July 26, 2009
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brad-eastland4By Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher

      Well, I barely made the deadline this week.

      Y’see, sports fans, your friendly neighborhood Sports Philosopher has spent the last several days sailing the high seas on a luxury cruise, with body, mind, and rapier-like whatever all languishing in blissful inactivity on the same relaxing boat.   So it’s been tough coming up with something for you wonderful people at the last minute, which you might find both entertaining and useful.

      But fear not, for I have done it!   By going straight to golf.   As I said in last week’s column, golf never lets me down.   In fact, I’ve just decided that whenever I get strapped for material, I’m going to write about golf.   Why not?   It’s the most metaphysical and unique of all sports.   A game where athletes police themselves, where athletes call penalties on themselves, a sport where cheating isn’t considered the best means to an end, where less is better, character counts, manners matter, and where a man (or woman) can look into the abyss and find out exactly what he or she is made of….

      Two tasty golf items caught my eye this last weekend, neither of which was particularly newsworthy in this peculiar day and age, and I’m sure that 99% of you didn’t notice either one.

      The first involved a column that ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote on Tiger Woods.   Look it up.   It was not a flattering column.

      Basically, Reilly takes Woods out to the woodshed for his annoying and childish habit of throwing a temper tantrum on TV after virtually every bad shot.   It was nice to see.   You rarely see other players freak out, swear, and thump their clubs into the turf when they shank a drive or barely miss the green with a 7-iron, but ‘El Tigre’ seems to do so after every such failure.   As if that one shot just cost him the Masters, or cost him his place in line at the DMV or something.   Kids see that, my 12-year-old son sees that, he plays a little golf, and I certainly don’t want him to think its okay.   The problem is that over the years the largely Tiger-posterior-smooching press has been largely uncritical of his behavior.   Until now.   So hat’s off to my wealthy ESPN colleague; for saying straight away that the 33-year-old father of two comports himself on the golf course like a spoiled brat, and needs to clean up his act.image001

      By the way, I myself took Woods to task for the same thing, briefly, in a column for this newspaper a few months ago:  http://www.laverneonline.com/2009/04/11/live-masters-update-suffering-through-life-with-greg-norman/ .   Maybe LaVerne Onlne is a little less known than ESPN, but I just wanted to make sure you realize that we are right at the forefront of the same issues.   (The only difference between my column and Reilly’s column is that Reilly is actually well-known and well-read and out-earns me by about $2-million dollars a year.   – insert sympathy sob here  — )

      The other important golf story which got very little ink involved a fat 50-year-old guy who was playing in last week’s Canadian Open.   Which is probably why.

      But this 50-something Joe-no-sixpack (actually he’s 49, but it’s all the same), with a bad back and a bad wrist, and big-time jet lag from flying back from Scotland and the Open Championship just a few days earlier (where he was actually in contention until he hurt that wrist), did something last week that no player in the history of the PGA has ever done.   Ever.   He birdied nine consecutive holes.

      First of all, for all you non-golf-junkies, let’s make sure you know exactly what a birdie is.   I don’t mean to be condescending here (okay, maybe just a little), but it’s been my experience that most people can’t define what a birdie is when asked point-blank.   For instance, I’ve never had a girlfriend yet who could do it.   And my own blood kin, kid-sister Marji, who I have taught this concept to dozens and dozens of times over the years, has forgotten every single time.   Including as recently as last week.   Anyway, a “birdie” is when you require one shot less than “par” (par being the score you are supposed to shoot on any particular hole) to get the ball from the tee to the bottom of the cup.   In other words, on a par-4, if you need only three shots it’s a birdie.   On a par-5, if your putt for a four falls in that’s a birdie (Don’t even get me started on what a bogey, an eagle, a snowman, or an albatross is…).   Consider for a moment a long par-3 hole measuring 220 yards.   In order to record a birdie-two on such a beast, you’d need to do something ridiculous like hammer a high majestic 4-iron onto the green, on the fly, hope the ball doesn’t roll off that green, and then ram in a 25-foot putt.  

      So by now you can clearly see that the act of making a birdie is a beautiful, difficult, amazing thing.   One birdie.   Making two birdies in a row is nearly impossible.   Making three birdies in a row is a feat of concentration and skill approximately as difficult as an uneducated man over 40 performing root canal surgery on a naked supermodel, with angry gangster rap “music” playing in the background.   (– and that’s with said rap “music” turned up high enough to drown out the sound of his ex-wife in the next room nagging at him.)

      So back to the fat guy.   Sure, it was only the Canadian Open, not a major.   And purists will point out that the course was soggy from recent rains, making it easier to hit the ball close to the pins.   I say so what!   For anyone, at any time, on any course, in any weather, to make nine birdies in a row—nine—is at minimum something worthy of a shout-out in print from this reporter.

      His name, by the way, is Mark Calcavecchia.   Ever hear of him?   Didn’t think so.

      Golf nuts like me know who Mark Calcavecchia is.   We love him.   You have to love a super-rich, semi-famous professional athlete whose waistline measures greater than your own.   And he’s no hacker, this rotund guy we call ‘Calc’ — he actually won the Open Championship in 1989, and has won a dozen or so other times on tour.   He’s darn good.   It’s just that you’d expect a record like this one to be set and held by a guy like Woods, or Arnie or Jack, Hogan, Nelson, Snead.   Someone legendary.

      That’s what makes Calcavecchia’s feat so important.   It’s a reminder to us all, that even the most ordinary among us are capable of extra-ordinary achievement.   Every so often.   In any endeavor.   You just have to be willing to get off the couch and (metaphorically) go tee it up.

      Way to go, Calc.

      And next week I promise to pick a different sport than golf to talk about….unless, of course, someone makes 10 birdies in a row.

The Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below:



  1. Suzie Eastland Rowley
    July 28th, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Hey, Brad. I do know who Calc is. As you know, brother John is a huge golf fan and I do watch it on TV. I played nine holes years ago and it was not a fun time. ;-( Poor John spent most of the time in weeds and bushes looking for my errant balls.

    I love your column. Your style is just wonderful. Oh, I knew what a birdie is and have for decades.

    Tiger should watch it. I love to watch him, but the hissy fits must go.

    Love Suz

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