May 25, 2010
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      You might have noticed that this column and I both took last week off.   If you didn’t notice, I congratulate you on having a rich, varied and meaningful life—but still, shame on you.

      Anyway, the reason for my abandoning you folks for a week is that I elected to boldly venture —accompanied as ever by my loving sidekick and gorgeous gal pal Roxanne—to the steamy golf Mecca of Palm Springs to work on my game.   Or rather to work on my appetite while pretending to work on my game.   I guess it’s easier to eat than play golf nowadays.   Eating, in fact, is one of only about two or so pleasures in life Roxanne actually prefers to golf; she’s always up for a good feed.   The difference between her appetite and mine is that the more she eats the smaller her waist gets, whereas the more I eat the less likely I am to ever again be able to look down and see my own shoes.   But in between expensive sumptuous feasts ‘o food and a trip to the local casino (and it’s all-you-can-eat buffet) we actually did manage to squeeze in 18 holes, in near 100-degree heat, at a swanky private Palm Desert country club called Desert Falls, the guests of my old friend William “Birdie-or-Bust-Bill” Young and his loyal golfing wife Sue; also known as Sweet-Swingin’ Sue.  

      Bill loves golf.   Heat doesn’t affect him; he’s like a happy desert lizard in golf spikes.   He’d gladly play 18 holes in a tornado, or during a nuclear attack if not too close to the epicenter, as long as he got a good tee time.   The guy even owns his own turbo-charged golf cart for Hogan’s sake, complete with plush padded seats.   No wonder he plays about six times a week.   He’s pretty good, too.   I myself am not that good, but that doesn’t prevent me from trying.   Yes, that’s right, sports fans; your beloved correspondent not only commentates on sports he plays them.   And I am proud to declare that on this day I out-did myself, by boldly hacking my way to a couple of all-time personal golf records.   It’s true.   I broke my personal record for most houses struck by a single errant drive (two) and also established a new personal standard for most different types of bodies of water hitting balls into on a single golf hole (also two; a lake and a creek, the latter hidden by rocks and its very existence something Birdie-Bill conveniently neglected to tell me about).   Yet despite putting two balls into the drink on this par-5 9th hole, it should be noted for posterity that I nailed a perfectly nifty sand wedge out of the heavy rough to within three feet, to get up and down for my triple bogey.   It might have been the greatest, most swashbuckling ‘eight’ ever recorded in golf history.   (okay, okay.   I stink.)



Are Lakers at the mercy of Lamar yet again?

Roxanne didn’t care.   The worse I played, the better she liked me.   It was weird.   She kept saying how powerful I was.   She kept asking to feel my muscle.   Yeah, come to think of it, I guess I did manage to luck out and split a few fairways with my massive manly drives, and that, combined with my dashing all-black golf outfit….well, the excitement was probably just too much for her and it clouded her judgment.   You know what they say.   Chicks dig the long ball….     



      A golf course is a great place to think, which means it’s a great place to write.     A round of golf gives a man time to sort out his thoughts before he writes them down.   In my case even more time, given the number of shots necessary on this occasion for me to negotiate Desert Falls’ 6,174 yards of sadistic, emasculating frustration.   So last weekend I wrote much of this week’s column as I journeyed from sand trap to sand trap looking for my balls.  So to speak.  

      Here’s what I came up with.  

      It seems to me that a great number of topics I have tackled in the sporting world during the last year or so, while writing for LaVerne On Line, are suddenly timely again.   All at the same time.   It’s as if the entire sporting world is conspiring all at once to make me look good.   Take basketball.    Last April I wrote ( ) that so goes the erratic and oft-underachieving Lamar Odom so go the Lakers.   When the foggy-headed Lamar is stuck in “suck” mode he’s about as lifeless and disappointing as an Al Gore campaign speech.   But down the stretch in ’09 he played great (for a change) and the Lakers won the title; just as I predicted.   And now this year it’s happening again.   I guess that Khloe Kardashian babe really jump-starts the Erratic One’s….well, you know.   Lamar just gave us two monstrous playoff games against the Suns, resulting in two very easy Laker victories.   And then in Game Three he went back into “suck” mode (only 10 points, missed four lay-ups, fouled out), strolling around the court like he never even heard of basketball.   And the Lakers got beat.   Proving once again three very important things: One, when Lamar wakes up and plays great the Lakers are unbeatable, Two, when he sleepwalks they lose, and Three, I am a modern-day prophet.   (By the way, it looks like the Lakers and the Celtics are headed for another epic, transcendent hoops clash in the finals….unless Lamar gets lost at the zoo or something.   Here’s what I said last year about my brother Jeff’s obsession with the evil Celtic empire): . )   There’s no talking to brother Jeff these days without mentioning something about the Celtics.   Can you all say Cornbread Maxwell?   

      Take tennis.    Rafael Nadal just got through trouncing Roger Federer in Madrid.   Straight sets.   They hadn’t played in almost a year, since right around the time Nadal was shelved with a rash of injuries.   Nadal has now beaten Federer a staggering 14 of the 21 times he has played him.   That’s two out of every three.   Who do you think is better?   Here’s my column where I explain that while Fed is generally considered the greatest player ever, he’s actually only the 2nd best player playing right now: .   That column was my personal prayer that their rivalry might one day resume, that Nadal would overcome his injuries.   That he is the better player, when healthy.   Looks like all that has happened, based on Rafa trouncing Roger in Spain.   If he bitch-slaps him again at the French Open in a couple weeks, and at Wimbledon after that, you’ll know for sure that I am right.

      Take baseball.   In my last column, just two weeks ago, I excoriated Ken Griffey and the Seattle Mariners for allowing the former to embarrass both himself and the Grand Old Game.   I practically begged him to retire.   In fact, I have begged him to retire two years in a row.   Here is the link to both columns: .   Well, it’s gotten worse.   Way worse.   Since my column ran two weeks ago Griffey is two-for-23 with no home runs.   He hasn’t homered all year.   He is hitting .186 as of yesterday.   And that average is sinking faster than his reputation.   Finally, even butt-smooching mainstream baseball reporters are beginning to call for his retirement, including the peerless, respected Tim Kurkjian.   Griffey is beyond through.   He has become a national joke.   I hate to say it, Griffey lovers, but I told you so.   Twice.        

      Take golf.   Meaning take Tiger Woods.   I wrote shortly after his sexcapades became public ( ) that Tiger would never again be as good as he was.   Since then he has blown the Masters, missed the cut at Quail Hollow, walked off the course with a neck injury (supposedly) at the Players Championship, had his swing coach quit right in the middle of it all, had a couple more mistresses go public, and, perhaps most comically and ingloriously, it leaked from the sex clinic he recently checked into for “therapy” (that’s code for reputation rehab) that the number of different women since he got married that he has slept with (although I’m told Tiger never sleeps at all during an all-night sex session) is a logistically astounding 120 star-struck women!!!   That’s one, two, oh.   Holy viagra, Batman!   Puts a whole new spin on that from-the-fairway expression “knocking it stiff”.   Tiger, Tiger, Tiger…tsk tsk tsk.   And he was doing so well, too.   So will he ever be as good as he was?   Or, conversely, am I truly a modern-day Nostradamus?   Pick one.     

      Take A-Rod.   I have bluntly called Mr. Rodriguez the phoniest, least classy “superstar” in baseball history.   Here’s the column: .   Since then, the evidence has gotten stronger.   First he committed yet another baseball etiquette gaffe, when he advanced from 1st to 3rd on a long fly ball that curled foul at the last minute, but rather than retreat back to 1st base by way of 2nd base the way you’re supposed to, he cut across the diamond and trampled right over the pitcher’s mound in the process.   Clueless lazy punk….boy, was Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden pissed.   And then, just a week or so ago, two incidents occurred which clearly showed what opposing managers think of A-Rod.   In a game against the Twins the Yankees were down a run in the 7th inning, with men on 2nd and 3rd.   One out.   Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walked the man in front of A-Rod intentionally to load the bases.   Let me repeat that: He walked Mark Texeira on purpose, to pitch to a guy with three MVPs and nearly 600 home runs.   Sure, sure, I realize that Gardenhire was tying to set up a double play.   But can you imagine any big league manager ever, ever walking somebody on purpose to load the bases for Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Ted Williams?   Ever???   Making both this decision and this calculated show of disrespect for A-Rod worse, is that the pitcher Gardenhire elected to use against the future Hall-of-Famer, the eminently forgettable Matt Guerrier , had faced A-Rod in six at-bats in the past….allowing four hits and three home runs!   In other words, this guy had no chance to get A-Rod out, and very little chance of even keeping him in the ballpark.   He did neither.   A-Rod hit a Grand Slam home run and the Yankees won.   And then, a couple days later, the Yankees are trailing the Boston Red Sox by two runs in the 9th, a man on 2nd base, one out, A-Rod up.   Now again, A-Rod has pole-axed almost 600 home runs in his career.   He’s tremendously strong.   And he’s not a bad player, he’s pretty darn good in fact—just not a 1st-tier all-timer, in my opinion.   The proper move with 1st base open and the tying run at the plate in the form of a “great” home run hitter who is supposedly a superstar is to put him on base, i.e. walk A-Rod intentionally, pitch to a lesser hitter, and hope for a double play.   But Boston manager Terry Francona has no more respect for A-Rod or his “greatness” than Ron Gardenhire does.   He pitched to him, A-Rod homered to tie the game, and the Yankees went on to win.   Point proven.   (Read my column on A-Rod again: I like the part where his own manager, Joe Torre, calls him “A-Fraud”.   I don’t make this stuff up, people.)   

      Take Joe Mauer.   A Hero Worth Worshipping” I called my column on Mauer, the best-hitting catcher to ever strap on the tools of ignorance.   And he’s a good guy, too.   Read last year’s column on Joe, and then show it to your kids who love baseball, if you want them to look up to someone non-A-Rod-like: .    How’s Mauer doing this year?   Well, he started a little slow and then missed a few games due to a foot injury, but he is currently hitting a robust .346, 3rd in the American League.   And he hasn’t even gotten hot yet.   Look for Super Joe to claim his 4th batting title in 2010….and he’s still just a kid. 

      And last but not least, a final baseball reference.   Not something from one of my columns, but rather a slice of real life.   After our desert golf torture was over, and Birdie-or-Bust-Bill had kicked my ass by about a dozen strokes while simultaneously complaining about how badly he’d played—that’s right, how badly he’d played for Palmer’s sake—Rox and I put our appetites on hold and ventured over to Bill and Sue’s house briefly before going to dinner.   I had never been there, and Bill wanted to show me around.   The toy he was most proud of was this huge plasma screen TV, which he’d rigged to emerge from the wall like a giant accordion on a hinge.   Sue clicked it on to show us the crystal-clear picture quality.   Amazingly, the TV happened to be tuned to a San Francisco Giants baseball game (the Giants, as you know, are my favorite team), and, even more amazingly, the game was in the top of the 9th, the Giants clinging to a 2-1 lead, two out, the count no balls and two strikes on the Houston Astros’ Kaz Matsui, with Giants closer Brian Wilson—he of the 98-mile-an-hour fastball and the back-of-the-head mullet hair style suggesting he’d made a wrong turn on the way to a Metallica concert—trying to nail it down.   But the bases were loaded.   It was the very definition of a tense, dramatic sports moment.   Nobody move!” I exclaimed.   Nobody did.   We all immediately settled into watching the at-bat.   The count went to 3-and-2.   Then Matsui started fouling of pitches.   Lots of them.   There was no margin for error on either side; if Wilson throws a wide one the game is tied, if Matsui swings and misses the game is over.   I’d just gotten creamed at golf, it would have been too much to bear to have the Giants blow one in the 9th inning an hour later.   “This at-bat is a metaphor for my whole frustrating, exasperating, nauseating, miserable life!” I wailed.   The at-bat lasted 15 pitches.   With two outs and two strikes on him, one swing and a miss from defeat, Matsui bravely fouled off nine pitches.   I’ve never seen anything like it in forty-five years of watching baseball.   It was excruciating.   Birdie-Bill, Sweet-Swingin’ Sue, and what’s-for-dinner?-Roxanne were all laughing at me.   I wasn’t laughing.

      Anyway, Matsui wound up flying out to left and the Giants won.  (I know that sounds anticlimactic, but it might have stopped a suicide.)

      What’s the point of this little tale?   Might as well ask what was the point of all those shameless pats on my own columnist’s back.   To draw attention away from my crummy golf game?   To minimize the embarrassment of my daily food intake?   To establish myself as America’s most incisive and transcendent sports columnist?   No, the point is that if this old pentagenarian can still revel in the affirmation coming from his own essays coming true, if he can still get excited about a meaningless mid-season baseball game, he still has a pulse.   The little things still matter.   Life still surprises.   Baseball still delivers.   The basic building blocks of truth and common sense never change.   The sacred axioms of Life and Sport never change.   In fact, people never change.   Brother Jeff will always fret about the Celtics, the Sports Philosopher will always fret about the Giants, and Tiger Woods will always prefer the rogering of a slightly-overweight blonde strumpet to his own wife.   It’s all very reassuring.  

      One final thought.   I figured out why I can’t beat my old friend Bill at golf.   It’s bothered me for years, but I think I’ve finally got it.   Y’see, the one startling discovery I made trying to play good golf last week in Palm Springs, having played only once during the preceding six months, is that to be good at golf you have to play more often than once every six months.   Isn’t that brilliant?   No wonder Bill keeps beating me!   I’ve somehow stumbled upon a strange triangular correlation of effort, practice, and performance.   So I’m gonna practice.   Hit the driving range.   Hone my powerful swing.   And then I’m gonna beat that old desert lizard friend of mine at his own game.  And when I’m done putting him in his place I’m gonna tell him about my great discovery, that the only reason he invariably beats me at golf is that he plays six times a week and belongs to a swanky club and drives around in his own turbo-charged golf cart with plush padded seats.   And then I’m going to finalize my explanation by telling him the same thing he claims I told him the day I introduced my 8-year-old self to his 9-year-old self, in our Brigadoonish childhood village of nearby Altadena, almost 46 years ago….

      “Hi.  I’m Brad.  I’m a genius!”    (Y’know, I’m still not convinced I actually said that….)

meet….The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and a pretty crummy golfer— 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 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the treasured links below:




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