Saturday, May 31, 2008

City of Two Tales

First off, there are times it seems life, if you’ll pardon the Dickensian twist, is a city of two tales: those of the cautionary variety and the ones with fairies. Occasionally, the two collide.

Last week’s edition of GMT was the hardest to finish in the nearly two years I’ve been at this. And not because it took so long to find the video clip of that SNL scene featuring Phil Hartman as washed-up actor Johnny O’Connor. I was trying to wrap up the piece at my buddy Quile’s house outside Fort Worth last Wednesday when we saw the news that the five-year-old daughter of singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman had been struck by a car and killed earlier that day. As unspeakably awful as that tragedy was, we cried even harder when we learned it happened in the driveway of the family’s home in Franklin, Tennessee and that the driver was the girl’s older brother who was backing out to leave and didn’t see his little sister.

I rarely listen to Christian music, primarily because I haven’t heard very many artists like Chapman. Lyrically, his songs reflect a faith I know is authentic because it’s been authenticated by close friends of mine who are close to him. An example of Chapman putting his faith into action came several years ago when his wife, Mary Beth, and he, already with three kids of their own, adopted three young girls from China, the youngest of which being the one who died, and established an organization to assist others in the adoption of unwanted children around the world.)

Rather than using his music to propagate the pious party line of the religious right, Chapman’s offerings are often clever, frequently sweet, and genuinely deep. One of his most recent releases is all of the above. He wrote the song “Cinderella” after a particularly tedious attempt to put his two youngest girls to bed eventually gave way to the realization of how quickly time had turned his oldest child from a giggly girl into a soon-to-be-bride. You can listen to the song here if your upper lip is feeling particularly stiff.

As the dad of a princess-loving six-year-old – who’s currently in the next room playing make-believe with her best friend and making it difficult for me to concentrate on this column – I turned to mush the first time I heard the song a couple of months ago. I’m fully aware that my days as Anna Claire’s preferred dance partner are numbered. More than two years have zipped past since I penned this piece about her turning four.

When I thought about little Maria Chapman unintentionally helping inspire her dad to write “Cinderella” and then that her life’s clock struck midnight way too soon, it was virtually impossible to write anything coherent the rest of the night. I was a mess. Still am.

The most preposterous component of a fairy tale isn’t what happens in the middle. Heroes, conflict, villains, and derring-do are occasionally the stuff of real life, too. It’s the Happily Ever After in stories like Cinderella that appeals to us, primarily because we know there’s no such thing in our three dimensions. We love the idea that a life could be lived within the sanitary pages of a children’s book, but we’re at least unconsciously aware that in the real world Prince Charming occasionally clogs the toilet or a member of the royal family has a learning disability or the weeds keep returning no matter how many times you pull them up.

Golf’s three big winners Sunday experienced what some might describe as storybook endings. In Fort Worth, Phil Mickelson hoisted his approach on the 72nd hole over the trees and onto the green where he made a nine-footer to win. Phil the Thrill at his best.

A quick glance at the Mickelson family album might suggest his has been a fairy tale existence. It certainly seemed that way at the 1996 EDS Byron Nelson Championship. That was just a few years into his own career and a few months before Tiger turned pro, so Mickelson was still considered easily the best young player in the game and hadn’t yet begun fielding questions about why he hadn’t won a major.

As that tournament was drawing to a close, I was one of a handful of reporters gathered around a TV monitor in the media center watching ABC interview his then-fiancĂ©e, Amy, who looked, as she does now, strikingly attractive. With Phil nearing a Nelson victory, they asked Amy how she thought he was doing, to which she eloquently and appropriately replied, “I’m really impressed with his course management.” One salty scribe muttered to no one in particular, “That’s not fair.”

Yes, the handsome prince got the girl, their progeny look like Hummel figurines, and he’s currently sitting on three major championships and more money than Charles Barkley could lose in Vegas. And yes, a lot of people would gladly and quickly trade circumstances. But the fairy tale misses the misery of all those years he was labeled a choker. And the nasty and persistent rumors of myriad personal indiscretions (none of which have ever been substantiated). And that day in March 2003 when Amy had complications trying to give birth to their first boy, Evan, and both mother and son nearly died. A storybook life? In its own way perhaps. A fairy tale? Hardly.

Leta Lindley has spent the last 14 years becoming an overnight success. Sunday, in her 295th start on the LPGA Tour, she finally won for the first time, taking the Corning Classic in a playoff over Jeong Jang. A highly-touted All-America when she left the University of Arizona, Lindley nearly won the LPGA Championship in just her third year on Tour but lost a playoff that day and never came closer to victory until Sunday. There was no Happily Ever After in the voice of her husband/caddy Matt Plagmann when I spoke to him a couple of hours after their breakthrough. It was part vindication and part relief. “We’ve been at this for 14 years,” Plagmann said. “It’s about time.”

While Lindley was winning in Corning, Jay Haas was up the road in Rochester, New York grinding out an ugly victory at the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the very venue where in 1995 he could’ve kept the Ryder Cup in U.S. clutches. All he had to do was win his singles match against Philip Walton, the Irishman who became famous for his utter anonymity. But on the last hole, Haas popped up his tee shot, made bogey, lost the match, and watched with his teammates as Europe celebrated its reclamation of the Cup on American sod.

Revenge often makes for a compelling storyline. But how much revenge did Haas exact exactly? With respect to the Senior PGA – along with the U.S. Senior Open one of only two tournaments for players 50 and over that has genuine significance – you have to believe Haas would trade that individual honor in a New York minute for the crucial half point which eluded him and the U.S. 13 years ago. For the opportunity to relive those years and never hear how he single-handedly lost the Ryder Cup. That, by the way, isn’t true, but on your worst days it’d be hard not to believe. Sunday’s win for Haas was impressive on its own merits. But it neither can nor should be expected to magically make the disappointment of 1995 go away.

There is no Happily Ever After. Not in this life anyway. There is just our joy and sadness side by side, both of which in their own way help shape who we are. And there is today. So before it’s too late, grab your partner and dance.

She spins and she sways to whatever song plays without a care in the world

And I’m sittin’ here wearin’ the weight of the world on my shoulders

It’s been a long day and there’s still work to do

She’s pulling at me sayin’, “Dad, I need you

There’s a ball at the castle and I’ve been invited and I need to practice my dancin’

Oh, please, Daddy, please”

So I dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms

‘Cause I know somethin’ the prince never knew

Oh, I dance with Cinderella, I don’t wanna miss even one song

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone

She says he’s a nice guy and I’d be impressed

She wants to know if I approve of her dress

She says, “Dad, the prom is just one week away and I need to practice my dancin’

Oh, please, Daddy, please”

So I dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms

‘Cause I know somethin’ the prince never knew

Oh, I dance with Cinderella, I don’t wanna miss even one song

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone

She came home today with a ring on her hand

Just glowin’ and tellin’ us all they had planned

She says, “Dad, the wedding’s still six months away, but I need to practice my dancin’ Oh, please, Daddy, please”

So I dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms

‘Cause I know somethin’ the prince never knew

Oh, I dance with Cinderella, I don’t wanna miss even one song

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone

“Cinderella” – Steven Curtis Chapman

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Goodbye to Golf's Molten Hot Lava Bomb

First off, in the words of (as Matt Foley called him) Bill Shakespeare, parting is indeed sweet sorrow. This week, two more major American cities said goodbye to gas prices which per gallon began with the number 3. The pumps in California these days read like an NFL defensive back’s 40 time.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton bid farewell to any mathematical chance of winning a majority of delegates in the Democratic Party’s Presidential race. She long ago parted company with the reality that she wasn’t going to win. Hillary’s like the twisted offspring of Monty Python’s Black Knight (Obama has a majority of delegates? “It’s just a flesh wound!”) and Phil Hartman’s Johnny O’Connor in this SNL skit (Mathematically eliminated? “Don’t mince words! Tell me where I stand!”).

Wednesday, we lowered the curtain on season seven of American Idol, which ended with the relative Goliath of the two Davids, Cook, rocking the cradle of the baby-faced Archuleta and taking the title. (My six-year-old daughter didn’t want either one to lose, so she had me vote for both. Cook won by 12 million votes, so she’s off the hook.) The highlight of the show was a tie between a) Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. impersonating the Pips behind a 1970s video of Gladys Knight; and b) the red sportcoat worn by judge Randy “Molten Hot Lava Bomb” Jackson which looked like something he snagged from the Captain Kangaroo estate sale.

Nearly 100 million people voted for the two Davids, only about 20 million fewer than the number who cast ballots for the most powerful office in the world in the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. In defense of the American people, they knew their Idol votes would actually matter. In fact, I can’t think of a good reason not to stage the general election in November the same way. Put the candidates’ numbers on the screen. Give people a few hours to call in their votes. Total them up and announce the winner the next night. You could even bring back past Presidents to do a few show tunes to fill the hour. Sure, it’d be easy for people to vote multiple times, but that only means they’re really passionate about their nominee. If you care enough to risk carpal tunnel syndrome dialing in four hundred times in 90 seconds, I say you deserve an extra vote or two.

Finally, we have the rest of this year to say goodbye to Annika Sorenstam. Sitting third all time with 72 wins and currently second on the money list, the LPGA legend announced she’ll retire at season’s end to, among other things, begin a family with fiancĂ© Mike McGee whom she’ll marry next April.

We first heard of a talented, skinny Swede as she starred for the University of Arizona, winning the 1991 NCAAs and losing in the finals of the ’92 U.S. Amateur. After college, she won Rookie of the Year honors on the Ladies European Tour and LPGA in consecutive seasons. Annika’s first LPGA title was the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open, which she successfully defended the following year. She’d win 17 times over the next four years, but none of those were majors, prompting a particularly catty characterization by one of her peers that Sorenstam was the “Queen of the ShopRite Classic.” But over the next six years, Annika bagged enough biggies to max out her place in the Express Checkout line. She won at least one major each season from 2001-2006 to reach her current total of 10 while continuing to take home regular tournaments like they were on sale two-for-one. Along the way, Sorenstam kept finding herself on shorter and shorter lists of the best women players of all time, repeatedly reinventing herself as a player through an aggressive fitness regimen and as a public figure who evolved from painfully shy to poised and personable.

By the time I met her in March 2000, she was Annika 2.0, having already developed from teeny to toned in an attempt to keep up with Karrie Webb who’d overtaken her as the world’s best player in 1999. Sorenstam would undergo at least two more noticeable changes to her body over the next few years, bulking up through intense weight training then slimming back down to her current form a couple of years ago.

I think Annika always found it much easier to overhaul her physique than her public image. She had complete control over the former; the latter not so much. Naturally introverted, Annika felt compelled because of her eye-popping accomplishments to carry the LPGA banner wherever she went, including to places like the Colonial in Fort Worth where five years ago this week she competed in her first and only PGA Tour event. (She shot a highly respectable 71-75 to miss the cut by four.)

I’m pretty sure Annika wouldn’t have complained if she’d never had to do an interview; but in the eight years I covered her on a regular basis, she never once turned me down, even after being offended by a remark I made in jest that she didn’t understand. (I know it’s hard to believe someone wouldn’t get my humor, but stay with me.) She’s been a fierce competitor, but it always seemed to me that through the years Annika has derived more pleasure from trying to perfectly execute a golf shot than merely defeating an opponent.

Those opponents haven’t always liked Sorenstam for reasons I don’t entirely understand. I know for some, there was a junior high jealousy of the encomia heaped upon her during that amazing run in the middle part of this decade when she was the only reason many paid attention to women’s golf. But her peers have had no choice but to respect the record Annika has compiled in her 15 years on the LPGA Tour. Beyond the numbers, Sorenstam at her best convinced you that she’d done the impossible by mastering the game.

Determining supremacy in any sport is subjective, at best. As far as the LPGA goes, Kathy Whitworth has more career wins than Annika. Mickey Wright has more wins and, by all accounts, had a better swing. But if, unlike my daughter, I had only one vote, I’d give it to the one who did it under the most scrutiny. Give me Annika.

Do you disagree? Don’t mince words!

Welcome to the Cub

First off, a warning: if you’re going to let your kids play little league sports, prepare yourself for a weekly gut-ectomy. If you’re planning to coach your kids’ teams – run. Run very fast the other way, while you still can, and don’t look back.

The scrappy little Cubs (ages 9-11) of Wylie Little League took another one on the chin Tuesday night at the old ball orchard. Leading 10-7 going into the bottom of the sixth and final inning, we lost to the mighty Red Sox, 11-10. Joan Rivers’ chin hasn’t taken this much.

Last week, we dropped a 12-11 decision to the Rangers on a bang-bang play at the plate. Up by one, our first baseman took a throw from short and fired a bullet to the catcher, just ahead of the runner trying to score from third. The umpire waited, presumably checking to see if our catcher held onto the ball (which he did) and finally made the call.

SAFE! What?!?! Why would you look to see if the catcher has the ball, see that he does, then rule safe? Either the runner beat the throw (which in this case it didn’t appear he did) or he’s out, so long as the catcher hangs on. The Rangers, to their credit, scratched out another run and won by one.

This week, it was even worse. We led from the first inning and had that aforementioned 10-7 lead going to the top of the sixth. My oldest son, Andrew, led off with a walk and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches, which also contributed to our next batter reaching first on a walk. First and third, nobody out, up 10-7 with both teams, coaches, umpires, and fans fully aware that if we scored three runs, the game would essentially be over because the most you can score in one inning is five. Another wild pitch, Andrew headed home. He beat the throw so easily that he didn’t even slide. No call from the umpire until Andrew began walking back to the dugout.

OUT! What?!?! I left the first base coaching box to ask about the call. He said Andrew missed home plate. Now there is scarcely a more prejudiced party in this matter than me. But having said that, Andrew didn’t miss the plate. He told me he stepped on it. The entire section of bleachers, which sit less than 20 feet from the plate, saw him step on it. Even the other team’s coaches told us later it was a bad call. But the ump ruled he was out. Instead of an 11-7 lead with a runner at second and no one out, it remained 10-7 with one out and the runner at second. Our next two batters struck out, setting the stage for the Red Sox comeback.

Still clinging to a 10-9 lead with a runner at third and two outs, our pitcher got ahead of the hitter 0-2. At that point, the ump’s strike zone shrunk to approximately the size of a small quark. A walk and a pair of run-scoring wild pitches later, we’d lost 11-10.

I told our team this week the same thing I said the week before: we’re not going to be a team that blames losses on the umpires. That’s the parents’ job. Even if the umps blew those calls, I reasoned, it only means they’re human (though for the life of me I can’t figure out where they find real people to spend 20 hours a week making $8.50 a game plus concession stand discount). My larger point is that I want our team to know that you can’t go through life blaming other people when things don’t go your way.

Which, after a mere 600-plus words, brings us to the PGA Tour’s newest Players Champion. Sergio Garcia’s playoff victory over Paul Goydos Sunday at TPC Sawgrass was by far the biggest moment of his career. Bigger than the British Amateur in 1998. Bigger than the runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA. More than all those Ryder Cups he’s helped keep on European soil.

It wasn’t just that Garcia won, it was how he did it. Yes, Goydos helped by bogeying three of his final five holes and splashing his approach at 17 on the first swing of the playoff. But Goydos, with those Lou Piniella looks and Lou Costello one-liners, would’ve won it in regulation had Garcia not held it together in extreme meteorological and course conditions and saved par with a clutch seven-footer at the 72nd hole. His perfectly placed tee shot in the playoff provided the punctuation mark to a signature victory.

Garcia’s has been a fascinating and occasionally troublesome metamorphosis from wunderkind to wonder-when? I’ll never forget how ancient a 23-year-old Tiger Woods appeared after tapping in at Medinah’s 18th to beat Garcia by one at the ’99 PGA. Sergio, with his no-look swings and scissor kicks, was the reason Woods looked so crusty.

For golf fans with Garcia, it was love at first swipe. We couldn’t get enough of that syrupy swing and insouciant spirit that dared to take on the world’s best. (Remember Garcia’s glare from the green back toward Tiger on the tee box after rolling in a birdie at 13 on that Chicago Sunday?)

We all thought back then that the 19-year-old Spaniard had scooped up from the ashes what the spotlight had seemingly burned out of Woods as he evolved from phenom to dominant number one, specifically that sheer love of the shot, the moment, the game. But while Sergio was turning cartwheels, a cold-blooded Tiger was busy winning majors and sucking the life out of the rest of the Tour. Apparently, that’s Tiger’s idea of fun. In fact, Woods won six of the next 10 after Medinah, the last of which fully juxtaposed his and Garcia’s character. While Woods was methodically navigating his way through nasty weather and an even nastier Bethpage Black at the 2002 U.S. Open, Garcia was waggling, flipping off fans, re-waggling, accusing USGA officials of giving Tiger preferential treatment in how they determined whether or not to postpone play because of rain, and re-re-waggling. Woods didn’t just beat Garcia head-to-head in Sunday’s final groupe 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage; his play and presence exposed a petulance that has so far defined Garcia’s career – at least until Sunday.

Winning the fifth most important stroke play tournament in all of golf may begin a new chapter in Garcia’s career, and it’s high time for a plot twist. The book on him so far tells the story of a precocious player with preternatural ability who achieved success early but struggled to consistently hang with the world’s best as his putter developed severe multiple personality disorder. His Dr. Jekyll stroke has been a regular on Thursdays through Saturdays and during foursomes and fourballs in Ryder Cups; but Garcia’s Mr. Hyde usually makes cameos in crunch time or whenever Tiger Woods was near. (It’s at the very least a coincidence that last week’s victory was also the first time Garcia had teed it up in a Players Championship or major that didn’t have Woods in the field.)

It hasn’t just been on the green that Sergio has shown multiple personalities. Often engaging and gregarious in the public eye – he came off especially cute in those Michelob commercials – Garcia’s been just as likely to be ornery. And that behavioral Jekyll and Hyde has been frequently triggered by the Heckle and Chide of a well-lubricated peanut gallery or media sharks who’ve smelled blood whenever Garcia’s let a big one get away. More often than not, he’s taken that bait, complaining about various and occasionally mysterious mistreatment he’s endured. (Telling the press “I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field” after last year’s playoff loss at the Open Championship was an instant classic). One of his recurring rants is that he’s been unfairly made the whipping boy of the same scribes who gladly take their pound of Garcia’s flesh in the stories they write for the next morning’s paper.

Seems like since that seminal moment at Medinah, Sergio’s smile has gradually devolved into a snarl. Until Sunday. We’ll see how, if at all, the biggest victory of his career changes Garcia, on the course and in the immediate aftermath of tournaments when the pressure and the press are at their most intense.

A word of advice, Sergio, from someone who believes there’s way more of you to love than dislike: lay off the press, and they’ll eventually let up on you. Especially if you keep winning big events and taking full responsibility for yourself when you don’t. In other words, grow up and start acting like my little leaguers.

Missing Tiger, Ratings Draggin'

First off, it’s been a rather quiet week in golf. Not a single major champion has been interviewed topless for a small-market morning television show. In a related story, John Daly earned his one-week chip from Exhibitionists Anonymous.

Second, hold de Mayo. On the eve of a national holiday, Mexico’s favorite daughter, Lorena Ochoa, came up short in her attempt to win Cinco straight. Ochoa opened the SemGroup Championship in Tulsa with 73-74 and, despite a T5 finish, never contended in an event Paula Creamer won in a playoff over Juli Inkster. Ochoa’s trusty caddie, Dave Brooker, told me his boss took the previous week off, even though she’d won a record-tying four straight LPGA tournaments, because she was exhausted, especially from the event in Mexico where he said she signed at least 2,000 autographs a day and couldn’t even practice because of all the “craziness.” All of Mexico would’ve gone loco had Ochoa won Sunday. They celebrated her efforts nonetheless by beginning their Cinco de Mayo festivities a few hours early. And many here north of the border lent their support. Gringo clubs and bars here in the U.S., bound by NAFTA to effusively promote Cinco de Mayo despite the fact that most Americans’ knowledge of Mexican heritage consists of what they can pronounce off the drive-thru menu at Taco Bell, sold approximately 400 billion bottles of Corona.

Third, if you think I’m going to crack wise over the tragedy at the Kentucky Derby Saturday, you’re sniffing glue. I’m still getting hate mail from Barbaro Neigh-tion after this piece I authored a couple of years ago. There would be no time to cobble together candlelight vigils for Eight Belles. The filly was put to death on the same Churchill Downs track where moments before she’d finished second in the Derby. A year ago as Michael Vick was being sent to jail for running a dog fighting ring, I cracked that it was unfair to compare that heinous activity to horse racing because at least dog fighting doesn’t make animal abuse a society event. And then I asked anyone to justify horse racing as a sport, given how the animals are treated, or mistreated depending on your point of view.

No one gave me a reasonable answer, so I sought out my most trusted horse source. She’s a former co-worker who comes from one of America’s great thoroughbred racing families and who herself is now a prominent owner. She’s also one of my favorite people and not at all someone who’d try to protect the racing fraternity if horses were being abused.

About the Eight Belles tragedy and ensuing controversy, she told me:

“I think horse racing needs to look in the mirror and figure out together how to make the sport safer. That includes not breeding unsound horses to unsound horses, looking at the safety of track surfaces, and the use of legal and illegal medications. PETA’s claims are sort of BS. That horse didn’t get hurt because the jock hit her too hard or the trainer trained her too hard. It was a freak thing. Unfortunately, something tragic had to happen to shake them up. You aren’t quoting me, are you?”

Of course not. Well, yes, but I’ll protect your identity, Hoarse Throat. It still seems to me that the animals are being subjected to unhealthy stress, but I defer for now to my friend who knows way more about it than I do and cares more about the creatures than the cash.

Now, professional golf has its own problems. Fortunately, players being lethally injected on the course isn’t one of them. When golfers come up lame, they have procedures done or take time off or both. But when that golfer is Tiger Woods and a scoped knee-plus-rehab scratches him from this week’s PLAYERS Championship (or however they’re capitalizing it this year), it euthanizes – at least to some degree – the excitement surrounding the most important tournament owned and operated by the PGA Tour.

The Tour has always had status envy since breaking ranks from the PGA of America 40 years ago. The four most important events in golf – really five, if you count the Ryder Cup – are run by other organizations, leaving the league that runs professional tournament golf in the U.S. for most of the 10-month season continually alone in the on-deck circle during the Grand Slam. That’s why the Tour has pumped so many resources into making The PLAYERS not only its signature event but one that can at least come up in the same conversation with the four majors.

It’s tough to imagine Commissioner Tim Finchem and his coterie of executives doing anything more or better than what they’ve done with The PLAYERS. The date was moved from March to May in hopes of filling that two month gap between The Masters and U.S. Open with another big event. The golf course has morphed from comical to classic. The Brady Bunch-era pro shop was razed and raised in its place was a sprawling castle – the Tim Mahal – which was unveiled for last year’s tournament. And as a bonus, a bona fide star in Phil Mickelson won the 2007 edition to christen those most recent changes.

But just as the first big event of 2008 was ending, Tiger Woods put The PLAYERS in its place. Two days after a second-place showing at The Masters, Woods announced he’d had his left knee surgically repaired and wouldn’t play again until the U.S. Open. Woods would never verbally diss The PLAYERS, but he doesn’t have to. The surgeon’s knife cut through any confusion.

Knowing the knee needed repair, Woods planned the procedure at such a time that he wouldn’t miss the two tournaments that mean the most to him. That meant The PLAYERS would be cut along with his left leg. Kneed I say more?

I don’t think Woods has specific disdain for this event or the TPC Sawgrass, but neither do I believe the course is one of his particular faves. More than anything, I get the feeling that Woods – who is not only the world’s best player but also the most powerful athlete in all of sports – enjoys reminding the Tour, in both subtle and strong ways, that he’s the man.

The 2007 Mercedes-Benz Championship kicking off the inaugural FedEx Cup season? Sorry, you guys go on and get started. The first-ever PGA Tour playoff? Too tired. From what? Winning majors run by other governing bodies. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz, now on the heels of an offseason expanded in part to placate Woods? Nope, still chillin’ with the fam. And now the surgically-repaired schedule that has him conspicuously absent from the Tour’s biggest week of the year.

You hate to beat a dead horse, but it’s bad enough when the Tour’s stud thoroughbred doesn’t win or place. It’s even worse when he doesn’t show.