Ode to a Duffer….with an N by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher

May 27, 2012
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     Quick, who’s the hottest athlete on the entire planet right now?

     Nope, you’re wrong. 

     It’s not LeBron James.   It’s not Rafael Nadal.   It’s not I’ll Have Another (he’s a horse).   And it’s not even Josh Hamilton, the ridiculously tattooed, recovering drug addict and baseball player who is starting to look like Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Roy Hobbs all rolled into one.

“I’ll have a double-double, fries, and a chocolate shake….”

“I’ll have a double-double, fries, and a chocolate shake….”




     No, it’s not any of those.   It’s a 35-year-old dopey looking guy with a rubber tire around his middle, a guy 97% of you out there in LVO Land have never even heard of.


     His name is Dufner.


     I said Dufner.   Jason Dufner.   That’s his name.  

     He’s a golfer. 

     No, your friendly neighborhood Sports Philosopher has not been dipping into the sacramental wine.   Jason Dufner, simply put, is playing his sport, golf, at a higher level right now than anyone else in the world is playing their sport….particularly when you factor in how badly he had sucked at golf during the previous eight years.

     But let’s start with how he looks.   Dufner looks like….well, he looks like the kind of guy you’d expect to find working behind the counter of a donut shop, or supervising a crew of slightly younger misfits over at In-‘N-Out Burger, or maybe one of those guys down at The Home Depot who walk you all over the store looking for a socket wrench before they tell you they’re out of stock and to come back next week.   His face and neck and belly are so delightfully round and lax and pudgy and squeezable that if this was 1939 he’d be giving Bert Lahr a run for his money, trying out for the part of the Cowardly Lion….

     And what about his name!   The name Dufner for a golfer?   How cool is that?   In case you don’t know, the slang for golfer is “duffer”….duffer, Dufner?   Just one little letter “n” off.   It’s perfect, right?   Especially since duffer also means “slow learner”, and it sure took Jason Dufner a long time to figure this game out.

     Because in his first eight years on the PGA tour, Dufner never won.   He teed it up 163 times, and in each of those 163 cases someone else won the tournament.

     Fast-forward to the last five weeks.   In the last five weeks, all Jason Dufner has done is put up two wins and a second place finish against the best players in the world.   Two wins and a second on the PGA Tour in five weeks!   And the only reason he didn’t win or contend during one of those two other weeks is that he took the week off.   To get married!  

     Is there a Jason Dufner movie in production yet?   Has someone called Jonah Hill’s agent to offer him the part?

     Maybe Jack Black is available.   What other plain-looking, dopey, pudgy, bad-hair-day actors are hot these days?

     So for the record, here’s the Dufner recap: Last month he finally wins his first-ever PGA golf tournament in New Orleans.   Then the very next week he gets married.   Then two weeks ago he wins the Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas with a clutch 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.   And then last week he almost wins at Colonial, comes in second, and his reward for not winning is that since he wasn’t the champion he doesn’t have to put on the Colonial’s famed multicolored plaid sportjacket, the ugliest garment in Sports.   So even when he loses he wins.   And oh, by the way, he did pick up a nice consolation prize for coming in second.   Over half a million bucks.

     Dufner was tired last week.   He admitted it.   That’s the only reason he lost.   He was leading during the final round and then just ran out of gas, lost his edge, and hit a couple balls in the water.   Understandable.   Between the strain of contending every week when he’s not used to contending, plus the strain of his new-husband marital obligations, it figured that last Sunday he wouldn’t have much left in the tank.   Blame it on the wife, that’s what I say….

     You might not know him, but dyed-in-the-wool golf nuts know who Jason Dufner is.   He almost won the PGA Championship last August; lost in a playoff.   Just a fluke, everyone said.   Then 7 weeks ago he had the 36-hole lead at the Masters.   He’ll fade, the experts correctly predicted.   But those two near-misses in major championships were like a warning signal.   That an eight-year dormant golfing volcano was about to explode.

     Golf is wildly popular right now.   Tens of millions of people play golf.   Hundreds of people play it professionally.   Right now, the 35-year-old “Dufner the duffer” is the best in the whole world at it.   Amazing.

     I wonder how the World Number One ranked golfer, Rory McIlroy, feels today.   McIlory missed the cut in Europe last week.   He’s missed two cuts in a row, in fact.   Watching Dufner on TV, contending or winning week in and week out, Rory must wonder why in the world he’s ranked number one at all….wait a minute.   I see here where Rory just lost the #1 Ranking to Luke Donald.   Oh, well.   Here today, gone tomorrow.   But you know what they say about Rory McIlory, right?  

     Same thing they say about Tiger Woods.   He’s no Jason Dufner.

     Jason Dufner is a beacon of Hope for all of us.   He proves every cliché.   Perseverance really does pay off.   Hard work really is the ticket.   Every nobody is somebody.   Good things really do come to those that wait.   The world really is a great place to live.

     And dreams really do come true.

     The U.S. Open is next month.   Guess who I’m rooting for….

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0032

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, film buff, undiscovered literary savant, and a big fan of athletes who don’t look like athletes.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of utter despair, entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on amazon.com, iUniverse.com, or bn.com.   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   And then post your praise on Facebook.   He thanks you.   




2 Responses to “Ode to a Duffer….with an N by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher”

  1. it’s true, I’ve never heard of him. but now I am inspired to make that one extra call today…

  2. Thanks for another great column Brad. I watched one of his wins and like you, I wondered…..but I pulled for him. You could take an airless soccer ball and build a great story about it!

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