|Spring is in the air|
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
Peel back the curtain, dwellers.
Ah, sweet month of March: Springtime ball on the radio, college hoops kicking into overdrive, and the promise of a Klan protest at the Masters in four weeks time.
What poet hasn't dreamed of such images? And if so, what rhymes with "Grand Wizard"?
The flowers are blooming, dwellers. The sun is peeking through the clouds, and in a scant fortnight, your loyal Cooler Keeper will head to the warm climes of Arizona for his ninth annual Spring Training junket with his best pals. This promises to be a terrible time, filled with ballgames and, perhaps, an occasional libation. Pity us.
Spring is in the air! Driving through the fair burg of San Francisco this weekend, caught our man in the booth, Jon Miller, calling a Cactus League game from Scottsdale. He rolled through the Giants' new 1 through 5 spots in the order -- Durham, Cruz, Jr., Aurilia, Bonds and Alfonzo -- and I nearly had to wipe away a tear. I can only imagine Giants manager Felipe Alou feels the same way. That is, unless, at age 67, he was napping in the dugout. There is no bigger Giants flag-waver than here at The Cooler, lads, but we are aware that the beloved black-and-orange, by hiring the amiable yet senior Alou, could be treading into Ronald Reagan, Second Term territory. Godspeed, Felipe.
But such are the fortunes of the vernal equinox! And of an agent who knows how to work the studio bosses.
On, then, to a Weekend List of Five:
1. College hoops: Feelin' it!
Time to wonder: What's softer, Phil Mickelson in a major with Tiger in his group ... or Roy Williams' Jayhawks heading into the tournament with a 1 or 2 seed?
"Honey, where are you taking the twins?"
"To the St. Bonnie game!"
"But there is no St. Bonnnie game, is there?"
"No, of course not. But I want my daughters to feel the sting of indignity, to learn at an early age of life's unyielding cruelties -- and plus, I think I've got a 60-40 shot of sneaking in a SportsCenter shot."
It's that time of year, dwellers!
2. The court rush: as devalued as the ruble
If you're UCLA or North Carolina, however, you don't rush the court unless you win it all.
As for the alma mater ... wow. It has come to this. A Court Rush after a win over Washington, a basketball program which, if it were a nude model, would be Kathy Bates. A Court Rush after a win that improves the record to NINE and EIGHTEEN.
I would like to believe that Pauley Pavilion was the site of the world's first Ironic Court Rush. You know, like the sarcastic cheer that goes up at a ballgame from hard-bitten fans who watch their starting pitcher walk 'em loaded on 12 pitches, only to see him finally throw a strike.
I'd love to believe The Court Rush was wholly ironic. The Court Rush mocked everything that Steve Lavin did to this program, mocked all his hair gel, and piss-poor recruiting and the loathsome manner in which he dished out pithy quotes all year, while all around him, Rome burned.
Proud of you, Bruin fans! You've set the standard.
3. Hot tip: Euro golf on the Golf Channel
When I was a younger man, I'd just be tumbling home from the pub at that time, with plenty of bogus phone numbers in my pocket, and I'd have killed for the soothing sounds of the royal and ancient game in the wee hours. Now, I'm a sad and settled-down old man, so I set the TiVo and sawed logs as the Dubai Desert Classic flickered across my screen.
You know I was all over this. Not only would I have a chance to scan the gallery for my long lost boy Johnny -- the old shoeshine guy from the "Police Squad!" episodes -- but I'd get The Cooler's favorite linkster, Ernie Els, vying for global domination with another win in a country most Americans can't find on a map.
My TiVo diligence was rewarded when a camera shot of the gallery showed three men in traditional Middle Eastern garb, sporting the stark-white sheet-like outfits, the Arabic name of which I cannot produce. You know what I'm talking about. The outfit worn by the outcast Arab in the rush scene from "Animal House."
Anyway, Laidlaw lingers on the shot for a moment, then says: "I always wonder what washing powder they use to have their whites so white." A cohort in the booth chimes in: "Brilliant white, aren't they?" And Laidlaw finishes it off, with understated awe: "I've never seen a dirty white uniform."
The only thing that could have capped it off was The Big Easy winning, but he got clipped by a Dutch dude who -- and I'm serious here -- was not ranked among the top 3,000 players in the world. Three thousand! You have to be a four-star chop to not crack the 3K mark. I'm serious. Hack City, man. Yet, Robert-Jan Derksen somehow produced a 65 under pressure, and won the damn thing. To cap it off, Derksen was sporting a collar-up look, straight out of the preppy party in the 1983 Nick Cage vehicle "Valley Girl." Damndest thing.
Wonder if he'll show up next year to defend in the snow-white garb of the Middle East? And will Laidlaw ask him about his washing powder?
This is why we are sports fans, dwellers.
4. While on the topic of golf ...
I only saw them heading to the first playoff hole when the TiVo shut down. No worries. Turns out I didn't miss a winner, when Hoch and Furyk bagged it and said it was too dark to putt on their second playoff hole. Too dark to putt? Somebody get hold of an 18-wheeler and steer that bad boy up to the green, headlights blaring! These guys are not just good, they're gazillionaires, so let's test 'em on putting in the headlights of a Mack truck. Or, hell, break out the balls with the flashing lights you see on the Infomercials. Push the envelope, lads!
I was tickled to read the A.P. account of the tourney, which said the fans "chanted and heckled the players" as they bailed off the green. This amused me, as it reminded me of the old David Letterman bit where he produced kids onstage to say, "They pelted us with rocks and garbage," in an attempt to give America a new catch phrase.
Ah, sweet memories.
5. LeBron in Gotham?
So let me get this straight: Take an 18-year-old kid. Give him tens of millions. Put him in the most high-pressure, unforgiving, unsympathetic, boiling cauldron in sports. (And this, from a guy who loves the 212.)
Yeah. Good idea. LeBron, given an impossible set of standards, would be out of the league by his 21st birthday, playing for the Ankara YMCA and floating around Europe in five years as the ultimate "What Went Wrong?" feature for Gary Smith over at Sports Illustrated, complete with Joycean stream-of-consciousness prose.
Good fit, Spike.
LeBron: Pray for Cleveland, my man.
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.