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Caddyshack. (Photo: Warner Brothers.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Be the Ball

By Kevin O'Toole, September 22 2020 10:00 am

It is hard to believe that it is 40 years since we were blessed to see the best golf movie ever — Caddyshack.

Now what in the world does Caddyshack have to do with politics?

Fair question.

One of the best scenes (of the many) in the movie is when Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) is wandering around the course with his caddy, Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), and Ty is seen taking a real interest in Danny’s life and is imparting his wisdom to the earnest caddy. Danny is confused, has life decisions to make, and Ty is more than happy to lend a sympathetic ear and offers his version of counseling – as unorthodox as it might be.

Now for the political overlay; often times I find that the best elected officials are the ones who have worked as a staffer prior to entering electoral life themselves. When you have to draft briefing papers, spend endless hours on legislative research, fetch coffee or lunch for a demanding boss, or drive to 11 campaign stops in a single day, all while bringing enough Purell (before COVID made it cool to carry it around) and palm cards, you develop a certain level of appreciation for the staffers who now serve those roles for you.

There are exceptions to every rule, and I can remember one senator who started as a staffer, and I was told by one of her former staffers that she was a sheer daily terror. In all my years in this business, I have seen far too many elected officials with no prior experience as a staffer treat their staff like rented mules, flogging and berating them until submission is the only option.

As I watched the “be the ball” scene between TY and Danny, I was struck that politicians could be well served to take life lessons simply by following Ty as he takes a genuine interest in Danny’s life and golf game. Far too many politicians (and for that matter people) make this world all about themselves and never about others. The elected officials, past and present, that I have observed, have a singular focus on advancing their goal all the while forgetting those who actually grind to carry out that agenda “we all believe in.”

Very few politicians take a moment or two to stop and ask their staff or employees about themselves or their issues and concerns. The self-importance and bloviating by some are equal parts stupid and obnoxious. Advice to the obtuse: Talk to staff and colleagues, have an interest in THEIR world.

For those with little experience, I offer the following “practice” questions to try out:

How are you today?
How are the kids doing?
What did you do on vacation?
How about I unlock the door as you’re holding my documents from the meeting that just ended?
Do you want coffee?
What are your future plans?
How can I help advance your career?

To the more self-absorbed among you; I find it helpful if you adopt a more global view of life and that means stop talking about yourself sometime and start caring about others.

Stop thinking
Get in touch
Let things happen
Be the ball

Well, we’re waiting…

Kevin O’Toole is the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  He is a former New Jersey State Senator, Assemblyman, Mayor of Cedar Grove and Essex County Republican Chairman.

 

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