Celebrate the Shank, sport’s mirror of our own mortality

Below, you will find a video of Jon Rahm, a professional golfer, and a good one at that. Rahm is, in many ways, what we all are — young, alone, living life, having a blast. He’s at the fulcrum of golf — The Masters — high on the leaderboard. This is no matter, for the shank gremlins come at night, and you must pay them.

You will not find this on television, or on a highlight broadcast tonight. TV is in fact entertainment, sport is an escape. Life is arduous enough, and ESPN is not in the business of making the viewer confront the human condition. Perhaps, that is why this act is banned from television today. An act so powerful, a violent art so stirring — it needn’t be seen by the eyes of the public.

The shank is a toll, a tax on whatever greatness you’ve achieved, the ever-present reminder of the lien that the golf gods have placed on your self-worth. It exists to humble all and any, Old Tom Morris and Francis Ouimet and Walter Hagen sitting in whatever netherworld you believe in, sipping Bushmills, occasionally grabbing the spiritual controls of your swing plane and yelling ‘WATCH THIS’ . Whether from your local-club 40-handicapper to your middling collegiate player to your top-level tour pro, the bell tolls eventually for all — it is not whether you outrun it, or avoid it, just merely that it arrives at an opportune time.

But, in the wide landscape of sports calamity we celebrate today, the shank is unique. A Javier Pastore nutmeg, or a James Harden crossover, or a Bryce Harper batflip requires a two-party plot, a victor, and a victim. The pain, the distress, the self-reflection is lost in our celebration of greatness — overlooking the natural beauty and imperfection of the human condition seen in the victim.

And, perhaps, from that comes the beauty. Humankind has always been captivated, fascinated by the isolation of one. The majesty and emotion of a soloist filling a room with Ave Maria, the simple enjoyment of an airplane bathroom, the peaceful vulnerability of singularity. The shank is the fulcrum of such in sport. Within a shank, we see ourselves. We confront life’s fluid impermanence, and the solo act that is our long journey to an uncertain destination.

And just like that, it ends, as quick as it started. Beautiful and powerful, yet all too short. We are left uncertain, questioning, and humbled with regard to the world around us.

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