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Geek? Damn Right!

Dave Wilber


I'm inspired by Frank Rossi's latest TurfNet blog post today wherein he talks about being a Turf Geek.


I am. I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter to a lot of people. Certainly being very much into turfgrass has been misunderstood for as long as anyone has ever tried to grow or manage the turfgrass animal. And when I was bitten by the bug, sure has hell, no one (and I mean no one) understood me. There was a constant questioning of why I would even care from just about everyone in my life.


Turfgrass or not, I'm wired to be a geek. There's a Japanese word that has become trendy for this: Otaku. And it simply means anyone who who deeply immerses oneself into the extreme details. 

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My "immersions" have been many. In the early years, Matchbox cars. Repeated watching of Star Trek after school developed me as a Trekkie. When I discovered the Bass Guitar, I obsessed not just about playing, but also the culture. I'm pretty sure there was no one in my High School that even knew (or cared) who Stanley Clarke was. 


Surprisingly, the "game" of Golf never bit me the same way. Sure I love the sport and the history and all that, but I never used my inherent geek capacity to become a nut about clubs or endless stats. I can surely hold my own in the realm of historical design conversation, but much of that was picked up my osmosis. Spend a few hundred days on the road with a bunch of golf course architects and you'd probably do the same. 


As a Certified Turfgrass Geek (certified by me, btw) inside of the grass thing, my obsession became soils. There were some influences there as well, but to me, it seemed to be, and still is, the thing that grass growers knew the least about. There seemed to be much conjecture, wives tales, blame of the salesmen and all kinds of other fun mind puzzles in the area around soils. So as a young superintendent, I took it upon myself to learn all I could and that begat my hanging of my shingle as a Soils Consultant. To be sure, that area of study was enough to keep my mind occupied and still is. As Tom Mead (one of my greatest agronomic influences and friends) used to say, "It's not for kids".


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In my travels I've gotten to meet some pretty astounding geeks who don't know a damn thing about grass or golf. A lot of frequent flyer miles meant upgrades to the front of the plane and well, there were some incredible people to meet. 


One thing stood out as I met other Otaku who were running at the top of their game. They were insanely passionate about things. Yes, mostly about the one thing that they did to get themselves to the front of the plane. But often they had hobbies or interests that held their study and imagination outside of work. A Grammy Award winning film music producer and I had a 4-hour World of Warcraft word fest that must have left everyone around us on that red-eye flight wanting to slit our throats. Did we talk about music? Sure for 28 seconds and then it was full on Orcs and Blood Elves, Gems and Talents and how we felt about our Guilds.


When I'm asked to help with interviews for Supers or (my favorite) when Supers ask me to help interview potential assistants, I often am assessing geek potential. I like to ask questions like what they are reading or what they are into. It says a lot to me when someone can get that gleam in their eye and talk about building meat smokers or fly fishing or ice climbing, or cooking or drumming. Of course, I am looking to see their Turf Geek Potential (pTG). Can and will this person study enough, think enough, perfect a technique? It speaks to problem solving and agronomic excellence. 


One thing stood out as I met other Otaku who were running at the top of their game. They were insanely passionate about things.


Certainly with nearly, no, pretty much all the successful Turfheads I have ever met, they are Otaku. They are craft oriented immersive geeks. And usually in more than one area. 


So am I proud to be a Turf Geek, a Soil Geek, a Bass Geek, a WoW head, a Trekkie, a Foodie, a ProTools Pilot and so much more? You bet. And as far as I see, there isn't enough of it in our world. And the conversations that completely captivate and fascinate me are the ones that hold this kind of passion.


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I've always thought of otaku as being interested in limited areas. Let's call you a polymath!

Doc...you are quite right. The otaku is indeed one of focused interest almost to a point of complete life distraction. I can relate to this...albeit in several areas.


Polymath is a good word. I just don't know how my Trekkieness will help me solve problems! :-)

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Maybe Trekkieness would be helpful on Jeopardy? Some things one doesn't know how it will help until it does, as in A Prayer for Owen Meany.

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