Tag Archives: American Sports

How I lost my Golf Partner to Donald Trump!!

Golfing short


Ahmed Tharwat

I took up golfing right after  realizing that  I couldn’t play soccer anymore, couldn’t run, so I took walking as a sport, besides as  a Muslim I wanted to be assimilated.

Growing up in Egypt I had never had a chance to play this illusive game or even come close to being on a golf course. Golf is still an individualistic and very much a disciplined game for someone who played and lived for a long time with the game of proximity and improvisation: the game of soccer. Golf needs a conservative mindset that uses linear thinking. Soccer is more liberal that requires a nonlinear mindset. GOLF is basically a men’s game – as men golfers say – stands for Guys Only Ladies Forbidden, Ha ha ha, don’t drop your beer.


Continue reading How I lost my Golf Partner to Donald Trump!!


Three Shots Of Tee


Three shots of tee

Ahmed Carrying bagIn sports as in life as you grow older, the game gets slower and the ball gets smaller (pun intended). For me, I moved from playing football (soccer), to tennis and now to the game of golf.
As a kid growing up in Egypt I had never had the chance to play this elusive game of golf or even see a golf course in person. But as Greg Mortenson, a controversial American social activist, in his book “Three Cups of Tee,” talked about an Afghani elder’s conversation with him while building schools for Afghani girls without consulting with the locals, “in Afghanistan” he advised, “First cup of tea you are a stranger, on the second you are a friend and with the third cup of tea you are a family member.” In golf, on the first tee shot we are just strangers. By the time we are on the fifth tee shot we are golfing friends. On the ninth tee shot, we are drinking buddies (non-alcohol for me, please).

GreenFor someone who played football (soccer), a game of proximity and improvisation, the individualistic and much disciplined game golf requires quite an adjustment.

Golf thrives only in a culture of abundance where each player brings his/her own balls, bag, shoes, umbrella, raincoat, hats, cart, clubs and caddy. Soccer thrives in a scarce culture. All you need to do is to show up at the park with the clothes you have on. No equipment needed, only one ball shared by all players, and a “one for all and all for one” team spirit. But in America, there doesn’t seem to be any respect for a sport that doesn’t use hands or equipment.

LakeIn soccer you can literally use your head, but shouldn’t think so much in handling the ball. It’s better to rely on your instincts. In golf you can only use your head to hit this small ball straight on the fairway, every time. Trying to make that little ball go where you want, is one of the most deceptively simple tasks you will ever encounter.

Your relationship with other golfers isn’t quite clear. They aren’t your opponents but aren’t your teammates either. It all depends on what is going to happen on the golf course. Fellow golfers want to score higher than you, but while you play they also give advice on how to best improve your game.

As an Arab-American, getting on the golf course for the first time is a refreshing experience and a wonderful treat. On a typical day, people assume I’m the authority on all things Arab. They ask me tough questions about the Middle East, what ISIS is up to or why general Sisi is getting into the construction business and building a new capital for Egypt. On the golf course, I’m not seen as a hyphenated American. Golfers transcend race, color and ethnicity; the only thing we see is the color of the green. We are just men in a man’s world, no cultural sensitivity or diversity training required. I’m just another golfer – a bad golfer maybe, but never a bad Arab.

Golf courseOne of the golf courses in town is surrounded by big houses. My crooked tee shot went straight to the high voltage tower and made a very loud noise! I told my American friend (a former public prosecutors), “I hope you don’t think that shot was a terrorist attack.” He gave me another ball to hit.

Our human energy is consumed with hitting this small ball. The exhilaration of smashing this ball onto the fairway overwhelms our bias, racism and ethnocentric behavior.

For a long time I had subscribed to the notion that golf is played by old men wearing ugly pants. Now, golf is played by young men with “nice pants.”

the tunnelGolfing is a mental relaxation exercise, where your cognitive process is taken over by your instincts to stay the course. This is a quite a treat for an Arab-American who had been consumed by the never-ending political wrangling of biblical proportion, years of jihad over the fate of the holy land. In golf the only holy land that I care about is the golf course. This is the only jihad I have and I’m the only one who can do anything about it. Golf anyone?



Ahmed Tharwat
Arab American TV show, Belahdan
“A show with accent for those without one”
Ahmed blogs at “Notes From America”



How Football…explains America!!

Notes from America: How American football…explains America

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Ahmed Tharwat

By Ahmed Tharwat

Last Sunday, more than 140 million Americans congregated in living rooms, bars, restaurants to eat, drink and watch the Super Bowl XLIX  (49). This is the biggest sporting event of the year, with highest TV rating (39.1 points); the game day ticket price averaging $10,466, it brought more than $500M economic value (debatable) to host city, a 30 second ad costs $4.5m, in fact, so a FIAT 500X crossover car covering one minute ad costs $9m, that for the first time mixed cars and Viagra. American football is not just a game, it is a huge entertaining culture exhibition, where one hour is stretched to more than 3 hours of festivities. The actual playing time according to a ​Wall Street Journal study,  is 11 minutes, with commercials taking up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.

 The way the game is played with oversized, over-coached and over-equipped players, representing our modern gladiators who are facing off to the death over territories. The game is organised play-by-play in a book before even they start, everyone knows his exact role on the battlefield. The game is linear, which is a little different than FIFA “world” football, which is more spontaneous, creative, complex, multi-faceted, and inclusive.  Unlike American football, it is not so much about occupation of territory and smashing your opponents; it is about shifting positions, manoeuvring and running a series of attacks and retreats, winning without physical elimination, but avoiding opponent’s strengths, while American football is all about Americana, where Americans play alone with themselves, and the game reflects white middle class suburbia.

Although the game is played mostly by African-Americans, still we saw the debacle of penalising an African-American Muslim player for kneeling down after scoring a touchdown (NFL admitted that he shouldn’t have been penalised). World football invites people from all over the world to pay the game.  G. Gordon Liddy explained why he hates world football “Whatever happened to American exceptionalism?” David Brook calls this American parochialism; we just don’t want to participate in world culture.  World football is not all about winning; it is about the art of playing the beautiful game.

World football, is a game about life drama and disappointments , most of the attacks end up foiled by defence and goals not achieved, which teaches us more about real life; it is a sport where the players’ movement of their feet and hands as they try control the ball is like a dancer on a stage. The players seem to lots of Americans to exaggerate their injuries on the field, which it is to condemn violence and not to condone it.  In the World Cup, every four years, small countries like Slovenia, Slovakia, South African, Chile, or Algeria can challenge their former colonial powerhouse like Russia, England, Netherlands, Franc and Spain without fear of retaliation or invasion.

As the Atlantic magazine stated, it allows a chance “where postcolonial matchups include the U.S. versus the UK, Portugal versus Brazil, and Spain versus almost everybody else”.  What is so different about the FIFA World Cup games than our local games is that it is not all about winning, it is about representing your country; each national team’s style of playing represents its own culture on the field. The direct, organised English style; the defensive Italian style; the obnoxious eccentric style of France; the creative strength of the African style; and Brazilian samba football that everyone around the world enjoys and admires.

Franklin Foer’s 2004 book “How Soccer Explains the world”, describes the logic of Nigerian footballers on the pitch: “They had ingenuity that could make a bland Eastern Bloc team look downright continental.”  It is a real clash of cultures where countries can compete on a field that is just and fair, to compete in a frontier where Americans do not, and cannot, yet dominate.

The World Cup, where countries can’t outsource their national pride, means that every four years, everything is put on the line. Ann Coulter, the conservative firebrand Fox pundit, declared jihad against world football in America, terrified by the millions of Americans who started playing and watching it, but she managed to find a historical cultural explanation for it .  “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.”

She declared that almost 25 million Americans watched their team playing Germany, which is not entirely true. This is more than any other sporting event in America, short of the Super Bowl. More Americans went to Brazil to watch the World Cup than any other nationality other than the host nation. “[I]n soccer, players use their hands,” she went onto explain, and using hands is what differentiate us from beasts,” she added.

America’s foreign political position represents the game of American football; that it is always motivated by a sense of American exceptionalism, that sets us apart from the rest of the world. Conservative Americans were utterly surprised when the rest of the world didn’t agree with them. For Americans, winning is the same as it is in their football: all about physical elimination of the enemy (opponents) and acquiring their territories on the field all the way to the end zone (Kabul, Baghdad), or, for Obama the new American black quarterback, sending the drones.

Ahmed Tharwat Producer/Host of the Arab American TV Show Belahdan