The Strange Connection Between Harrison Ford and Snowy Owls

Why Ford was smart to use a golf course as an airport — and snowy owls would be smart to follow his lead.

If you’re going to crash an airplane, you damned sure want to crash it on a golf course, as Harrison Ford did on Thursday. Why? Because there’s sure to be any number of doctors out on that golf course, doing that thing doctors do on golf courses and have done, there, down through history. In Ford’s case, he was lucky enough to have an attending spinal surgeon, Sanjay Khurana, on the links, and Khurana led a team of doctors in stabilizing Ford’s spine and neck. Good thinking, Indy! Who else would manage to crash a plane straight into a thicket of medical professionals?

It’s a good thing Ford was flying his single-engine World War II-era plane last week rather than, say, 20 years from now, because a timely article in the Washington Post, published the very same day Ford crashed, noted that golf is, well, a dying game. It seems not even doctors have enough spare time for a sporting activity that eats up five or six hours at a stretch. “A decline in the number of active players” is how the chief executive of Adidas, which owns the world’s largest maker of golf clothes and clubs, put it in explaining a drop in sales of 28 percent last year. You know, I can understand people not wanting to play golf. But how could anybody not want to dress up in those highly attractive golf clothes? 

It’s not just regular duffers who are turning to Minecraft and Call of Duty, either. No less a golfing god than Jack Nicklaus told CNN earlier this year, “I’d like to play a game that can take place in three hours. I’d quite like to play a game that I can get some reasonable gratification out of very quickly — and something that is not going to cost me an arm and a leg.” So even the Golden Bear is ready to throw in the towel. I can see where he’s coming from. If Tiger Woods — arguably the best golfer in the world — can’t play the goddamn game anymore, what hope is there for me?

I am a little worried about the snowy owls, though. A charming article in the Inquirer late last month explained that our region is seeing its second straight year of an “irruption” of snowy owls — you know, like Hedwig in the Harry Potter stories. Normally they live up in the frigid Arctic north, but our environs proved highly amenable to them this winter (brrr!), so they, uh, flocked here in record numbers again. They’ve been spotted at the Jersey Shore and in the wide-open agricultural fields of Central Pennsylvania, both spots that bear a striking likeness to the Arctic tundra. You know what else looks like the Arctic tundra? Airports. And the owls are landing there as well. Which is a problem, because owls and airports, unlike owls and magic, don’t mix. 

The thing is, if Harrison Ford thinks golf courses look like airports, there ought to be some way to also convince snowy owls that golf courses look like airports. Then, as the nation’s golf courses empty out of doctors over the next few decades, the owls could move in. I, personally, would sooner pay a hundred bucks to stroll around a golf course looking at snowy owls than pay a hundred bucks to stroll around a golf course looking for balls I’ve lost in the rough, which is pretty much all golf has ever meant to me. Hell, I’d even be willing to put on those dumb clothes.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.