Friday, November 07, 2008

Fore More!

Many of us saw John Daly’s mug shot on the Internet last week. Apparently drunk beyond consciousness, he was treated by a medical team outside a Hooter’s somewhere in North Carolina. Reports indicate that he was disorderly, belligerent and a downright pain in the ass inside the establishment earlier in the evening. The account stated that several employees asked him to leave and he also refused to pay his tab. This is very sad, of course. But those of us who follow the game of golf have witnessed Mr. Daly’s angels and his demons. And most of us who follow the game of golf also pay close attention to other professional and collegiate sports. What makes Mr. Daly’s case so glaring is that we’re unaccustomed to seeing professional golfers unravel in front of our eyes. This is not so in other sports. The NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL provide us with all the unraveling we need. There once was basketball, baseball, football and ice hockey. Now there is bench clearing, bench clearing, late hits and ice hockey. What happened to the game? What happened to the skill? What happened to finesse? What happened to the hours of preparation on playgrounds, sandlots, frozen ponds and backyards? It seems to have become secondary to the American need to witness ‘The Brawl.’ But brawls seldom occur in professional golf. I have watched more hours of golf on television than I care to admit. I have seen mean stares, hawk eyes, celebrations, club tosses and plenty of inward-directed tirades. But I’ve never seen, for instance, Jack Nicklaus cold-cock Arnold Palmer or Annika Sorenstam bitch slap Juli Inkster after a hotly contested finish. It is a game that has mercifully avoided street thuggery. So what do we do with John? Well, as much as I ache for his personal turmoil and find his actions most regrettable, I remain a huge fan. With few exceptions professional golfers seem distant, elitist, above-it-all, pampered, flawless and untouchable. They were raised on country club grass, signed for their lunches, had all the best equipment and always had their shirts tucked in. Daly, from the day we first saw him at the PGA in Memphis, was never one of these. He was floppy, sloppy, pudgy, disheveled, aloof and excitable. But damn, he could sure as hell play. I suspect that for many of us who assemble for that Saturday morning game on hardpan public fairways and spotty greens, dressed in our madras shorts and striped shirts, John Daly is a hero with feet of clay - the same clay from which we are formed. This is why I remain a huge fan – this is why I wish for him to find his way out of the darkness.


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