April 4, 2010
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      Masters Week has arrived.

The Sports Philosopher

The Sports Philosopher



      Now we can all finally get it out of our systems.

      You know damn well what I’m talking about.   The Tiger watch.   Admit it.   Rather than caring about who actually wins, most of you want to see how Tiger Woods reacts to the overwhelming media glare, how he reacts to hitting a little white ball with the whole judgmental world staring at him, hoping for some sort of a meltdown.   That’s fine.   Just be honest about it, that’s all I’m asking.

      Now I’m as big a fan of ‘Sports as Comic Theater’ as anyone else, and I state that proudly.   Life is far too short to not get a kick out of coddled millionaires falling apart.  But in the case of the Masters it’s a shame.   Because as a theater of Sports achievement and near-achievement, as a stage for life-changing triumph and gut-wrenching lifelong what-ifs, this little four-day golf get together in Augusta, Georgia every April has no peer in all of athletics.   The Masters doesn’t need Tiger Woods in order to be interesting.   And indeed, Masters Sunday—which this year is April 11th, just a few days away—is one of my five favorite sports-watching days of the year.   (Along with British Open Sunday, the “Gentleman’s Final” at Wimbledon, the Super Bowl, and the Breeder’s Cup, in case you’re curious.)

      Why?   What makes the Masters so compelling?   What makes golf so compelling?   Well, lots of stuff.   For one thing, the Masters is the first golf “major” of the year.   The build-up for the fans is long and agonizing.   For another, golfers are totally exposed.   It’s an individual sport, you can’t hide behind a team or get lost in the shuffle.   You can’t come out of the game and then go back in, or go on the DL midway between your drive and your approach shot.   Every swing, every changing facial expression, is analyzed to death.   I honestly don’t know how they stand it.   And finally, winning a major is an absolutely life-affirming, life-changing event for a professional golfer, especially if it’s his first major.   Equally riveting if it’s almost his first major.   Or first Masters.   Or having your hands on the Green Jacket and then having that grossest of all the world’s garments yanked away at the last minute.   Professionally and psychologically, it can make or break a man forever.   Therefore, we get to see grown men literally break down, come to Jesus, and/or nearly reach orgasm right on TV.   Practically every year.

      It will happen again this year.   A young man’s life will be changed for the good forever (or if we’re lucky, an old man’s life), or a grown man or two will have his signature moment of failure splashed into 100 million homes and into our consciousnesses for all time.   Mark it down.

      My friends are always giving me a hard time for my encyclopedic memory for sports history.   (they’re just jealous, the dopes).   But it does allow me to quite easily recall for you (with no notes or internet assistance, I promise you) a few examples of why Masters Sunday is so memorable.   Take just last year.   Remember?   The 48-year-old Kenny Perry was trying to become the oldest man to ever win the Masters.   It was thrilling.   Perry is one of our 10-best golfers, a master ball-striker (no pun intended), and he was brilliant for four days.   No one could touch him.   He was in front practically the whole way.   But then, late in Sunday’s final round, you could see it get to him.   His game started to fall apart.   As he strode up the final few fairways the cameras zoomed in on his twisted, grimacing face as he tried in vain to beat back the anxiety.   But he could not.   Coming down the stretch he hit some of the worst shots of his career, finished bogey-bogey, and lost in a playoff.   By all accounts, Perry is practically the nicest guy in the world.   Everyone loves him.   It was sad.   To apply the harshest sports admonition there is, quite simply, he choked.   He will never contend on Masters Sunday again, and he knows it.


Will the 2010 Masters feature a magical Golden Bear moment?


      Five years before that, in 2004, just the opposite happened.   Phil Mickelson, long-famous for choking in majors, somehow discovered a Zen-like serenity during the final round.   You could see it.   As he strode up the storied fairways of Augusta’s back-nine on Sunday cameras caught his smiling, serene face after every shot, an inner peace having somehow invested his entire being with the immutable joy of just being alive.   I swear I saw a halo over his head a couple times.   He shot a scorching 31 on the back-nine, came from way behind like a fast-closing racehorse to catch Ernie Els late, and then, on the 72nd and final hole, he buried an 18-foot birdie putt to win his first major, jumping high into the air in celebration….if you consider a vertical leap of three inches high.   I hope there’s at least a few of you out there who remember shedding tears as Phil grabbed his little daughter afterwards, smiled broadly, and proclaimed to the child, “Daddy won!  Daddy won!”.   It’s all right to admit you cried.   I know I did.   Heck, I am now.   It was just so heartwarming….(sob)

      When the Great White Shark, Greg Norman, lost a close one to the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, in ’86, it wasn’t too terribly sad, because the story in ’86 was Nicklaus’ triumph.   It was the greatest champion of them all having the greatest day of his career, shooting 30 on the back and winning the Masters at age 46.   Hail Nicklaus indeed.

      But when the Shark lost another heartbreaker the very next year, to a nobody, a nobody whose name I’ve decided not to mention, lost to a nobody who made probably the luckiest shot in the history of golf when he holed out on the last hole with a wedge from 50 feet off a lightning-fast green— a shot he could have tried to duplicate once a day for the rest of his life and now 23 years later he’d still be looking for a 2nd hole-out—well, it was tough to watch.   Because Greg Norman is both a hero and a role model for me.

      Norman was perhaps the finest player of his era, the era bridging those of Nicklaus and Woods.   Certainly the unluckiest.   He never did win the Masters.

      Anyway, the message from this column regarding April 11th is clear and simple: IT’S MASTERS SUNDAY, PEOPLE!   DON’T FORGET TO WATCH!

      Okay, now for a final thought or two about Tiger.   I can feel your eyes begging for it, just relax.   Anyway, I’ve been wondering these last few days: How can I, your Sports Philosopher, contribute to the Tiger circus?   How can I add to the hoopla?   What can I do, Tigerwise, for you?

      The answer finally came to me.   By recruiting your participation!   By giving you a chance to respond to this column, in order for you to register your prediction of exactly what the heck is going to happen with Eldrick Tont Woods this coming week (Betcha didn’t know his middle name was Tont, huh?).   I’ll make it easy for you; I’ll propose 10 possible, probable, and plausible predictions below, and all you have to do is pick one and write me back with your selection.   I promise you our massive army of an editorial staff reads every email response to LaVerne OnLine.   (LOL)

      Here goes:

1.    Woods will dominate the field, draw clear by five or six shots on Sunday, and stride boldly up the 18th fairway in a triumphal one-man victory procession with a defiant sneer etched across his carefully choreographed face….

2.    Woods will contend right from the start, soldiering on nobly day-after-day armed with his usual surfeit of grim determination, struggle with his short-game but overcome that rustiness with his iron will and legendary strength of character, put himself into position to win on Sunday, and then close with a rush on the back-nine to catch the field at the wire to win his first-ever come-from-behind Major, only to break down in a wash of carefully choreographed tears and collapse theatrically into his caddie Steve Williams’ embrace on the 18th green with cameras clicking wildly like a swarm of hungry locusts….

3.    Woods will contend on Sunday but come up a stroke or two short, then display carefully choreographed humility afterwards in a series of interviews with every member of the golfing press, who, one by one, will then be allowed to apply his or her lips to the rounded crown of Tiger’s muscular buttocks for a big fat satisfying sycophantic smooch….

4    Woods will make the cut but wind up finishing a lackluster 27th, 12 shots behind the winner, his rival and arch-enemy Phil Mickelson.  On-course cameras catch him using the F-word after a bad shot on two occasions during the final round.   After initially denying he dropped any F-bombs whatsoever Woods apologizes to everyone in the world, then says he was really only apologizing to his wife and his mother, stating they are the only two people in the world who he ever needs to apologize to, adding that it’s “nobody’s business” what he says on the course and that it’s a “private matter”….

5.    Woods will miss the cut by five shots, disappear from the course without speaking to the press, and then have his website announce to the world (and his wife) the next day that he has once again checked himself into that Mississippi clinic for sex-addiction therapy (While actually retreating to within the secure confines of his famous Florida compound with a couple of boxes of Oreos to ease his pain by watching old reruns of Gilligan’s Island.   You know.   The way any of us would.).

6.    Woods will miss the cut by five shots, but a camera will capture the heartwarming image of him signing an autograph for a pretty teenage girl, only to have the girl’s mother pull her away from him with a frantic look of concern etched across her face….

7.    Woods will barely make the cut, but several dozen members of the press covering the event will spy him dragging an unidentified female spectator into the Butler Cabin right after he holes out on the 18th hole, who will then emerge to announce that she and Tiger engaged in several minutes of very satisfying “non-married-type” sexual relations, adding further that Tiger told her he was in love with her and that she was the only one he’d ever said that to and that he was planning on leaving his wife for her, but after thinking it over she decides instead to seek a six-figure settlement from the Big Cat in exchange for stonewalling any other details of their brief affair.   Later on, Woods blames the affair on his “getting away from the core Buddhist beliefs” which sustained him in the past.   The girl retains Gloria Allred as her attorney.   Tiger forgets to sign his scorecard and is disqualified from the tournament….

8.    Woods will skip the Masters altogether, issuing a short, simple press release a couple hours before his scheduled Thursday tee time announcing that he has withdrawn for “personal reasons”, that his decision is a “private matter”, and that he hopes we the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, will “respect his privacy” during this difficult time and that the whole thing is “a matter between me and my lovely wonderful courageous understanding forgiving character-laden non-gold-digging wife” etc.   She forgives him for everything and they live happily ever after.

9.    Woods skips the Masters, but soon announces that he has signed a $45 million deal with FOX to produce a 13-episode Reality Show entitled “Misunderstood”, about his sex life and his resultant courageous battle to overcome both his demons and an unfair press.   Each episode will target one mistress.   Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn is immediately signed to play Woods’ wife.   Jennifer Lopez is signed to play most of the mistresses.   Woods, playing himself naturally, wins an Emmy for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy.   He does not attend the awards ceremony, issuing a brief statement instead declaring that his decision to not attend is a “private matter”.   Woods’ wife divorces him, accepts a lump-sum settlement offer of $4 billion, and soon afterward launches her new signature perfume line, which she labels “Betrayed”.   Worldwide sales of “Betrayed” go through the roof.   With her 1st-year earnings of $16 billion, the ex-Mrs. Woods purchases FOX Entertainment, fires the entire creative staff, and has all the master tapes of all episodes of “Misunderstood” destroyed….

10.    Woods will run for Congress.


      Okay.   Those are your choices.

      Did I leave anything out?


meet….The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, golf junkie, 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 his best fiction work can be discovered within the links below :


  1. Tiger will more likely than not, barly make the cut, then finish between 5 and 8 back, never really making a threat, except for Friday when he may be about 4 back for a brief stint. The annoucers will tout Tigers ability to charge back, but it will not come to be. The cameras will shadow Tiger, when the real champ will be Charl Swartzel or Padriag Harrington.

    You heard it hear first.

    David L James, the sports psychic

  2. Your guess is as good as mine.


  3. Kathryn Wullschlager
    April 12th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Sorry, I did not read this before Sunday. I would have picked # three, but that is easy to say after watching the tournament. I did not predict him to win, too many ghosts were playing with his psyche, but one cannot deny his god given talent; he still is the golfer that has the best Master’s score -18.

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