Barry owes it all to my burrito
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Philosophical question: If an epic sports event happens, and you're not present at the yard/stadium/arena/ice rink to see it ... did it really happen?

This is the query I grappled with, Cooler-dwellers, on Friday night in my hometown.

Barry Bonds
After going homerless Wednesday and Thursday, Barry Bonds connected for No. 600 on Friday night.
See, Barry Bonds had been sitting on 599 home runs since Tuesday night.

And I was at the yard, see, on Wednesday night, in the season seats.

And I was at the yard, see, on Thursday afternoon, on assignment for the mothership, the San Francisco Chronicle, in the press box.

And I got bupkes.

So as Thursday's matinee ended, and as thousands of fair-weather Pac Bell fans streamed for the exits after Barry's eighth-inning at-bat, as if their hair was on fire -- not even stopping to think that the black-and-orange, down 9-3, could hang a seven-run rally on the Cubby bullpen -- I packed up my laptop and thought:

Way to go, Mr. Black Cat.

You want to see a great event live?

Don't have me anywhere near you.

I'll make a confession. I'm 34 years old, and my Epic Sports Events Seen In Person must rank waaaaay low on the Alltimer Scale.

Especially considering I've been plying my trade as a cliché-ridden hack since 1989, the year UCLA deigned to offer me a diploma. You'd think the gig would have taken me to many Musbergerian "You are Looking Live" moments at great sports moments.

But no.

A roll call, admittedly heavy on the NorCal scene:

  • Montana to Clark, The Catch, January '82? Had to watch on a TV at the parents' house in suburban S.F. (Hey, I was 14. The downstairs TV was the center of my universe.)

  • Joe Morgan, taking Terry Forster deep to eliminate the Dodgers on the final day of the '82 season? Heard it in my Grandpa's car, after we hit balls at a driving range.

  • Cal-Stanford, The Play, '82? Read about it the next day in the paper. (And really, who cares what Cal and Stanford do in football? It's like caring about what Andorra and Luxembourg do in World Cup soccer.)

    Moving on, to the L.A. college days:

  • Kirk Gibson, taking Eck deep in Game 1 of '88? Heard Jack Buck on the radio, as I drove up the 405 from LAX after a Cal-UCLA football game.

  • Magic and Showtime winning their championships? First of all, hated the Lakers. Second of all, watched it all on CBS with Stockton and Heinsohn; or listened to it with Chick Hearn -- who, it must be noted, rates a pour-out of the Sparkletts for his passing. Chick Hearn was to basketball on the radio as Magic was to a fast break.

    And that comes from a Laker-hater, dwellers.

    But there are exceptions, naturally. There have been rare moments where I've been present, and I wonder: Does it get any better?

  • UCLA over Arkansas, '95 title game? As I believe I've written in this space before, I produced that lone tear down the cheek when the final buzzer sounded in the Kingdome, not unlike the Indian who mourns the litter cluttering his American landscape from the 1970s ad campaign.

    (Side note: I received a passionate e-mail from a reader reminding me that the actor who produced that epic tear was no more an Indian than Milton Berle was an Indian; in fact, the weeping Indian was a character actor of either Italian or Jewish descent, hilariously far removed from the Native American plight. This, of course, reminded me of the fact that the Hekawe tribe from "F Troop" was made up mostly of old Jewish vaudeville actors, adding to the many layers of comedy that Hollywood produces without intention.)

    But I digress.

    Barry Bonds
    As Bonds rounded the bases, The Murph was trying to decide whether he wanted refried or black beans.
    Long story short:

    My girl and I watched Friday night's Giants-Pirates tilt on the TV. We felt the need for burritos in the fifth inning. We cruised to our local burrito joint at that time. We stopped off in our corner mart for a bottle of wine on the way home.

    And that's when my Jordanian corner mart guy -- we'll call him "T" -- told me:

    "Seeks hundred, man!"

    "Say what?" I said, craning my neck past the cash register that had rung up so many of my alcohol purchases, to his behind-counter TV.

    "Bonds," T said. "Seeks hundred!"

    On the TV, I saw the gushing celebration. Bonds had gone yard.

    I turned to my girl.

    "I go to as many games as I can," I moaned. "I stay. I root. I watch. And he hits 600 when we go get burritos!"

    She cast a sympathetic glance my way.

    "Hey," she said, "at least the burritos will be good."

    This is what we are left with:

    If you miss an epic sports event in person, make sure, at the very least, your burrito will be good.

    On to the Weekend List of Five:

    1. And then there's Sammy
    Barry who?

    Sammy Sosa
    After his power surge this weekend, Sammy Sosa is only 11 homers shy of 500.
    Let's break it down in cold, hard reality: Barry Bonds is a 38-year-old geezer with a bad hammy whose days are numbered.

    Sammy Sosa is a 33-year-old stud -- if his Dominican birth records are to be believed -- with about 500 home runs left in his bat.

    Why are we so consumed with Barry chasing Hank Aaron? Bonds, bless his maple bat, is lucky if he passes the great Willie Mays at 660.

    Sammy isn't looking at 755.

    He's looking at 1,755.

    Sammy's putting on a freaking show. He hit two bombs Thursday at Pac Bell, which totalled roughly 2,000 feet, and then hit three more Saturday at Coors, and topped it with another one Sunday at Coors, and sits on a cool 489 as we gather 'round The Cooler on a Monday.

    Say what you want about our Big Four: Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Bonds. Americans, all. God bless us, we rule, et cetera, et cetera.

    But here comes the true Dominican Dandy. My money's on him to blow past Aaron, and set his sights on Sadaharu Oh!

    2. Get your money down now: Oakland, baby
    Why should you ever doubt the Oakland A's? Art Howe is the steadiest manager in the bigs since Miller Huggins. Billy Beane is the best GM in sports since Bill Walsh used to study film and pick out pass rushers from James Madison University named Haley. The A's are packed with more young talent than "American Idol." Who doesn't want Eric Chavez at third base on their squad? Who doesn't want Miguel Tejada at shortstop on their squad? (And yes, that question goes out to every team in the bigs, except Texas.) Who doesn't want Mulder, Hudson and, especially, Zito on their squad?

    Miguel Tejada
    Miguel Tejada and the A's are making their usual late-summer push.
    Get with it, dwellers. The A's hit heartbreak in '00 and '01 in Game 5s against the Yankeees. No more of that nonsense. Like an idea whose time has come -- and this is all by way of saying they took two of three from Boston and New York on the road this week -- there is nothing so powerful as the Oakland A's.

    Get to Vegas. Now.

    3. A quick word on summer movies, circa 2002
    Granted, bad summer for flicks. The last three weekends, my girl and I have caught the following: "Road to Perdition" (Newman on the big screen -- a joy to behold); "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (the chick flick to end all chick flicks); and the latest "Austin Powers" (I'm sorry, but Nathan Lane owned me; so did Myers' Dutch dude. Call me a pawn.)

    But here's my thing:

    People and cell phones ... in movie theatres.

    You must stop. Now.

    When we went to catch "Perdition," we were early.

    I suggested we duck into another theatre in the multiplex, for giggles. For max giggles, we checked out "Mr. Deeds." A bigger waste of celluloid since "Ishtar," I can't imagine. But that's not the point. Point is, some cat's cell phone rang during the wreckage that was "Mr. Deeds."

    And he answered it.

    More to the point ...

    He struck up a conversation, and continued it, until its natural conclusion.

    During the flick.

    This is America, 2002.

    I'm not sure I like it.

    And that goes more for "Mr. Deeds" than it does for the guy on his cell phone, chatting away.

    4. The AP Top 25: Mount Olympus hath spoken
    It's out. The list of the 25 best college football teams, according to a bunch of ill-informed, bought-off, poorly-dressed and underpaid sportswriters.

    And what do they have to say?

    Ken Dorsey
    Ken Dorsey and top-ranked Miami have a 23-game winning streak.
    Miami rules.

    It's taken me about 20 years, since Howard Schnellenberger worked a pipe like Castro, to come to grips with this, but I finally have:

    In college football, the state of Florida is to the nation as Rome was to Europe in the time of Christ.

    You have to look at the few breakthroughs -- Oklahoma in '00, your occasional Nebraska -- as the rebels, as Hannibal, or the Vandals. The rest of the time? The state of Florida ruleth.

    Whether it's the 'Canes or the 'Noles or the Gators, Florida has a pull on college football somewhat akin to the state's pull on the 2000 presidential election.

    I will let that frightening thought sit in while you search for the next Waffle House on a Florida interstate.

    5. The answer to the philosophical question
    Does it matter, indeed, if we saw it live? In this age of SportsCenter? In this age of cable TV, bringing every sporting event of import into your living room?

    I don't know the answer. I do know this: When T, the Jordanian corner-mart guy, told me about "seeks hundred!" I turned to my girl and said the following words, simple, yet profound:

    "How sweet is TiVo, honey?"

    Up to the living room, then. On with the TiVo. Out with Bonds' 600th. Replays galore. Moment soaked in.

    And the burritos?

    They were damn good.

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



    Brian Murphy Archive

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    Murphy: Tour de Lance

    Murphy: Chillin' to the Euro beat

    Murphy: Our last honest man

    Murphy: We don't need no stinkin' TiVo

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