Anyone who follows professional golf knows that Bubba Watson's face is an open book when it comes to joy, sorrow, stress, elation, the whole works. His tear ducts work just fine.
There are reasons for this, of course, and Watson doesn't mind talking about them. At the top of the list is his family and his faith.
Thus, I kind of expected the "On Golf" feature that ran the other day at The New York Times -- "Bubba Watson, a Candid and Sensitive Champion, Shows His Vulnerable Side" -- to deal with these spiritual issues. I mean, after all, the article was very clear that the goal was to get inside this unique personality and find out why he is the man he is. For example, early on, readers are told:
Watson is good company and better copy. Anyone inclined to give him a wide berth must have a pretty narrow view of what makes for interesting conversation. Unfailingly honest and unshakably human, Watson, 37, held a news conference after his victory at the Northern Trust Open that unfurled like an Erhard Seminars Training session.
It was more than 30 minutes of public therapy, during which Watson talked about how he dreads the day when he’ll tell his two small children they’re adopted, the tightrope he walks being a performer with social anxiety -- and, oh, yeah, how the long par putt he drained on 10 at Riviera Country Club on Sunday was the key to his ninth P.G.A. Tour victory since 2010.
At one point, Watson just came right out and admitted that he tends to win, whenever "my head’s in the right spot.”
Right, and then he struggles when his head is not in the right spot. What's the larger point here?
Once again, just to make sure readers know what's going on, the Times team states the thesis of this feature:
If you have watched Watson on the course, perhaps you have noticed that he is subject to moments of volatility. Whether he is mad, sad or glad, Watson’s emotions are the worst-kept secret in golf. His golf swing is fine, Watson said. What he spends the most time working on are his mood swings.
“Me changing as a person has helped my golf, not my swing,” he said. “I have all the shots.”
Watson added: “So what I’ve worked on since I’ve been on tour is my attitude, my mind-set. I have a lot of fears in my life, which, as I’m reading the Bible, I’m not supposed to have -- but I do. I’m human. And a lot of those fears come out on the golf course: Big crowds, just people, people touching me, people yelling at me. Just, I want to go and hide. So I’m getting better at that. I’m trying to.”
Wait a minute, what was that part about "reading the Bible"?
Even more intriguing, what about the statement in which the always-candid, complex and very human (that's the subject of this Times piece, remember) Watson admits that there is a tension between the Bible reading and the fact that his fears and struggles have not, well, vanished into the bliss of being a born-again believer whose head is always in the right place?
Follow-up question! STAT!
How many times have you rolled your eyes when some entertainer or sports star makes the obligatory reference to thanking God for this that and the other, right after a win? Well, often there is a story behind those statements (and, to be honest, often there isn't) and it helps to ask a question or two to find out.
Watson has been very candid about the fact that his faith has not been a magic wand that he waves around like his mighty driver, allowing him to knock all his problems 380 yards down the middle of the fairway of life.
But does the Times tap in this gimme as part of producing a feature about what makes Watson the volatile, sensitive, imperfect, fascinating champion that he is?
What do you think?
If the Times team had actually been interested in finding out what makes Watson tick, would I be writing this GetReligion post?
Actually, the answer is "yes," because I would have been writing an article praising the sports staff in the world's most powerful newsroom for making a sincere effort to identify and describe the "ghost" in the Watson story -- that is, the ghost that really isn't a ghost because this man is so open and willing to talk about it.
Fore! This Times had an easy shot here, and missed it.