It’s impossible for me to look at a picture of Venezuela president Hugo Chavez and not think of the scene in the Woody Allen film “Bananas,” in which Howard Cosell is reporting live from the capital of San Marcos:
“This is tremendous, Don, just tremendous. The atmosphere heavy, uncertain, overtones of ugliness. A reminder, in a way, of how it was in March of 1964 at Miami Beach when Clay met Liston for the first time and nobody was certain how it would turn out. The crowd is tense … El Presidente may be coming out. The door opens … A shot rings out! He turns… he runs back toward the building, trying to get in. This crowd is going wild. He’s caught in a crossfire of bullets. And down! It’s over! It’s all over for El Presidente!”
But the real thing is stranger than fiction, it appears. The portly Venezuelan strongman added another story of crazy recently when he launched a bitter diatribe against golf, then closing two popular courses. One of the main reasons? “Golf carts are evil.”
Chavez railed against the sport on Venezuelan TV last month, followed by the government shutting down two of the country’s most popular golf courses, in Maracay and Caraballeda, earlier this month.
“Let’s leave this clear,” Mr. Chávez said during a live broadcast of his Sunday television program. “Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.
(What’s the Spanish word for straitjacket?)
Many golf courses in Venezuela were designed by Americans, and some there consider them symbols of the foreign elite. Ironically, though, countries such as Cuba and China are moving in the opposite direction — Cuba is building 10 new courses in a bid to draw in tourism, and China has more than 300 courses, with plans to build more.
Mr. Chávez, for his part, said he had no plans to outlaw golf. “I respect all sports,” he said. “But there are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people’s sport?”
Obviously, Hugo has never heard of John Daly.