Saturday, April 29, 2006

Borderline Christians, Cups, and Other Protective Measures

Golfer Fred Funk's caddy, Mark Long, does a dead-on impersonation of 5-time major champion and dashing Spaniard Seve Ballesteros. One of Long's best routines is of Seve recounting a disagreement with his brother, Vicente, who was carrying his bag during one particular round at The Masters. Mark-as-Seve says, "We were on de 15nce hole. My broder, Vicente, say, You hit 5-iron. I say, No is a 4. He say, 5. I say, 4. Finally, I say, Okay. I hit 5-iron straight into de water. I make a 10. Vicente? He no longer my broder."

I feel a little like Seve today as I digest these disturbing results of a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, as reported by USA Today.

*64% of white evangelicals agreed with the statement, "Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care."

*51% of white mainline Protestants agreed with this: "The growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values."

If these results are accurate, all I can say is Pew. And I hereby renounce my whitehood, as well as my association with anything mainline or remotely evangelical. In the true spirit of a Protestant, I protest.

Although I'm not particularly loco about aligning myself with Rev. Sam Rodriguez either, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who wants amnesty for immigrants. He said his constituency supports traditional family values such as heterosexual marriage and a ban on abortion, so he expects reciprocal support - that traditional political value - in this case from white evangelicals.

Since when did entitlement, protectionism, and back-scratching become Beatitudes? I don't care where you stand on this very complex issue, please quit identifying yourself as a God-follower if you're primary concern is shooing away the pests trying to infest your big honkin' slice of American pie.


Another poll shows President Bush's approval rating having plummeted to historic lows. According to the latest numbers, it's now at only 32 percent, down from 50 percent just last December.

But before you Bush bashers rub it in, keep in mind that the margin of error in that poll is 3.1 percent. That means his approval rating could be as high as 35.1. So there.


Nicholas (7) is now the proud owner of his first protective cup, having discovered the hard way the necessity of said apparatus during his first stint as catcher for his Little League baseball team (The Thunder). Cup acquisition is one of those time-honored rites of passage that young boys have experienced for centuries, right up there with reaching the final level in Star Wars Battlefront on Xbox.

The other day, Nicholas was having trouble putting his cup and the attendant slingshot-style holster on before his game, and Amy wasn't able to provide much in the way of experiential advice. This conversation ensued:

Amy: Keep in mind, I really don't have any idea how those things fit.

Nicholas: Didn't you ever play softball?

Amy: Yes, but I never wore a cup.

Nicholas: Why not?

Amy: I don't have a penis.

Nicholas: Oh. Right.

Considering how, um, "self-aware" Nicholas has been getting in and out of the bathtub all his life, I'm not exactly sure whether the cup will prove more protective against outside forces or from himself. We'll see.


The Academy Awards needs to add an Oscar for Best Grimace in a Movie Preview. Harrison Ford and Denzel Washington would be the only nominees each year.


There's a guy I've known off and on for nearly 20 years who's asked me for money every time I've been with him. It's very annoying. And a good reminder of how people feel when I ask them to give to Continent of Great Cities.


I don't know anyone under 50 who uses a handkerchief.


I made a New Year's Resolution to make sure I didn't agree with Don Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, on a single societal issue. But, alas, we came down on the same side on the utterly ephemeral TV show, Book of Daniel, which was cancelled after just a couple of episodes. Albeit for different reasons.

Wildmon was livid about the program's portrayal of a priest who didn't seem to care that his kids were either gay, horny, and/or selling pot. I, meanwhile, was furious over the show's suggestion that Christians are such bad actors.


I'm concerned at some of the recent reports I've seen of Saddam Hussein screaming incoherently and going on a hunger strike. This could really damage his credibility.


The other day, my friend, Bill, said, "You know those black and white billboards that are supposedly God talking to us, like 'They're commandments, not suggestions?' I'd like to put up one of those signs and have it read, 'Hey, Abilene. Why so many churches?'"

Good question. The answer? You can only put so many white, mainline, evangelicals in one building.


Finally, I take my equally-enormous size 8 hat off to Kevin Mench, the Texas Rangers slugger, who Friday night became the first right-handed batter in Major League history to homer in 7 consecutive games. The streak began last Friday after a specialist suggested the foot problems he'd been experiencing were due to the fact that he needed to wear a size 12 1/2 shoe instead of a 12.

Some guys might want to consider getting their cups resized. Seeing as how approximately 112 percent of all baseball players on television still get caught in the act of "adjusting themselves," it appears Nicholas wasn't the only one who learned how to strap it on from Mom.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Halfway Home

The first two rounds of The Masters are in the books, and I'm in my underwear. But perhaps even more important to golf fans, Chad Campbell is in the lead by three with each of the top five players in the world under par and on his heels. Tiger Woods, who'll begin the weekend five shots in arrears, couldn't be happier that my arrears are here and not there.

I've attended four of the previous 10 Masters "tunamints." Tiger's 0-for-4 with me standing on the premises and 4-for-6 when I'm not. That's a stat exclusive to premium subscribers to the boone box, which is currently defined as any organism which - however unwittingly - stumbles onto this site and/or isn't force-fed my columns via e-mail. So my money's on Tiger, despite the fact that it looks like he's putting with a fly swatter these days. The only thing worse than the pace of his putts right now is his inability to read greens. It's like his caddie isn't Stevie Williams but another Stevie...Wonder who?

But nobody's perfect. Take my in-laws. Please! (rimshot) Seriously, these people are Godly, brilliant, witty, and productive. It's their reproductive skills I'm questioning. And not their capability of progeneration - even the O.J. jury couldn't ignore the existence of three children - but their carelessness. Sure, they had the prescience to beget their firstborn (and my beloved) in Boone County, Missouri. Very clever. But conceiving a child nine months before Masters week is, well, inconceivable.

But, alas, a lass they delivered, Amy, on April 7, 1970, the Monday preceding that year's Masters. It's fitting the Green Jacket went to Billy Casper that week 'cause I haven't had a ghost of a chance - friendly or otherwise - of reconciling these two events ever since.

For me to make The Masters is to miss Amy's birthday, and vice-versa. I know what you're thinking, This is no contest! Any numbskull knows there's only one place to be! But you have to understand how much Amy enjoys having me home for her birthday.

(Yes, that was a joke. No, Amy didn't laugh.)

My first Masters was 10 years ago, the year Greg Norman went in to the final round with a 6-shot lead and came out with a 5-shot loss. But no one blew a bigger advantage that weekend than I did. Told of a lottery conducted by Augusta National that would select about 50 media members to play the fabled course the Monday morning after the tournament, I threw my name into the hat. Sure enough, the hat spit me back out as one of the lucky winners.

Never mind the fact that I didn't have my clubs with me. Or shoes. Or even a single tee. (Someone told me later that I did have balls, but I'll get to that in a moment.) About the only thing I knew I had for sure was a job interview at CNN. On Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. In Atlanta. Not to mention a flight back to Dallas where we lived at 6.

My winner's envelope included specific instructions to arrive at the club at 6:45 a.m., sharp and ready to play. Perfect! I'd rented some clubs from a nearby golf shop and bought the rest of the stuff I needed Sunday night. And with a 6:45 a.m. appointment, I could play all 18 holes and still have plenty of time to drive the two hours to Atlanta for my interview.

That's when my Master plan began to fall apart as completely as Norman the day before. Apparently, I wasn't the only one with a tee time that morning. When 8 a.m. came and went without my name being called, I got a sneaking suspicion this wasn't going to end well. I called the head of CNN Sports - back when they had both a head and a sports department - to ask if I could push the interview time back a couple of hours. He said 2 was his last open appointment of the day and asked why. When I told him I had a chance to play Augusta National, he told me to forget about the interview and take the golf. I told him I appreciated the offer but that I'd keep the appointment. Looking back, that's probably when I lost the job.

I still had hopes of a quick 18...until the clock struck 9. By 9:30, I figured the best I could do was squeeze in nine holes. They were sending groups off the 10th, but at 9:30, they said I could go right away off 1 or keep waiting to play the "second nine" as it's known at the National. I took the former and let it rip. It was everything you would imagine a dream round to be. Except for the rental clubs. And the cheap shoes, fresh out of the box just 3 hours earlier. And the otherwise makeshift assortment of necessities.

I played pretty well. Hit a bunch of good shots. Soaked it in. And, after nine holes, walked away. Ran, actually. I high-tailed it to Atlanta, only to have my interviewer at CNN greet me with a handshake and this, "Great to meet you. Thanks for coming by. We'll call you if we need you." (Apparently, they never did.)

I left his office with my high-tail between my legs. After stumbling around CNN Center for a couple of hours, I made my way to the airport and finally home.

Hindsight is 20/20 - for example, my in-laws learned from their poor judgment and had their remaining progeny in August and September - and love is blind. Had I known that my interview would consist of a handshake and a validated parking sticker, and/or that CNN wouldn't even have a sports department five years later, of course I would've stayed and played. But I owed it to my wife (who, after all, during her birthday week had given me the present of my absence) to keep that interview and hopefully get a better job.

Eight years later, the day after the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, I skipped the back nine of media day to catch the only flight that would get me home on my second son's first day of school. With that, I moved halfway toward, yes, a "Walkoff Grand Slam." (I can't wait to stiff the U.S. and British Opens.)

As crazy as it sounds, I'd make those same decisions again, regardless of whether such small sacrifices were ever rewarded. (And one of them was in October 2004 when a magnanimous friend and Augusta National member hosted my Uncle Pat and me for 45 unforgettable holes. If you're keeping score, that was two full rounds plus an extra tour of the second nine...perhaps the one I left behind so many years before.)

My greatest reward isn't being home with my beloved on the day we celebrate her birth and life but having the privilege of simply sharing my life with her every day.

Happy Birthday, my dear. I'll get dressed now.