By: Curt Sampson
Weighing in on Rick Reilly’s new book – Commander in Cheat (Hachette Books 2019) is to skate on thin ice, for in these troubled times, expressing the wrong opinion of the Leader of the Free World can get you disinvited from Thanksgiving dinner and left out of the will, while agreement can cause people to re-discover just how wonderful you really are.
It all depends on your pre-existing condition.
Donald J. Trump polarizes as a person and as a President, but he’s a golfer, too, and that’s what Rick’s book is about. It’s not about how Trump cheats on his wives, which is no secret, or on his taxes, which seems possible, given that he’s the first President who won’t let us have a peek at his returns – but instead focuses on how POTUS plays the Greatest Game. Which is not the greatest.
Whether or not you want to hear or read the funny but chilling incidents and anecdotes in CIC, at least the author’s opinions are well-informed: he’s played a lot of golf with Donald John. And you’re in good hands as a reader with Reilly, who led Sports Illustrated to its heyday, back when he wrote the magazine’s don’t-miss-it back page column.
As for me: this is the moment for disclosing fully. Back in 2012, I employed a clever strategy – I wrote a check to a publicist—and thus got the Don’s endorsement for a book I wrote called The War by the Shore. The publisher naturally splashed it on the cover. “A great read! Another great book by…” – you’re familiar with this kind of thing. Although I am unaware of any Trump bump from the blurb, it was suggested to me by his assistant that I consider writing my next book about himself, with the focus on how he gives back to the game, as they say. Pass, I said, although my mortgagor and my creditors would have agreed that I needed the money.
I have a pre-existing condition of not trusting this man, or his hair.
But forty-something percent of the country obviously does not agree with me. I called a Dallas-area golf pro for help on this topic, because he is both a proud member of the forty-somethings, and he is an absolute stickler regarding the rules. When Tiger Woods took an illegal drop at the Masters a couple of years ago and was penalized two shots instead of being disqualified, my friend muttered about it for days afterward.
I told him I’d been reading Commander in Cheat, and…
“Oh, I guess it’s about Bill Clinton,” the pro said, pretending not to know about Commander in Cheat or its subject. I had my answer regarding how he reconciled his ideals with his politics.
“No,” I replied. “They’re not publishing books about someone who is four Presidents and six administrations ago.”
Most of us in and around the golf business think it’s wonderful that we have another golfer in the White House. It’s a compliment to our game that the smart, competent men who lead the executive branch of the federal government find distraction and fun in it. Our last non-golfer was Jimmy Carter, forty-odd years ago. Carter’s strings were wound too tight; he probably could have used a beer and nine holes. Two beers.
But the way Trump does golf makes me think he doesn’t understand it. As the President has said ad infinitum, he’s all about winning. But golf is all about failure. A little something goes wrong in every round, if not on every hole or in every shot, and if you play in tournaments, you will win very few compared to the number you play.
So, Trump openly and cheerfully kicks his ball into a better lie in order to keep his score down and his wins up. I’d feel more kinship with him if he’d take his lumps, and his three-putts, just like the rest of us.