In his 2020 book, Why We’re Polarized, Ezra Klein tells an anecdote about the film 12 Years A Slave. He explains that a person’s political views can be mapped almost perfectly to their opinion about the film. Those with favorable views of 12 Years A Slave were considerably more likely to be politically liberal. This may not seem strange to you; it may seem perfectly normal that our political identity can be interpreted via which sports we watch, movies we enjoy, or car we drive. Obviously, not everyone who drives a truck is a political conservative, and not everyone who has multiple tattoos is a political liberal, but there are much firmer dividing lines along cultural and artistic preferences than at any other time in our history.
Of course, much consensus in 20th century America was built on exclusion. In many ways, our polarization along the multi-faceted lines of our cultural identities is a reflection of a certain degree of progress that allows for new viewpoints to take center stage and thus receive backlash from those whose identity feels threatened by perceived zero-sum losses in power. This, is broadly spoken of as “The Culture Wars.” It’s not a particularly concise phrase, with it’s evocation of violence, but it has taken root. And disc golf is not immune; we’re simply late.
Much later than popular films and novels, and of course, reality, disc golf is diversifying…slowly. Broadly speaking, bro culture still dominates disc golf, but there are signs of changes. And as a result, the inevitable “war”. It’s clear that we’ve now reached that stage as flashpoints pop up again and again. The most recent example is that of Brodie Smith and the Foundation Disc Golf crew. They are polarizing. There’s no denying it. If you follow disc golf media even casually, you have seen the occasional blow ups. You have an opinion about them, and that opinion likely maps cleanly into a political category. They of course, are able to monetize their status as polarized figures, and it is in their financial interest to continue any “debates” to harvest interactions, even if those interactions are often ones of exasperated annoyance.
The status quo may have more followers (and a noted penchant for pointing out others’ lack of followers), but as a whole, the culture wars coming to disc golf is good. There’s no point in “staying above the controversies” or trying to cultivate a “good vibes only” style disc golf community, if those vibes are built on a 20th century model of exclusion. Do I enjoy that there are those who will profit from a system that allows them to claim objectivity or even victimhood from the seat of power? Naw, not really. But change isn’t easy and is almost always messy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.