And Criticizing It Is Not Blasphemy
There’s a Simpsons episode from 1994 that I think about all the time. In the episode “Bart Gets an Elephant” the Democratic and Republican conventions are shown. While the Republican banners say, “We Want What’s Worst for Everyone” and “We’re Just Plain Evil” the Democratic banners say, “We Hate Our Lives and Ourselves” and “We Can’t Govern.” The joke is, of course, a comedic play on the famous W.B. Yeats line
The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are filled with passionate intensity.
As always, the line between comedy and despair is a thin one.
We are all the main characters of our own lives; we are never the asshole in our own story. If it were any other way, r/aita would not need to exist. As a result, I like to believe that I have what’s best for disc golf at heart when I debate its finer points on Discord and Reddit, or in person with my friends. But as summer approaches, I find myself drawing near to uncomfortable territory once again: open disc golf courses. The West coast swing of the Disc Golf Pro Tour will soon be upon us, and with it comes 700 ft rollers, golf greens, and artificial OB galore. This time of year is when I am most afraid of becoming the “We’re Just Plain Evil” stereotype, and as a result, become “We Can’t Govern” instead. I’ll explain.
In general, I’m the kind of person who likes to think things through, not act too rashly, and give every aspect of a problem its due. At least that’s how I hope I am, when in reality I’m more the type to get paralyzed by the plethora of options available to me and end up with nothing to show for it. This is what I’ll call the “Simpsons Democrat” model of person. The summer disc golf season brings out the worst in me. For years now, I’ve uncomfortably defended the courses at tour stops in Portland, California, and Kansas, to name a few. I even considered writing a blog titled “In Defense of Open Disc Golf Courses.” There are arguments to be made for open courses: Rollers are a pro-separator type of skill, discs flying far are fun to watch, and of course, ease of spectator access, but my heart was never in these arguments.
The real reason I’ve spent years defending these courses is more in line with my “Simpsons Democrat” personality: I was simply afraid to criticize the pro tour, for fear it would be damaging to disc golf as a whole. It is a mentality borne of love, but ultimately benefiting no one. Whenever my friends have suggested that these events aren’t as fun to watch, I’ve faithfully toed the company line, maintaining that these courses are just as fun to watch as any other. It is perfectly acceptable to believe this to be true, but my point is that I never genuinely felt that way. While I enjoy watching disc golf under almost any circumstances, my enjoyment is certainly lessened by a course I’m not particularly enthused by.
As a whole, I’m a fan of the DGPT and what they’re doing. I love watching, spectating, and talking about pro disc golf. But I do not owe the DGPT my undying loyalty. What I’ve come to realize is obvious: the Disc Golf Pro Tour≠disc golf. It should go without saying that the DGPT is a business and the object of a business is to make money. I have no problem with that, but just as I don’t owe Apple Computers my loyalty, though I’ve used their phones for a decade, nor do I owe the DGPT any favors.
99.99% of all disc golf played is played by amateurs. As we watch more money pour into the pro game, it can be easy to become myopic, even though I suspect that most of us know plenty of disc golfers who don’t watch any pro coverage at all. Disc golf is so much more than the pro game. We have: local clubs, league nights, glow leagues, amateur tournaments, casual rounds with friends, casual rounds where we introduce a newbie or a family member, and so much more. What’s good for the pro tour isn’t necessarily good for disc golf as a whole. While it’s easier to pack spectators into former golf courses, and to shoot for TV, is this the future for the sport that we want? Do we want the pro game to become more and more tenuously-related to the game played by amateurs in their local parks? Personally, that’s not what I’d like to see.
I have at last reached a point where I’m comfortable saying that. I can’t imagine I’m the only fan who has made the mistake of conflating the pro tour with the game as a whole in recent years. We should not be afraid to criticize the product the DGPT puts on and that we pay for as fans, subscribers, and spectators. While I think I will always have more fondness for it as an organization than most companies, it remains a business and shouldn’t be above criticism. I’m not arguing for incivility, or online brigading of commentators or yelling at officials while spectating or anything of the sort. But if the Disc Golf Pro Tour is going to become the representative of the wider game of disc golf to the public, we should remain passionate about the game we love and how we feel about it, without fear of becoming a “Simpsons Republican” in our intensity. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, it’s time to go watch the final round of the Jonesboro Open on The Disc Golf Network, brought to you by the Disc Golf Pro Tour™.