January 22, 2014

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox

Thus it’s always tempting to buy a newer and even more complicated Stealth Fighter-looking putter because, you know, Science. As golf club businessman Barney Adams told Hannan:

…you need a story to sell. A story that can usually be reduced to five simple words: “Mad scientist invents great product.”

But in truth, putting remains largely a test of concentration, willpower, and confidence. A competitor once told George Plimpton that Palmer made the most 20-footers in the early 1960s because he deeply felt he deserved to make each one.

Recently, popular mustachioed golf broadcaster Gary McCord became a huge booster of the Yar putter, which looks like an F-35 crossed with a cup holder. As McCord recounts in this video to fellow pro Steve Elkington, the Yar was invented by the shadowy aerospace genius Dr. V.

This entrepreneur, who went by the curious name of Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, claimed to be a member of the historic New York society family and have a Ph.D. from MIT in aeronautical physics”€”credentials that helped draw in money from outside investors, such as a Pittsburgh retiree who wound up losing his $60,000.

McCord, worried at one point that he couldn’t actually verify Dr. V’s claims of a career deep in classified defense efforts such as the Stealth Bomber, phoned a friend:

Dan Quayle was also an acquaintance. Unable to help himself, McCord once put the former vice-president on the phone with Dr. V and watched as they chatted about old Pentagon projects.

When the Grantland reporter emailed Dr. V, the inventor insisted the focus of the article be on “the science and not the scientist,” explaining:

I have no issues as long as the following protocols are followed because of my association with classified documents….If the aforementioned is agreeable to you, please respond to this communique at your convenience so we can schedule our lively nuncupative off the record collogue.

That’s reassuring.

By the way, Dr. V also claimed to be a woman, one in a lesbian relationship with a lady golfer.

This didn’t seem to faze the highly Republican golfers. Nor did the golfers, such as veteran David Frost, seem to worry much that Dr. V was 6’3” and had a deep voice.

After all, there must be a lot of women who are almost a foot taller than the national average and have low voices and have MIT engineering doctorates and worked in the weapons industry and tinker with golf clubs. How sexist do you have to be to suggest that a Venn diagram of all the women in America might not show any overlap?

As Hannan investigated his story, he discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the 60-year-old Dr. V wasn’t a doctor, wasn’t a Vanderbilt, was a high-school dropout and a failed auto mechanic, had declared bankruptcy after several lawsuits, had been accused of sexual harassment three times, had been revived from a suicide attempt, and had married at least two women and fathered at least two children under the name Stephen Krol.

This is not to say that the Yar is worse than other putters, just that the implicit marketing mantra “mad scientist invents great product” requires some science along with the madness.

You’ve probably heard that male-to-female transgender individuals “always felt like a girl on the inside.” So if the promoter was always a woman trapped in a man’s body, why were all of Krol-Vanderbilt’s avocations”€”golf, military technology, chasing women, and so forth”€”stereotypically masculine?

One group of transgender individuals, though, tends to be caricatures of masculine willfulness and egotism. For example, economist Deirdre McCloskey played football at Harvard. In a photo, computer scientist Lynn Conway in a flight suit towers over former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

When the Northwestern U. psychologist J. Michael Bailey pointed out that some transsexuals are less motivated by being “a woman in a man’s body” than by a peculiar sexual fetish, McCloskey and Conway attempted to destroy Bailey’s career and that of anybody who’d ever mentioned his research in public. They displayed a masculine ferocity that remains the most memorable in my decades watching people try to shut scientists up. (Here’s an excellent New York Times article on their jihad against Bailey.)

At a lower intellectual level, guys who declare themselves trans so they can hit on lesbians have been making themselves a nuisance at lesbian-feminist venues for decades. For example, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has long had a policy of allowing admission only to “womyn-born-womyn” so its attendees can sit in the dirt and listen to the Indigo Girls without having to fend off the transgendered.

In a sad end to a chaotic life, Dr. V committed suicide on October 18, 2013. An ex-brother-in-law called Hannan to break the news, saying unsympathetically, “Well, there’s one less con man in the world now.”

What Hannan and Simmons didn’t realize, however, was that as part of the rapid redeployment of firepower from World War G to World War T, “transgender” individuals have become 2014’s hottest privileged class.

The condemnation from the rest of the press was overwhelming, with Slate’s headline typical: “Digging Too Deep: Grantland‘s exposé of a trans con artist privileged fact-finding over compassion.” After all, the self-proclaimed transgendered are, by definition, victims of the white male power structure, even if they are kicking it around with Dan Quayle.

Simmons soon posted a self-emasculating apology and ran a denunciatory piece by Christina Kahrl, one of the few baseball sabermetricians who wears a dress. (Not surprisingly, Christina used to be Chris and was the husband of a woman.)

In 1861, the comparative legal scholar Henry Maine drew a famous generalization from his study of the differences between ancient Roman and Hindu societies versus the direction Victorian Britain was moving: “…we may say that the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.” In ancient India, for instance, Brahmins were born privileged and stayed privileged, while Dalits were born despised and stayed despised. In contrast, the modern world then seemed to be moving toward a system that respected laws, not men.

The postmodern world, however, seems to be drifting back toward a new regime of privileged categories that are based on complaining your way into becoming unquestioningly assumed to be disprivileged, no matter how much time you spend on the putting green.

As for putters, well, I’ve given up trying to buy myself a more scientific stroke. I’ve gone back to using the putter my late mother gave me in 1971, which I believe she bought in a drugstore for about $2.99. It looks like a welding project from a junior-high shop class.

And I’m still awful at putting.



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