Coolin' in Maui
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Drape a lei around The Cooler today, my friends.

Sergio Garcia
With elan, flair and panache, Sergio Garcia was Working the System at the Mercedes.
No fluorescents for me today, suckers. While ye snowplow your way to your local Cooler in Charlotte; while ye paddle your way to your local Cooler in San Francisco; while ye sport nipples that could cut glass on the way to your local Cooler in Minneapolis, I stand at the ready here in Maui -- my Cooler dispensing nothing but pineapple daiquiris in Dixie cups.

It's all part of Working the System, lads. See, if you don't work it, it works you. (I think Kierkegaard first said that. Him or George Hamilton. I can't remember.) You convince your sports editor that a golf tournament in Kapalua is where it's at, you map out a sports editor-friendly budget ("I swear, I'll sleep in a grass hut for five bucks a night and eat nothing but mahi mahi stolen from nets of local fishermen"), and then you board a plane for the Promised Land.

That's the thing about Hawaii. Even its airports turn you from a mainland stress-bomb into a walking mold of mellow in a Reyn Spooner shirt. Even its airports smell good. Back in the mainland, braddah? I am King of all Misanthropes in airports. I see you in an airport, I hate you. I hate your carry-ons clogging my walking aisles at the gate. I hate that you are listening to CNN Headline News at the gate, which is turned to 11 on volume. I hate you, because you hate me.

Then, I land in Hawaii on the company dime. Off the tarmac, hot Hawaiian babes with cocoa skin drape leis over tour groups. Guava juice is dispensed for free at the baggage claim. Ukelele music filters through the air, like angels playing on harps.

It is then that you realize why Elvis loved this place. And it is then that you realize: Holy God, if I had one wish in this life, it would be to party with Elvis in Hawaii back in the day.

So forgive me if the List of Five from this weekend smells like coconut-oil. Forgive me if your Steelers and your Browns played in a snowstorm. See, I was too busy wondering if I should check out Tiger's twosome, Sergio's twosome, or go cut a rug to Earth, Wind and Fire at the Ritz-Carlton. Yeah, you read that last part right. Which means, I guess, my haole braddahs, I'd better get to the List of Five before you hate me like I was a seat-hoggin', CNN Headline News-listenin', carry-on bag-cloggin' guy at an airport gate.

Oh, and mahalo for getting through this:

1. Earth, Wind and Fire: Like Seeing Mays in '73
Unbelievably, the Mercedes Championships in Maui feature a Friday night concert with big-name acts. Last year, Sugar Ray played. This year, Earth, Wind and Fire.

Earth, Wind and Fire, people!

  That sound you heard was Philip Bailey. He tried to sing "Reasons." I almost had to call 911 -- it sounded as if there was a horrible accident onstage, that perhaps a speaker had fallen on a man's legs, and that he was wailing in excruciating pain. Or perhaps it was time to call the Humane Society -- it sounded as if a hawk were dying in a nearby tree.  
  

Now, I have made no secret of the most frequent CDs popped in the boombox at The Cooler: English Beat, the Police, U2, the Clash, Sinatra, the Stones, Snoop, Dre, Hank Williams, Sr. -- all welcome. I have never, and I regret this in the name of Maurice White, given public love to Earth, Wind and Fire. Which is one enormous shame. Because Earth, Wind and Fire -- as my esteemed former baseball colleague G.W. oft-insisted during four-hour games at Kauffman Stadium -- might be The Best Band Ever.

Imagine my excitement/trepidation at the gig. On the one hand, it was Earth, Wind and Fire at the Ritz-Carlton in Maui. On the other hand, it was Earth, Wind and Fire playing for a PGA crowd. On the one hand, it was Earth, Wind and Fire for free. On the other hand, it was Earth, Wind and Fire with lead singer/falsetto glass-breaker Philip Bailey pushing 50.

How, I asked myself as I sidled up to the open bar, could I expect P. Bailey to be what he once was? How, I asked myself as I dived into the Ritz's fine filet mignon, could I expect him to hit the same dogs-only notes on "Reasons" that he did back in the group's Egyptology heyday of the late '70s?

Would it not be like asking Michael Jordan to come back and lead the league in scoring? Would it not be like asking Greg Norman to win the Masters this year? Would it not be like ...

Oucccch!

That sound you heard was P. Bailey. He tried to sing "Reasons." I almost had to call 911 -- it sounded as if there was a horrible accident onstage, that perhaps a speaker had fallen on a man's legs, and that he was wailing in excruciating pain. Or perhaps it was time to call the Humane Society -- it sounded as if a hawk were dying in a nearby tree.

Mean? Unfeeling? Uncaring? Au contraire, mes amis. Rather, it is my profound respect and love for P. Bailey and the lads from EWF that means I must make this honest assessment.

Which doesn't mean, of course, that I didn't get my schwerve on with my girl to "Got to Get You Into My Life." Or to "Fantasy." Or to "Let's Groove." Or that I may have ... or have not ... bum-rushed the stage -- I'll deny it if my boss asks -- to partake in a mass stage dance to the enduring classic "September."

Let's just say that in music, as in sports, we reach a time when we realize all of our better days belong on ESPN Classic. The rest is just trying to get a gig, and just trying to get through the night. And you've got to respect that, baby.

2. Ole, Ole, Ole!
Sergio Garcia -- get into him.

I've run out of descriptive nouns in my game stories. Elan. Flair. Panache. You got any others I can use? 'Cause this kid's gonna be around a loooong time, and we scribes need as many words as possible to describe someone who enjoys life, golf and being Sergio as much as this Nino.

The kid's got ridiculous amounts of game, and the moxie to match. By the time he was done regaling the press room after his win at the Mercedes, we were feeding from the trough of his hand. He owned us. Honest humor, a clipped Spanish accent, and what looks like a real-live rival to Eldrick -- this could work out real nice.

3. Strahan: King of All Sacks
Michael Strahan
Was it a magic bullet that dropped Brett Favre ... or Michael Strahan?
It was my girl who pronounced a Conspiracy Theory on Mike Strahan getting the NFL sack record. She was insistent that our guy Brett Favre took the fall -- but then again, she had just watched the DVD of Oliver Stone's "JFK" on her Imac while lying in the sun on a Maui beach, so I was thinking combo sunstroke/Stonestroke.

Then I saw the footage. I'd say our guy Favre took the fall.

You know what? It's bad if he did. It ain't right. It's not the way the record should be broken.

But it's Our Guy. It's Brett Fav-ruh. He has carte blanche at The Cooler, and if he thought it was time to go down ... well, Cooler-dwellers, it was time to go down.

Congrats, Mike Strahan. You have been touched by greatness.

4. Mark Gastineau: Now There's a Memory
Michael Strahan and Mark Gastineau
The man who was Mark Gastineau gives Strahan the "It-was-you-Fredo double-kiss."
My trusted pal Sully loved to tell the story of a co-worker who once came across the name of ex-Cal and NFL journeyman quarterback Gale Gilbert, a man with some seamy legal issues in his past. Said this fluorescent-creature, in a now-immortal line Sully and I adore: "Gale Gilbert. Mmm. He's had his share of problems."

Fast forward to January, 2002. Mark Gastineau on the field, giving Strahan the It-was-you-Fredo double-kiss on both cheeks. Suddenly, it all came back: The messy relationship with Brigitte Nielsen. The failed acting career. The general Joe Piscopo feel to Gastineau's post-Jets life.

It came to me: Mark Gastineau. Mmm. He's had his share of problems.

But you know what? Dude piled up 20-something sacks. He and Joe Klecko form one of the great NFL trivia answers of all-time. He was Mark Gastineau, man! And that counts for something. I guess.

5. The Rest of the Mainland Sports World So I guess Georgie Seifert got fired. And I guess Duke lost, causing some sort of Czech Republic coup-styled celebration in Tallahassee. And I guess the Jets pulled some ridiculous win out in Oakland.

All good. All fodder for another day. All irrelevant right now.

Because let's face it. We've got an 8:40 a.m. tee time at the Plantation Course. We've got Joe Torre in the group in front of us, raising the possibility of stinging a wayward 3-iron off the Yankee manager's golf cart.

Like we said, drape a lei around The Cooler. It's aloha! until we touch ground in a mainland airport -- and won't that be fun?

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every week for Page 2.




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