In an usual display of perspective and sanity, Mayor Bloomberg played golf the other day. You and I might regard this as none of our business, but some news outlets suggested that Mr. Bloomberg might as well have brought along a toga and a fiddle. Shows you what they know about proper golf attire. (As if they make togas with a Nike swoosh.)
Apparently, if you happen to be the Mayor of New York during hard times and your poll numbers are lower than your handicap, you are disqualifed from recreational pursuits. This is especially true if you play golf, which, as we all know, is a sport played by society’s elites-firefighters, plumbers, mechanics and the occasional hack newspaper reporter.
The Mayor got in trouble for playing golf when, according to some newspaper editors, he should have been at work like his famously hard-driven predecessor. If nothing else, this shows that Michael Bloomberg, billionaire Mayor, is a true person of the people. I ask you: What recreational enthusiast cannot sympathize with a man being pilloried for spending a fine spring day playing golf instead of sitting behind a desk and crunching his numbers?
As I recall, Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor-his name will come to me in a moment-developed something of a liking for golf during his time in office. In fact, if the folks who worship at Silver Lake Golf Course on Staten Island are to be believed, Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor was a regular visitor to that city-owned facility. And they say he was not there to check on the concession receipts, or to perform heroic transformations of nothing less than the disorderly culture of the grill room. Yes, folks, Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor-the man who proudly called himself our 24/7 Mayor, the man who never rested in his service to the public-did, in fact, play golf on occasion. Given that a round of golf at Silver Lake Golf Course takes about four hours (this is assuming that Mayors do not have to wait in line at the first tee, nor look for lost balls on Silver Lake’s perilous fifth hole), it’s safe to say that Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor was off the job for long stretches at a time. And yet, as is evident, the city survived. No newspaper editors seemed to think less of Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor because he liked to play golf for hours at a time.
Come to think of it, I don’t recall any displays of outrage when the current incumbent President of the United States took time out to swing a big stick-but then again, he’s a successful wartime leader who needs a break from the terrible hardships of his office. Golf is part of his charm, you see; part of his heritage, his family tradition, you might say. Besides, he’s a tax-cutter, and when you cut taxes and win wars, you’re allowed to play golf.
Mr. Bloomberg, of course, has not won a war (on crime, or in Iraq). Nor has he cut taxes; in fact, he has raised them. This means that his affection for golf is sure to be seen as a sign that he is out of touch with all those ordinary Joes and Janes, who, of course, regard golf as a pursuit of the uncaring rich-like the folks at Silver Lake Golf Course, who cleverly disguise themselves as firefighters, plumbers and other salt-of-the-earth types.
Personally, I wish more politicians played golf, or softball, or chess (I draw the line at spin the bottle; we’ve had enough of that in recent years)-anything to get them away from the tedium and self-absorption of their necessary but often tiresome line of work. I didn’t agree with Ronald Reagan about much, but I sure admired his work ethic. One of the great tragedies of the Reagan era is that the corporate titans who so admired Mr. Reagan didn’t learn something from the great man’s 9-to-5 approach to problem-solving.
Thanks in part to policy and attitude changes during the Reagan years (ironically enough), Americans today are spending less time on the golf course, or at the bowling alley or with their families, and more time at work. And now Republicans in Congress are trying to make it easier for companies to avoid paying overtime to lower-tier workers-the very people who are most likely to need a little time and a half, thank you very much. A nasty bit of business called the Family Time and Workplace Flexibility Act would strip some millions of workers of the right to extra pay for overtime work. It’s all part of our unending drive to remain competitive in the global marketplace, which is another way of saying that middle-income Americans had better get used to living like the hired hands of the developing world.
The U.S. Congress-now there’s a group of people in desperate need of a golf outing.