. The pretty, historic town of Sombor, where Jokić grew up, is tucked into the northwestern pocket of Serbia, flush against the borders with Croatia and Hungary;
As Denver tightened their grip on the finals with a coolly commanding Game 3 win in Miami on Wednesday night, a talent that once threatened to go unrewarded with the hard currency of titles has come thrillingly into mint. Jokić’s numbers – 32 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists – made him the first player ever to post a 30-20-10 game in the NBA finals. But most impressive was the way in which he accumulated these figures, with a freedom and variety that captured the best of his childhood heroes.
There’s little doubt he is the best player on the planet right now, an achievement that never ceases to amaze whenever you catch a glimpse of the man – his head pushed forward, the shoulders round and mouth gaping, that ham of a nose sniffing out routes to the basket. One of the world’s greatest athletes is now one of its least athletic-looking. Jokić’s body is like a mattress – blocky and enormous but somehow soft – and he has the upper arms of a management consultant; there is nothing chiseled or ripped about his physique. No matter how many accolades and rings he goes on to win in his career – and there are surely many more to come – Jokić will never, I imagine, stop seeming like a man who’s wandered onto the basketball court by accident on his way to a family barbecue.
Though maybe, from time to time, in the quiet of his home, Rory can look to the heavens and shout “FUCK YOU BRYSON DECHAMBEAU I CURSE YOUR ANCESTORS.” For we are human after all.