Mashed Potatoes.

“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”

-T.S. Eliot

If you’ve ever watched golf, in person or on television, you might’ve heard someone yell out, “mashed potatoes!” or maybe even “Baba Booey!” Most likely, not the most original thing you’ve ever heard and to be honest, it gets a little annoying. It’s not that big of a deal though. Most of the time, it’s forgotten long before anyone cares.

Except for when it’s not.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not innocent when it comes to yelling on a golf course or saying something stupid to a player at a tournament. If I’m being sincere, it is kinda fun. You get a little rush, an exhilaration that floods through you, just for a second. Most do it in the hopes they’ll be heard on the broadcast, maybe their friends will hear them and know they were there.

It seems like everyone wants to do it. Okay, probably not everyone, but you know that awkward feeling you’ve gotten when someone does something cool and everyone else congratulates them except for you? That real weird feeling you get because you were the last to say something? Like, maybe, you waited too long and now you shouldn’t say anything? But, if you don’t say something then you’re just the jerk that didn’t congratulate someone. What are you, selfish?

No, you’re not selfish. You’re just not sure what to say. And now, you’re taking way too long and it’s getting weirder by the second. Awkward eye contact. Unnatural face twitch. You hope they can tell by the look in your eyes how much you want to say something nice. That you care and you mean it. Can they? The look in their eye says, “I think you care but I’m not sure so some words would be nice.” You manage to mumble something inaudible and they’re like, “What?”

Now things are peak awkward, your body trembling, hands sweating, and somehow you summon the courage to clear your throat and say it louder this time. Only it’s too loud and now everyone’s looking at you like you’re insane.

Oh, don’t tell me that’s never happened to you. Am I the only one that this happens to? Hipsters.

Please ignore my tangent. My brain goes a thousand miles a minute when I’m writing these things and sometimes I just can’t keep it from showing up here. Back to the point at hand.

Athletes get yelled at all the time. They get catcalled and harassed and, once in a while, you might hear something uplifting. It’s fun and exciting to be the 6th or 12th man, a way for fans to be a part of the game.

However, there is a time when no one should say anything. A time when there should be absolute silence.

Never yell during someone’s backswing. That’s bad. Real bad.

A catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions. A mistake of monumental magnitude. It’s something you just don’t do.

It’s distracting, to say the least. Enough to divert the attention of even the most focused professional. Even if it only deflects a player’s attention for a split second, it can cause them to mishit the ball by a millimeter, and then scowl at you as their ball sails out of bounds, nestling itself deep in the woods or plunging into a pond.

You only hope they can stop their swing in time.

I mean, sure, they’re professionals. They ought to be used to this kind of thing, but even Tiger Woods can’t stop from himself being distracted by it.

The golf swing happens so fast, and every nuance about gets magnified over 300 yards that even the slightest error can be disastrous. (If you’ve ever played golf you know what I’m talking about. Like when that one random guy you get paired with just won’t shut up all day. It’s annoying.)

It’s the same with any kind of distraction though. Any little thing that takes your eyes off the prize can cause the whole train to go off the rails. Ever been driving down the road with two kids screaming “MOM!” from the back seat? Next thing you know you’re hurtling the whole family straight towards an extremely solid, stationary object.

Okay, maybe not that dramatic. But it is possible. Distractions happen. And ultimately, they can make things into something much bigger than they began.

It’s our job to work on avoiding those distractions, keeping our focus on our intended target, the outcome we desire. We’re responsible for getting the package to the destination and we shouldn’t allow anyone to take our gaze off the road.

Only we know that isn’t possible. We’ll never be fully immune to distraction as players in the game, but maybe we can prevent it as the spectators. By not being overzealous, we can stave off being the cause of distraction, and not end up as the impatient guy who couldn’t hold his tongue. By being more courteous to others, we open the door for them to do something spectacular. Being a bit more aware of your surroundings may keep you out of a car accident.

We know we can never stop distractions from appearing in life, but maybe we can lessen the blow. Who knows, maybe it’ll keep you alive someday.

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