My father is a fan of old school movies. His favorite films are Westerns. I’m not talking about Tombstone but the ones that feature singing cowboys and fight scenes that make you giggle at the acting work. My Dad has many sayings that I will always carry with me. There is a particular one that I have heard often and it always accompanies a day or event that did not go according to plan. I remember limping home from school after breaking my foot in gym and my father saying “looks like you had a bad day at black rock”. The phrase also followed some heartbreak or work frustrations and it was usually fitting. This saying, comes from an old movie by the same title and it’s basically a film about a guy who is sent on a mission to the town of Black Rock. As he arrives in town and steps off of the train, he is greeted with a feeling of cold and isolation. The people of the town are pretty much rude and make it clear that they do not welcome strangers. The stranger is met with resistance in everything he attempts to do. In perhaps the focal point of the movie, he inquires about a Japanese American person and the locals basically declare all out war on him. The scene is worthy of a view. Some of the tough guy locals attempt to provoke the visitor into a fight and as they quickly find out, things are not always as they seem. The stranger makes quick work of the town bully and the theme of the movie is the stranger surviving a bad day in the town of Black Rock.
I’ve been guilty of similar assumptions in my life. As an athlete, I have had moments in which I underestimated the competition. I’ve lost games that should have been easily won. I remember playing a basketball game once and the other team had a small goofy looking guy with glasses. His shot form was awful and he was way out of shape. As we started the game, one of our “premier” players insisted that we not bother to cover the goofy guy and to pack the defense down low to keep their power forward from getting easy baskets. The first 5 trips down court featured the guy with the glasses nailing 5 long range 3 pointers in a row. We were down 15-3 in 3 minutes. I called time out and said, I’m pretty sure dude with the glasses can shoot and I will personally go over and end it. In the end, we won the game but I had to grab the kid after the game and tell him how impressed I was with his shooting ability.
Confidence is a great and necessary component of greatness but while confidence will help you succeed, cockiness will serve as an untied shoelace that lands you flat on your face. All of us have good times and bad times. We have our high and low points in life. Sometimes the sun shines and other times it’s all rain and cold. The key to survival is to know that you can accomplish great things but to not get too low in the bad times and to fight your way back to the good times. I watch Long Drivers at practice and at work and they all have slumps and they all have streaks. Golf is anything but a constant improvement line. It’s a matter of gaining ground and losing ground. Your ultimate goal is to gain more than you lose and to improve in increments. I’ve stood on the tee box and knew with certainty where the ball was going and I’ve stood on the box having no idea where the ball would go. As I told my friend Sasquatch after I hit a really poor ball on the ES12 launch monitor…”You know, I don’t expect to ever beat the Word Champion Tim Burke in Long Drive but I should at least be able to hit it further than his ball speed”. I’m also reminded of playing in a big team event at Pinehurst and although I had played well on the previous day, I followed up with a golfing day from hell. Nobody in our group played well and we did not qualify to continue to the finals that year. The ironic thing was that we had a golfer who was basically a scratch player and he made the comment on#17 tee box that “the good thing for me was that the round was almost over”. I told him that I’m always capable of placing more pressure on myself than anybody else can. They say the mark of a great champion is being able to win even when you don’t have your best stuff that day. I say that when you’re able to hit through the slumps in life knowing that the good swings are coming then you can survive even a Bad Day at Black Rock.
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