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Category: Sports

Tiger
I want to be clear, right from the beginning, that I do not watch golf on TV. I have nothing against the game, really. It’s just too freaking boring to watch.

It is a form of competition, I suppose, and it does involve a ball, so I guess it’s a legitimate sport. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone has their own ball and that competitors are forbidden from touching any ball but their own. That seems wrong. How can it be a real sport if it consists of a bunch of hackers out there on the lawn, each playing essentially alone with his or her own ball, without any meaningful interaction (much less physical contact) among them?

And then there are the contestants themselves: bland, to put it mildly. With a few exceptions, they all seem to have the same personality: decent, thoughtful, but not especially deep or particularly memorable. Most of them, despite of their obvious skills, do not look very much like athletes.

And then there’s Tiger Woods. If he’s in the field, I can always find a little time to stop and watch. It was that way before he became the Deeply Flawed Hero, and it has remained that way up to and through his riveting victory last weekend at the Masters. There is a lot to that story — the struggles, the history, the transit from light to darkness and back to light — but what makes it the stuff of legend is this particular hero. If we plugged the name of any other golfer in this tale, it would be impressive, but ultimately just another heroic comeback story. Such stories are commonplace in sports.

But not with Tiger as the hero. Among other things, he looks different. No spare tire there, even at 43. No droopy boobs-in-banlon, either, or goofy walking style, or quirky-but-effective swing. With Tiger, it’s all grace and power and that flare for exultation. You can’t miss him walking down the fairway; you don’t have to look for him because he’s the one you’re already looking at.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of any athlete in any sport who has that kind of star quality. Roars like that are rare, especially on a golf course. And though Tiger has moved closer to the boring golf mean in personality, he now has an even bigger bigger-than-life backstory. That will always be there whenever you hear him speak, so that even the most predictable golf platitudes will sound like ageless wisdom coming from him. Plus, he is the GOAT (for the uninitiated, an unfortunate acronym meaning Greatest Of All Time). On top of everything else, then — besides the comeback and the aura and the beautiful power of his game — he is really, really, really good at his sport.

It’s only golf, admittedly, but I’d sit down and watch him even if it were curling.
The Upside of Madness
Please allow me to burst through the cascade of daily idiocy and extol the wonder of Spring. This bright moment on Nature’s cycle brings with it a promise of renewal, of another chance to thrive and grow, of the sheer power of life itself. And, of course, of hope.

Allow me to further suggest that the NCAA college basketball championships are also a part of this pageant of life. What better point to contemplate the simple purity of amateur athletics? And what event better represents a kind of competition untainted by materiality than the innocent quest for victory that is March Madness?

It might be argued that the Olympics would be better cast in such a role. Sadly, however, the Games have been infected with the professionalism of perpetual champions. They have been co-opted by politics and degraded by rampant cheating. Most of the participants in March Madness, by contrast, will never see a paycheck for their athletic skills. A very few will go on to the NBA or WNBA and claim a brief living as professionals, but the rest will come to lead otherwise normal lives. For them, this is not about the money. It is about a moment of glory that only the young can feel, one that contemplates the virtues of good, clean competition: respect for your opponent, playing by the rules…and prevailing with honor against the very best.

It’s just sports we’re talking about, of course, but how can we be numb to such worthy intentions? Especially when such purity is tested in the national spotlight for all to see? It is good to know, in spite of the tide of meanness and selfishness we must swim against each day, that there is a universe, however small and insignificant, where our better selves can find affirmation.

(I should say here, in the interest of full disclosure, that there might be another factor coloring my Pollyanna-ish view of these NCAA tournaments. My bracket was the lucky winner in my pool. I am told that such betting competitions might be illegal, but I can only say that I played with a purity of heart that mirrored that of the the tournament itself. My cash winnings, though substantial, are irrelevant. I was in it strictly for the glory, and though I will no doubt be praised for my unique system for picking winners and my clear-eyed assessment of multiple branching probabilities, I will not brag about my victory nor do anything else to disrespect my fellow competitors. I salute you all, and thanks for playing.)

If my victory has in any way affected my analysis here, however, I will not apologize. How could I? My existence is now fortified by a kind of hope that only a truly glorious victory could provide. My notions of fairness and honor are renewed, and I am emboldened as I step back into a wider universe where such virtues must fight to gain traction.

At least that fight will be easier now. With the power of life itself under my wings.

That, and the cash in my pocket.
Pips Out
Oh, bring it on
My friend
Please give it
Your best shot
But keep
That weak shit
Out of here
‘Cause just a game
It’s not

You may think
That this is fun
Oh, you couldn’t
Be more wrong
‘Cause his is war
My friend
…or what
Others call
Ping pong
Kiss This
They did it again at Wimbledon this year. After the awards ceremonies, champions Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic kissed their trophies. They did it repeatedly, but seemingly without passion.

They’ve been celebrating victory in tennis this way for as long as I can remember: kissing the trophy, smiling broadly, then kissing the trophy again. Over and over as the cameras click and whir. These champions are not really celebrating, though. The smiling part is genuine enough, but the kissing is almost certainly being done at the request of photographers.

It’s embarrassing, or should be, for everyone involved. I suppose we should cut some slack for the athletes themselves. Their ascendant performances, after all, are the reasons we are celebrating in the first place. They are in a generous mood during these moments of triumph and willing to accede to the lame suggestions from the crowd. We could hope for more dignity on their parts, but so far none has dared to resist the pleas of the press.

The photographers, for their part, have shown an abject failure of imagination in these matters. Instead of capturing something real or unpredictable, they shout out “Kiss it! Kiss it!” The champion kindly complies, and we get the same lame photo every year.

Rafael Nadal has tried to carve out his own exception to this sad tradition by gnawing the handles of his various pieces of hardware. Nice try, Rafa, but you still give in to the kiss requests. The women’s champions don’t really have the bite-it option since their trophy (at Wimbledon, at least) is not a cup but a plate. I keep hoping some rasty female winner will dare to bite her platter. That could end up looking a bit klutzy, but so does kissing the edge of a big silver plate.

I want to be fair. There have been genuine expressions of love between athletes and their metallic prizes. We have witnessed hugging, nuzzling, and even weeping. No less a champion than Michael Jordan blubbered like a toddler while clutching the very homely Larry O’Brien Trophy. The great Roger Federer has, in fact, shed tears over the Wimbledon trophy. Of course, that was because it was being handed to Rafael Nadal and not to him, but the emotion still seemed quite genuine.

It has been reported that hockey players have performed all kinds of lewd acts on the defenseless Stanley Cup. Most of this has taken place behind closed doors, but I have no doubt that those expressions of affection were sincere as well, albeit kinky. Consent by the trophy, I suppose, is assumed in such cases.

So that is all good. My quarrel here is with kissing done on command. It shames us all — especially the trophy and all that it represents about the game, sportsmanship, and fair play. Tennis trophies, moreover, are the most beautiful, especially in the Grand Slams. These bowls, cups, and plates are all both elegant and gorgeous. As the royalty of loving cups, they deserve something better than counterfeit passion. At the very least, they should have the respect of their suitors — no matter what the rabble might demand.

Yes, kiss the trophy. Just be sure you mean it.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon