By Dom Cioffi
I’ve always been a bit of a solo golfer. While I don’t mind playing with other people, I find that in order for me to play my best golf, I need to be fully focused on my game. When I play a round with another person or a group, I tend to get caught up in the conversations, which ends up distracting me.
I suppose it’s the competitive blood in me. I’m on a constant quest to shoot my lowest round and I know that accomplishing this will only be possible with serious focus.
Non-golfers might not get that, but golf, more than any other sport I’ve played, requires an immense amount of analysis and focus. And while the sport takes heat for its supposed lack of physicality (which is entirely untrue), it can exhaust you beyond description if you’re at it for four hours under intense focus.
I also like to play alone because I love the connective aspect of wandering in natural settings for hours at a time. Walking around a golf course on a beautiful afternoon is one way that I feel rooted in the world.
However, with that said, some of my most memorable rounds of golf have occurred while playing with others. A few years ago, I had one of those experiences and it’s always stuck with me.
Occasionally, as I’ve approached the first tee, I’ve had people ask to join up when they see that I’m alone. Initially, this is disappointing for me for the aforementioned reasons, but I’ve learned over the years that 99 percent of the time it turns out fine.
On this occasion, a guy in his mid-50s rolled his push cart up to the tee and asked if he could tag along. I agreed, shook his hand to introduce myself, and prepared to tee off. He did the same.
All it took was one swing of his club for me to realize that this guy wasn’t a golfer. Luckily, he was a personable character, which can always make up for a bad game.
We played several holes before the niceties faded into casual conversation. It was at this point when his penchant for conspiracy theories first appeared. I don’t remember what the gateway topic was, but fairly quickly I became aware that this guy was thoroughly convinced that the world was full of grand conspiracies.
He touched on his perceived issues with 9/11 and how the government played a role in toppling the Twin Towers. I listened intently, never letting on that I was beginning to think he was a bit unhinged. In fact, I fanned the flames by asking more and more questions, feigning interest in everything he said.
And I was interested, but not in his theories. I was more intrigued in how massively gullible this guy was. The more he talked the less interested he became in his own golf game. After a while he even started picking up his ball.
Eventually, he moved to NASA and the space program where, he said, he had done intense research and uncovered a treasure trove of proof that the Apollo missions to the moon were totally faked. He even mentioned self-publishing his own book on the topic.
This is when I started to truly push his buttons, acting as if I was buying into his every point. Conspiracy theorists, as I’ve learned, love nothing more than indoctrinating others into their elaborate stories.
Over the years, I had heard a few things about NASA faking the moon landings – that the entire mission was a carefully rehearsed production filmed at a top secret sound stage – but I never gave it any credence. This guy spent the next couple hours highlighting every issue he could remember, from photographic evidence that showed moon rocks being labeled as props to repeating lunar backgrounds that appeared in different photos miles apart.
In the end, I rather enjoyed my time with this guy. And when I got home, out of intrigue I spent several hours researching lunar hoaxes, eventually determining that you’d have to be a bit off kilter to really believe that there was never a mission to the moon.
This week’s film, “First Man,” reconstructs those Apollo missions in which Neil Armstrong played a pivotal role, eventually becoming the first human to step foot on another heavenly body.
This film is as much about Armstrong’s relationship with his family than it is about his commanding the lunar landing. There’s an intriguing story behind the story that people may not have considered.
Check this one out if you love historical dramas. Just be prepared for a deep dive into the troubled personal life of an American icon.
A weightless “B” for “First Man.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.