I’m going to focus on just one topic today. It’s a broad one: the intentional, and unintentional, creation and propagation of extremely exaggerated or outright false information.
There are many examples in golf. Probably the most actively pushed one is the idea that increased distance in golf is the result of “better athletes” and “more time in the gym.” Of course, the easily observable, easily provable reason for increased distance is the equipment. When the Pro V1 was introduced, the Tour driving average immediately went up six or seven yards. And isn’t it amusing that most golf equipment commercials make promises about increased distance, yet the equipment companies want to put the blame (credit?) for courses getting longer (and slower) on “better athletes” spending “more time in the gym”? Worth noting: the first of those phrases appeals to golfers’ egos, and the second one is an ipso facto advertisement for the health club and equipment industry.
This leads us to a recent Washington Post article about obesity/exercise/caloric-intake. It’s written by a doctor who makes this amusing confession:
Sadly, many doctors’ understanding of nutrition is influenced by bogus industry advertising. In July 2012, I stopped drinking the popular sports drink Lucozade after Oxford University researchers found a “striking lack of evidence” to support claims that such products enhance performance and recovery. Instead of wasting close to $10,000 over the previous 15 years drinking a product loaded with seven teaspoons of sugar, I would have been better off drinking tap water at the gym.
People are extremely susceptible to advertising and other less direct methods of pushing propaganda, and those seeking ever-increasing power or wealth will gladly use every method available to manipulate the public. One propagandic myth I’ve discussed many times is, “Tiger Woods made golfers rich.” Money went up in all sports — some of them more than golf — yet, Tiger Woods is almost always given the credit in golf. (No other sport credits a single person, an interesting point to ponder.) There are people who have heard “Woods made golfers rich” so many times, they believe it with all their hearts. It’s incontrovertible fact to them: The sun rises in the east; Tiger Woods made golfers rich. They won’t even consider the facts. They are in love with the narrative and will not risk having it taken from them.
Anyway, the Washington Post article — and I encourage everyone to give it a good, attentive reading — makes the point that while exercise has many benefits, weight loss is not really one of them. Americans are becoming heavier and heavier while working out more and more. From the White House down, the focus is on exercise instead of just on diet. Why? Here’s one reason, or rather twenty-two billion reasons:
The fitness industry has never been stronger. Health clubs in the United States brought in $22.4 billion in 2013, doubling their revenue in just 15 years. Sales of fitness trackers (the wearable devices that measure everything from your daily steps to your blood oxygen level) are expected to triple within the next five years. And health and fitness apps were the fastest-growing downloads from Google’s app store last year. Still, obesity has continued to surge around the world.
I guess the takeaway — and people reading this website don’t need to be told — is that we must take the “everybody knows” purported facts with a very large grain of salt. As I get older, I find more and more of the “everybody knows” facts are, at best, general guidelines, at worst, outright lies.
Everybody knows that:
- Tiger Woods made golfers rich
- Increased distance in golf comes from today’s more athletic golfers who spend time in the gym
- If people exercised more, they wouldn’t be overweight
The problem is, all three are false. They “seem like” they would be true, however, and that’s as much mental energy as most people are willing to expend, especially when “informed people” (who make a lot of money off of their misconceptions) insist the narratives are true.