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'Slim and None' & 'The Franchise Babe - Golf, God, and Country' by Dan Jenkins
I just finished your new book, "The Franchise Babe," and wanted to congratulate you, to tell you how many times I howled in delight while reading it and to wish you all the best with it. It's hysterical and my God is it true to life. By good luck, I had recently finished "Slim and None," and was getting ready to do a book review for that when the e-mail announcement for "The Franchise Babe" arrived in my inbox. The timing was perfect. I decided to review both and compare them side-by-side.
It came just in the nick of time; the books on my nightstand have been rugged lately. I have to play golf in Cooperstown and Sleepy Hollow, so I have been re-reading Washington Irving and James Fennimore Cooper. The stories are great, but the prose is clunky, as 18th Century English will be, especially Cooper. They take a while to get through.
The next volume was a book of poems by some guy here in New York. What am I doing reviewing poetry? Well, back a few weeks ago, I reviewed two books of poems: one by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the golf course architect, and one by a poet emeritus from Harvard.
It was one of the dumbest things I ever did. Since then, every chump, lunkhead, and dingbat who fancies himself as the next Walt Whitman has been coming out of the woodwork asking me to review their "work." You know that old Beatles song "Paperback Writer," where the singer says that it's a thousand pages give or take a few, I'll be writing more in a week or two? That's what some of the "submissions" have amounted to. There was a forgettable train wreck that started, "Oh flibbertigibbet!" and I never read the rest, and another lug nut tried channeling Whitman while getting all long-faced about the Masters. Those were bad enough. Then I got the collection called "Peachalot Pumafish," which contained this mess:
"My heart before was Birkenstocks and woolen socks
I never felt all Jimmy Choo,
Well-heeled - my soul sports more graceful lines,
Tongue welting and belting -
Shaping a poem to your shoes."
And with that, I ran screaming out of the building, like the narrator at the end of "Fall of the House of Usher."
Anyway, your book's arrival saved me from further harm. It came to my law office late one afternoon, right at the end of a hectic shift of phone conferences - what a life, a lawyer spends his whole life arguing - just before I started the night shift, that quiet time from 5-10 where the phones and emails die down from New Years Eve crazy to a mere dull roar. I ripped open the package, shoved a pile of files aside, put up my feet, and read the first 60 pages before exhaling. Dan, you made me laugh out loud, swell with pride, and kept me interested in the story, same as always.
First, Dan, you're like me . . . and my dad . . . and the guy down the street . . . and like the millions of hard-working, good-hearted golfers across America. You know that the secret to life is simple: Honor God, love your spouse, and defend your country. Thanks for having the courage to stick up America for sanity, self-preservation, and fairness. You know, I take some grief for my preppy-jerk education, but back in the '80s when I was in school, my preppy-jerk friends and I were free to love our country loudly and proudly. Nowadays in college, they mark you down for that and call it teaching. They never tried that when I was at Trinity, thank goodness, they actually take pride in having great academics. More schools should try it.
I think the pride we felt as a country in the '80s started at the top - with Ronaldus Maximus Reaganus. His love of America and his sense of duty were sincere and infectious. I haven't seen many "Great Americans" - true statesmen and leaders - since The Gipper. He was fearless, altruistic and he championed common-sense solutions that reflected what the majority of Americans wanted to see happen, not some selfish agenda of rich lobbyists or misguided pseudo-intellectuals. Just before I head off to Torrey Pines and the 2008 U.S. Open, I'm going to take a detour to Simi Valley, visit his monument, and pay my respects. We've only loved our country like that once since Bubba Clinton and, that was in one of our darkest moments. I fear we have forgotten.
But while zeitgeist may have forgotten, I haven't . . . and my dad hasn't . . . and neither have millions of golfers across America. When you point out the hypocrisy of political correctness, I think you speak for anyone who still proudly believes that hard work and family values made this country great . . . and that means a lot of golfers. People like Jack Brannon and Bobby Joe Grooves reflect the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans and the America they once knew and wish to see again. They speak for a vast generation of people that see, as you put it in your new book, "the world crumbling into ruins," and know the answers are not what certain politicians want to try - shrugging our shoulders and doing nothing . . . or selling ourselves out . . . or capitulating.
That's perhaps the greatest success of both "Slim and None" and "The Franchise Babe": your heroes and heroines are good-hearted, family-valued, common-sense Americans who triumph over the craziness of a world going mad due to greed and pandering. Thanks for giving us a happy ending. If only we could elect George Grooves to the presidency. And by the way, my doctor also tells me not to talk about Bubba.
Next, I admire your talent as a satirist. Your ability to hold up the "Dorian Gray" mirror to anything and show it's true and banal is unparalleled. It's a critically important literary skill, one I wish I could develop more fully. Jonathan Swift was a titan of literature and a long line of British authors have upheld a longstanding English tradition of excellence in the genre, including a young fellow you should like named Jasper Fforde. Where you satirize the sports world, he lampoons literature. You'd love him.
Anyway, your depictions of everyone from LPGA officials to players to PR, media and player relations reps are not just uproariously funny, but they also serve an important purpose. They're accurate. They remind us that the professional tours aren't lily white and if they don't rein in the rampant "greed is good" and "cover-up" mentality that has infected other sports, they'll ruin pro golf in the U.S.
It doesn't serve golf - as a sport and cultural institution - it doesn't serve golf to act in secretive ways, and to use the game and its virtue solely as a means to turn the highest profit. People are quick to hide behind golf's reputation for virtue and altruism when their business practices and decisions are called into question. They think the virtues and hallowed history of the game are there to protect them and help rubber-stamp their policies simply because of the position they hold. I say their position exists not only to ensure the financial well-being of the tours, but to protect the virtue of the game and the tours through transparent, altruistic example in the way they conduct themselves.
Rather than run from the possibility of people getting wind of a scandal, and sweeping trouble under the rug quietly, troublemakers should be on notice: embarrass us or the game and you're gone and there'll be another guy in your place who looks just like you, except he'll play Callaway instead of Titleist. Oftentimes, clemency to the crime is more scandalous than the original infraction, especially if the excuse is money.
Anyway, Dan, lastly, you cracked me up. "Lost Goose Country Club" and "my ball kept landing in somebody's portfolio" and Vashtine Ulberg are uproariously funny. Speaking of Vashtine, if I don't offer at least one criticism of the book - just for the sake of objectivity, they'll say the same things about me that she screeched at the USGA officials at the U.S. Open (page 122 for those of you scoring at home). So here goes: Vashtine's Swedish-English bromides aside, it's rare that a piece is better because of curse words. I have more fun writing around the seven dirty words than I have using them. I'll admit, I've used them orally occasionally (and I'm usually wrong to do it). Just the other day, I told a money-grubbing, power-worshiping, jock-sniffing, knob-polisher who loudly challenged me to an 18-hole match that I didn't think he could take his wheezy butt-buddy's male anatomy out of his ass long enough to play a full round. A vigorous exchange of discourtesies followed. But as you said in Franchise Babe, "they needed killin' is still a defense in Texas." Well it still is in New York City, too.
Nevertheless, you did teach me a bit of wisdom in each book. For example, in "Slim and None" you're right: stay away from "soul mates" whose highest aspirations in life are to spend money and order in restaurants. I could have used that a couple jumps back. Oh well, live and learn. Thanks, by the way, for introducing me to "Stepping in Shit" and "Spit in the Food," I'll be sure to introduce you to Bowling for Soup and Ominous Seapods.
So there it is, Dan - Golf, God and Country - add a girl and drinks to taste - it sounds good to me. Speaking of that, I gotta go . . . my shapely adorable is waiting for me on the corner of 7th Avenue South and Bleecker so I can take her out for Brazilian Sushi - for real, she wants the avocado-jalapeno-mozzarella roll from "Sushi Samba." And if I'm late, she'll dip my ass in batter and fry me for dinner. Oh well, two "sake margaritas" should kill the taste of anything.
All the best,
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.