The confusions of our day are so many and so inherent that we have no time or attention to spare for empty issues or nonproblems.  The remarkable situation of President Barack Obama is one that deserves some restraint in judgment, for we may soon find that certain difficulties are part of the deal, not individual quirks.  Commenting unnecessarily on matters yet to be adjudicated would seem to be an idiosyncratic indulgence of this former professor of constitutional law, but playing golf is something else altogether.

For years now, I have been seeing photos and reading text and hearing about Barack Obama and golf.  Surely, I am not the only one who recalls all those photos of him in shorts, looking somewhat spindly-shanked.  Well, yes, shorts are rather undignified, but in the heat of summer, pants are rather hot (though they are not hot pants), so make up your mind.

But my point is that all the inane comments and wasted space on the President and golf are misconstrued.  I think I know why he plays golf and why others in his position have played golf, so I want to set the record straight, and since everyone evidently takes dictation from me, here we go.

There is an implication that the Chief Executive is wasting his time in trivial pursuits, and I don’t mean the board game.  And this implication is just wrong—wrong as to human psychology, wrong again as to the nature of golf, and even wrong as far as politics is concerned.  Let me explain.  Harrumph!

Any humane consideration of a stressful position would suggest some relief from that stress.  Golf is not the best exercise there is, but it is much better than nothing, and strangely, it has a particular appeal as a relief from stress or worries.  Like all games, golf is an escape from reality in the form of another fictive reality, but perhaps more than any other game, it is paradoxically therapeutic.  By that I mean to say that it gives you so many problems, themselves wrapped in a sadistic code of punishments called “rules,” that your real problems are forgotten.  Your mind is released from care because you have to be so careful, and you can only be precise by being relaxed in tension-inducing moments.  If you think about the wrong thing or stiffen up, disaster ensues, and the punishments multiply.  This is why corporate executives, high-powered lawyers, and other such big shots play golf.  And this is why it is good or even beneficial for this president to play golf, as we know various predecessors have done.

There is no blame for Mr. Obama in the misunderstanding of golf that is foisted by the media.  We treat our leaders in a dreadful way.  (The way they treat us is not the point right now.)  They need their recreations and vacations, yet are treated as villains or royal bums for seeking relief from their agonized isolation in the most humanly understandable ways.  And I will add that in the mass culture, we treat golf in a dreadful way.  Golf itself is represented as being sinister, elitist, even racist, if it is not absurd, affected, snotty, and boring.  In truth it is a game based, like many others, on the compression, flight, and bounce of the ball.  Tennis, stickball, soccer, softball and baseball, football, and basketball are derived from the fascination of controlling the uncontrollable, and even clashing or synchronizing with gravity itself.  But though such games have varying connections with nature and physics, now they are construed though the lens of the television camera, and in no other way.  In our distorted world, everything must be measured by how it looks on television.  Obama became president in part because he looked good on TV—but he doesn’t look good playing golf.  Yet if we could consider the matter in some rational way, then we would approve of the prudential, even moral lessons to be learned by understanding that the golf ball doesn’t care who you are, and will cut you no slack—unless you cheat, of course.

Mr. Obama actively sought the problems that go with the power of his office, and if ever anyone needed the escape of golf—not to mention the challenge, the competition, the beauty, and the humiliation—he is that man.  If we could concede him that, we would be halfway to granting a dispensation to golf itself.  If Obama is not at fault for playing, not even after all the foozles, chili-dips, and three-putts, then the game is not at fault for being played—being, as it is, one of those several indispensable elements of civilization derived from folkways of the European past and even from a British tradition of law, property, and accountability.