Strawberries and Maria ...
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

I love Wimbledon.

This, despite a rather passionate dislike for all things British.

(The Cooler has some Irish blood in it, after all, and cannot condone NBC's triumphant montage of Great Britain's "History/Tradition/Honor" before a telecast. Hey, NBC: Try blasting that montage in New Delhi, or County Cork. They've got your history/tradition/honor right here, pal.)

Anyway, back to Wimbledon.

Andy Roddick
Now that Andy Roddick has ditched the visor for a real cap, he just may win a major.

Love it.

Great event. The Cooler is always willing to be propped up at Centre Court (yes, we'll give them their spellings) for the fortnight.

Mostly, we love it for the sheer magnitude of Bud Collins.

Happened to catch Collins' "Quiet Sunday" analysis on NBC, and the Bald Bostonian was in fine form. This guy doles out nicknames like Archie Bunker doled out sociological takes. I love it.

Collins, on the 6-10 Croat who beat Lleyton Hewitt: "He's the Zagreb Zinger." On this Thai kid Paradorn Srichaphan, who faces Andy Roddick today: Jimmy Roberts accused Collins of dubbing him the "Thai Breaker," while Collins volleyed back that he has now graduated to calling the lad the "Bangkok Banger."

The Bangkok Banger.

Chew on that one, dwellers.

If Collins was a regular dweller, no doubt he'd label me the "San Francisco Slop-Slinger" or the "Bay Area Babbler."

To get a nickname from Bud Collins? Fantasy. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, no?

This guy is an artiste. He called Steffi Graf "Fraulein Forehand" so relentlessly, and with such surety, you wonder why he stopped short of calling Boris Becker the "Goose-Stepping Golden Boy," or the "Aryan Ace."

Meanwhile, the action at Wimbledon is crackling good stuff. This cat who dumped Hewitt -- since when did Gheorge Muresan take up tennis? As for Todd Martin's first-week exit -- dude, it's OK. You can always head back to the States and live as former California governor Jerry Brown's body double.

(I guess the only reason nobody has nominated Gov. Moonbeam and Todd Martin for a "Here's Looking at You" is that nobody in America knows who Todd Martin is. Poor tennis.)

We've got John McEnroe in top form; the highly-underrated Mary Cirillo bringing the noise, and the possibility of the eminently likable Andy Roddick winning his first major. You have to love a kid whose chances of winning a major hinged on his new coach, Brad Gilbert, telling him to dump his habit of wearing a visor. Said Gilbert: "I got rid of the Freddie Couples visor. It wasn't intimidating."

He's right, you know. When's the last time a guy in a visor ever got his way in a testosterone-laden showdown? Say you get into a fender-bender, tempers are hot, and out steps:

(a) Phil Mickelson in a visor, or ...

(b) Curt Schilling in a baseball cap.

The guy in the visor looks like a cherry; the guy in the hat looks like he might pop you one if you get mouthy.

Then again, strawberries and cream aren't the most macho snack in the world, are they?

Onward, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

1. Still on Wimbledon: this Maria Sharapova bird ...
What about the awkward dance all males over the age of 18 do every Wimbledon? We turn the TV on, we scout the tennis, and inevitably ... someone like Maria Sharapova comes along.

Maria Sharapova
Umm ... that's a fine stroke you've got there, Maria.
She televises well. She's fit. She's got legs as long as England. And she's 16. What in the name of Vladimir Nabokov is going on here? All you want to do is watch a little tennis, next thing you know you're at a casting call for the Kevin Spacey role in in "American Beauty." You know what? Let's change the subject.

2. Eric Byrnes: Take 2
A few weeks ago, we spilled ink at The Cooler in praise of Eric Byrnes, a k a The New Giambi.

We went through the whole CaliforniaSpeak, UCLA pedigree, Hair-on-Fire thing, and we hoped America would pile on the bandwagon of the A's young center fielder.

Then, two things happened.

  • We heard an interview with Byrnes where he admitted he grew up a massive Giants fan, that he videotaped every one of Will Clark's at-bats, and that he's still frosted that his high school pals remain Giants fans despite his burst into stardom for the Oakland A's. And ...

  • He hit for the cycle on Sunday, at Pac Bell Park.

    The legend is growing. Byrnes is funny, real and a hell of a ballplayer. And what does he say after his cycle against the black-and-orange?

    "I think half of my friends were the ones chanting 'What's the matter with Byrnes? He's a bum!' " Byrnes said. "Punks."

    Dig this guy.

    3. Jack McKeon: Don't piss him off
    I thought Lou Piniella was the all-time Red Ass, the Babe Ruth on your all-time Red Ass fantasy team, but after catching Trader Jack's act in that amazing 24-hour stretch at Fenway Park, all I could think was ...

    Note to self: Never cut off Jack McKeon in traffic.

    The old man was hot, wasn't he? The septugenerian McKeon probably hadn't been that hacked off since his tickets for Bill Haley and the Comets at the college mixer turned out to be fake; or when he cast a vote for Adlai Stevenson, only to see Ike win.

    So to recap: Boston scores 25 runs on Friday night. McKeon seethes, thinking the Red Sox were acting little too big for their sanitary hose.

    McKeon then spends all of Friday night recreating the character of Inigo Montoya from "The Princess Bride," telling all scribes who were still in his office:

    "My name is Jack McKeon ... I have come to avenge the death of my team's pride ... prepare to die.''

    So what happens? The Marlins on Saturday night overcome a seven-run deficit in the eighth inning, surge ahead on Mike Lowell's insanely clutch two-out, two-strike, three-run bomb, then end the game when Juan Pierre spears Johnny Damon's lineout for a game-ending double-play.


    Who writes this stuff, Rob Reiner?

    Meanwhile, Trader Jack enjoys his hot toddy on the flight home. A happy ending in MarlinLand.

    4. Bruce Lietzke: Thanks a lot, pal
    Normally, the U.S. Senior Open doesn't rate at The Cooler, but then Tom Watson shot that 65 at Olympia Fields, and the incredibly sympathetic and likable tale of his caddie, Bruce Edwards, battling Lou Gehrig's Disease took us on that emotional ride and ... let's face it: We were all reaching for the caddie towel to dry the tears.

    Next comes the Senior Open, with the winner getting a berth to next year's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Watson and Edwards, once more, with feeling?

    You'd think the fairy tale could happen, as Watson played better than every man in the field -- except Bruce Lietzke.

    Bruce Lietzke?

    Bruce Lietzke!

    Poor Bruce Lietzke. He never won a major on the PGA Tour, and now, in the moment of his triumph, the only living things happy for him were his immediate family, and both of his chins.

    I swear, did you see him hole out to win? You could hear the wind blow. You'd have thought Saddam Hussein won the B.C. Open. Guy holes out to win a major, and he gets the kind of reception Spinal Tap got at the ill-fated record store autograph appearance.

    Meanwhile, Watson holes out and the Edwards-friendly fans are chanting "Bruuuuce" like Springsteen has just kicked into "Badlands" at the Garden.

    Hell of a deal.

    5. A final word on inter-region interleague
    I can only imagine the sort of drunken trash-talk, slurred verbiage and general Foster Brooks-ish behavior that went down at Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and the new Comiskey Park (never U.S. Cellular Field) this weekend.

    After all, those are ball towns where the rivalries can produce bloodshed, especially if William Ligue Jr. -- of the Chicago Ligues -- gets a ticket.

    (Side note: The Cooler issues an official apology on Cooler letterhead for actually being present at Olympia Fields for the 103rd U.S. Open and failing to note that William Ligue, Jr. was on the premises. He was working some stiff job, and actually came to the media center to prove how far he'd come since the days of his life when crystal meth and Jack Daniel's were considered a starter set. My Ligue Alarm failed me. I missed the contact. I deeply apologize. I've let you down, dwellers.)

    Anyway, point is ... if a mellow place like the Bay Area can produce venomous verbal jibes at an A's-Giants game, what happened at the day-night doubleheader in New York? Homicide?

    As a further point, if I'm an A's fan, I can try and rip many things about the Giants, but Pacific Bell Park would hardly be one of them. Please, A's fan. Sniff some Reality Glue. Yeah, Giants fans hate Pac Bell. The place sucks. Can we tear it down, please? Next stop: A flight to Paris where we head to the Musee d'Orsay and start ripping the Van Goghs.

    An interesting debate did develop, however: The Fan Argument over The Fan's Team's Successes. A's fans gloated -- as did Dodgers fans earlier in the week -- that the Giants have not won a World Series in San Francisco. The question, then: Is it better to have been to a World Series more recently than your heckler's team (in the case of the Dodgers, two World Series), or is it better to gloat over World Series wins accomplished in the Reagan Era?

    Interesting question, dwellers. I believe Tennyson had a take on it, when he noted, " 'Tis better to have loved and lost/Then never to have loved at all."

    But Tennyson was a blowhard, wasn't he? And definitely not a Giants fan.

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



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