Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Jordan Spieth: One Gutsy Move and the Importance of Language

I can still recall which words were not permissible in the Stricherz house. Cussing and swearing was not tolerated, nor was taking the Lord's name in vain. I am glad I grew up in a home that paid attention to language and the power of words. This family value required self control, reflection and intention behind what we said and why we said it. I hope this gives a slice of context for how I describe what Jordan Spieth did on Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Standing on the edge of a cliff, Spieth made a par save by adhering to Rule 9: "play the ball as it lies." Since the area where Spieth's ball was a lateral hazard, he could have used the rules of golf to gain a better lie (with a one stroke penalty), Spieth went for it, keeping fans, his wife and family on the edge of our seats.

I call it gutsy. Others call it ballsy. KNBR's Brian Murphy recalled the shot by proclaiming that "Spieth has cajones." He has used that word before and will use it again. It doesn't sit well with me. Here's why.

It isn't uncommon these days to describe a risky move or daring play with a reference to cajones or huevos. However, that is an association I have never made of myself or the young women I coach. I would never say "big huevos!" In my role as Assistant Athletic Director, I would not tell a male athlete I supervise that I am impressed by his cajones. It's almost uncomfortable to write that out! 

I understand many people link aggression to testosterone—which both men and women have, to varying degrees. However, according to the University of Michigan's study on Anger, Hostility and Violent behavior, aggression is more than that. It is a product of adrenaline and other hormones that are released into the bloodstream. "Then your blood pressure goes up, your heart beats faster, and you breathe faster." Cajones and Huevos are not mentioned.

To this day, I pay careful attention to the vernacular of those around me. I can't say I never swear—sometimes, it's appropriate, even necessary. But I also think it can be overused and inappropriate (I wish Springsteen had used half the number of F bombs in "Springsteen on Broadway"). I am mindful of the slang I use. Balls, cajones and huevos are three examples that do not resonate with me. Are they inappropriate? Not entirely. Are there better choices? I think so.

I describe the athletes I watch and coach as "tough." and I like it when athletes play that way. I speak often of the physicality involved in a game. I love an athlete who has pluck. I would say they have guts or chutzpah.

I think we are always invited to think about the words we use. This is why we should read, especially the great authors. Their use of language is magnificent.

Whenever I am asked what is my dream job, my response is a sports announcer. I would love to do what Hannah Storm does. My dream would afford me the opportunity to put into practice what I value—the usage of words and language to describe and celebrate all that happens on the court and off. In the meantime, I will keep talking and writing about gutsy plays and big accomplishments.

Jordan Spieth and his caddy Michael Greller embrace after that save.
Always love seeing them in Monterey

Photo Credits:
Cliffside and Hug

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