By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Today at The Cooler, I have a dream.

And that dream is to one day be one of Herb Kohler's pet projects.

I'm fresh off a week at Whistling Straits Golf Course, site of the PGA Championship. Whistling Straits is the rolling, green dream of Kohler, the guy who made millions on this simple but profound premise: You, buddy, need to use the john every day.

Herb Kohler
Herb Kohler had a dream -- and a beautiful golf course was the result.

Kohler assessed that human need in his considerable brain, and decided to build bathroom fixtures. So many Americans, indeed, did need to use the john so many times that Kohler eventually became a billionaire.

When he became a billionaire, he looked at a flat piece of land in Wisconsin and had a dream. He said, "One day, if my dream comes true, I will be raging with Vijay Singh on a Sunday night in August, doing Jell-O shots in my clubhouse and ordering pizza from the finest Domino's in Sheboygan."

And because Kohler had a dream, Whistling Straits was born.

Kohler looked at that flat piece of land, and said: "I will build the Irish coastline here, with the money I made from the fact that most people, on average, use the john two to three times a day. Some, more than that. And some, even more than that, depending on whether they drink coffee and had nachos the previous night. But, I digress from my dream, which is to build the Irish coastline."

When the architect, Pete Dye, asked Kohler how to get to this land so he could design the Irish coastline, Kohler said: "Go to Sheboygan. Keep going. Turn right when you smell the toxic waste."

How American is that? To take a vision and make it come true, even near Sheboygan. Herb Kohler's Whistling Straits, the sensational site of the PGA Championship, is the embodiment of the American Dream. Was it not our forefathers (wearing Brett Favre jerseys) who wrote in the Constitution of the United States: "We, the Cheeseheads, in order to form a more perfect golf course ... "

Because of dreamers such as Kohler, we have things such as Microsoft, Ford Motors and SpectraVision. I want Kohler to take me under his dreamer wing. I want to be his personal version of Whistling Straits. I want him to say: "Some see Brian Murphy, banging out The Cooler late on a Sunday night, tired, hungry, with huddled masses of Amstel Lights by his keyboard. I see potential for a dream. I see a man who can get me my dry cleaning, who can pick up my sushi. I see a man who can earn six figures doing this, because I am Herb Kohler, and because you need to use the john every day. Some, more than others. That is my dream."

Don't doubt him. He's got a track record of building something out of nothing, you know.

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five, heavy on the cheese:

1. Algonquin for the Good Land
Chalk Milwaukee up there with Pittsburgh among America's most underrated cities. The northern, Rust Belt/Heartland cities seem to get no love anymore. America is all about the Sun Belt now. Everybody is moving to Vegas, Arizona or Florida, growing goatees and getting tattoos. Whatever happened to living in a place that has winter? Is that so bad? Did not Alice Cooper tell us in "Wayne's World" that Mil-eh-wauk-ay is Algonquin for "The Good Land"? Would Alice Cooper lie to us? He once guaranteed us that school was out -- FOREVER. How good was that to hear when we were young?

Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper actually plays some good golf himself.

It was my first visit to Milwaukee, but I had a good feeling going in: I've long thought Wisconsin denizens to be good-natured and among our nation's heartiest partiers. Besides, my buddy Schuchie, a native of Whitefish Bay, Wis., was set to pick me up at the Milwaukee airport and take me straight to a Mexican joint called La Fuente for Happy Hour.

Mexican in Milwaukee: You've got to love the stones behind that restaurant concept.

He greeted me at the airport curb, laid a "Bucky the Badger" Wisconsin T-shirt on me, and we were off. What ensued was a full week of good old-fashioned Milwaukee socializing: Heavy on the Miller Lite, and heavy on the late-night chili.

I soon began to associate Milwaukee with a mandatory five-step plan each morning:

Step One: Aquafina
Step Two: Advil
Step Three: Tums
Step Four: Visine
Step Five: Charmin

Next morning:: Repeat Steps One Through Five

I believe Gorman Thomas was on the same health plan for most of the 1980s.

One particularly robust night, we managed to eat at both Real Chili (a joint most Milwaukeeans have only seen between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m.) and George Webb (a joint most Milwaukeeans have only seen between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m.) How we ate at both spots in one night, with Miller Lites at Flannery's serving as the sandwich meat between the Real Chili/George Webb bread slices was both confounding and a point of civic pride for Shuchie. He hadn't felt this good in his hometown since Paul Molitor's 39-game hit streak.

2. Tiger
Is this not sort of awkward, sports fans? What do you do when a deity shows up at your doorstep, looking to bum a cigarette?

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has fallen a long way.

We got to know Tiger Woods instantly. He was a god. He won. Everything. All the time. We never knew the "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Tiger. We only knew the "Gargoyle, More Food!" Tiger.

With Tiger now letting 10 majors pass without a victory, we have to change our sense of the guy completely. We used to see him as sporting royalty, with a veritable laurel wreath on his head and a toga of the finest silks on his frame.

Now we see him in veritable boxer shorts and a T-shirt in front of a TV, eating Ruffles.

It's like seeing a buddy for the first time in a long time, and noticing he's put on a ton of weight. You don't say anything. You just sort of have an awkward conversation, trying not to point out that your buddy got really fat.

Who'd have thought Tiger would be the fat, Ruffles-eating guy in boxer shorts?

Tiger, win a major again, soon! We need our deities back up on Mount Olympus. It's uncomfortable otherwise, buddy.

3. My New Favorite Sports Phrase
God bless our athletes, man. Especially our golfers.

The game is nuts. Insane. So to stop the slow descent into dementia that golf can usher in, these guys go to sports psychologists. Sports shrinks tell 'em the important stuff: It's not your fault you missed the cut by 10 shots. You can use your four-putt on the 18th hole as a growing experience. Take the positives from your round of 106. After all, it could have been a 107.

Along those lines, Chris DiMarco sat in front of the ink-stained wretches on Sunday. He deserved praise, of course, for nearly winning the damn major and for charging on to the Ryder Cup team from out of nowhere.

But what I took from DiMarco's day was this beaut a sports psychologist dropped on him after he blew a 36-hole lead at the International last week.

"He told me I didn't choke," DiMarco said. "He said: 'You just peaked early.'"

You didn't choke. You just peaked early.

Like I said: It's a beaut.

Imagine the possibilities with that line of thinking ...

  • To a pitcher who gave up the game-winning home run: "Your pitch wasn't bad. He just happened to put the fat of the bat exactly where the pitch was."

  • To a basketball player who air-balls the free throw with no time on the clock and his team down one: "Your free throw wasn't bad. In fact, if the open air was the basket, you'd have made the shot."

  • To a football player who drops the game-winning touchdown pass: "You didn't make a mistake. You allowed the ball, made of leather, to commune with the turf, made of grass."

    A beaut. I love it. I'll use it for the rest of my life.

    4. Al Czervik
    So the U.S. basketball team loses to Puerto Rico. We're supposed to be surprised? Didn't we lose to Luxembourg in the warm-up matches? Or was it Trinidad and Tobago? I can see the headline in the Canary Islands Chronicle: "Canary Islands Hoopsters to Team USA: Bring It On!"

    Now, I'm not one to be all up in arms about our squad getting pantsed. First off, our boys practice together for, what, a week? Second off, we've sent a hodgepodge of players with no cohesion. Third of all, the rest of the world actually exists.

    Yes, it's hard to ponder, but there are other human beings, members of homo sapiens, and they have athletic skills, and they actually live outside of the United States! Imagine that!

    Carlos Arroyo
    Carlos Arroyo lit up the U.S. Olympic squad, and was proud of it.

    Still, all that said ... Puerto Rico? And, all that said ... by 19 points? In trying to think of Puerto Rican basketball stars, I could only come up with that one guy who played for Temple. And then that other guy, years ago, who played for Oregon State.

    You remember them. They were the Puerto Rican guys who played for Temple, and for Oregon State.

    Yeah. Remember?

    I must say, I can never hear the words "Puerto Rico" without passing on one of my favorite Rodney Dangerfield bits from back when he killed doing stand-up in the early '80s.

    In one quick bit, he said: "My life. The other day, a guy calls up and says I won three nights in Puerto Rico. (beat) No days. Just nights. I said to the guy: 'What am I going to do days?' And the guy says: 'I don't know. Just stay the hell out of Puerto Rico.'"

    In your mind, do the bit in Dangerfield's cadence. It kills.

    You will never hear the words "Puerto Rico" again without chuckling.

    5. Final Thoughts on Whistling Straits
    The parts about Kohler's American Dream for which he forgot to account are the hamstrings popping, the ankles turning and the butts hitting the grass after shoes slip on his slick turf. Has an American Dream ever been so hard to walk?

    The dunes, hillocks and mounds that look so pretty on TV are an absolute bear to navigate. I saw one particularly hefty Cheesehead step in a hole near a hillock -- or was it a dune? Or a mound? -- and just eat it. He went down like a sniper got him. It took three of us to get him up; and when he finally was upright, all he wanted was a Miller Lite and a brat.

    Like I said, hearty people.

    But, oh, the bright side of all this! Kohler either wittingly or unwittingly -- knowing his genius, it was wittingly -- created The Single Greatest Cardboard Sliding Paradise in American History.

    Slick grass, steep hillocks and acres and acres of land?

    Herb, my man! Start selling cardboard boxes at the gate for $15 a pop. Provide cases of beer, and you've got America's new Disneyland.

    I'm telling you: This guy has some serious dreams.

    Ain't that America?

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.


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