Seeking A Role Model

Man alive, nearly all of my boyhood heroes are biting the dust. Especially baseball players from the late 60’s and early/mid 70’s. Guess that’s how the life cycle works.

But one is still very much alive and kickin’. A golfer with 18 major championships. Goes by the name, “The Golden Bear”. Yesterday, TGB penned a love letter to the President and urged everyone to vote for him. Out of respect to you, I am not linking to it. Of course that’s his prerogative, just like it’s my prerogative to boycott him and his commercial empire.

There were clues along the way. He had zero sympathy for Casey Martin.

Now I find myself rooting for Collin Morikawa to win 18 more major championships sometime before I bite the dust.

So there’s a void in my life. Absent a role model, I feel adrift.

Maybe you would like to apply for the vacancy. Please submit an application starting with who you’ve voted for—or if an international friend—who you would’ve voted for given the chance. Major championship titles will only be used to break ties.

Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

The parallels between Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong are fascinating. Both seized on real and imagined slights and then exaggerated them in their minds, making them much more scandalous than they were, in order to, as Lance says in ESPN’s Armstrong documentary “Get my hate on.” The angrier they were, the better they performed. Realizing that, they became expert at sparking their anger.

They also had a win at all costs approach to their respective sports; treating teammates, and in Lance’s case support staff, as means towards that one end. Apart from their athleticism, there was very little to admire about them.

The parallels haven’t been lost on other viewers of ESPN’s recent Jordan and Armstrong docs, which has caused people to conclude that you have to be an asshole to win six NBA Championships or Seven editions of the Tour de France.

To which I call bullshit. Nice guys don’t always finish last.

Among many other examples, Magic Johnson smiled his way to five NBA titles. Russell Wilson, a regular visitor at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, won the SuperBowl. Tom Brady never denigrated his teammates. Jack Nicklaus was universally liked and Adam Scott won the Masters.

And in 2017, Ron Byrnes won the Seattle Marathon’s 50-55 age group. And a lot of people are saying he’s the nicest guy of all.*

*this is potentially misleading

Jacking Around

From the Associated Press:

Jack Nicklaus is trying something new to get more people to play golf. He is holding events at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in which the cup will be twice as large and the tournaments only will be 12 holes.

Nicklaus is concerned that fewer people are playing golf. He says it’s important to think beyond the traditional rules and try something different to make the game more appealing.

That would be THE Jack Nicklaus I idolized growing up, making his “make it two-thirds as long and far easier” logic all the more painful to process.

When marathon participation someday drops off, race officials will no doubt make marathon running more appealing by Jacking it, making it a gradual downhill 17.5 mile “fun run”.

We should probably Jack the 500 free in high school swimming too. The new more appealing “335 yard free” will be even more popular now that participants can wear fins.

And paying taxes shouldn’t be such an onerous task. Let’s Jack them. Just do your best to pay two-thirds of what you would normally owe and try to do it by June 15th if at all possible.

Time we Jack the fence at Safeco and move it in a third of the way. At least when the M’s are at bat. Offense is appealing. Similarly, let’s increase the size of soccer goals by a third. On fire now. I’m going to Jack the house-cleaning, the yard work, and my exposure to Tea-Partiers.

Obviously we have a lot of work to do making things more appealing, but at least now, thanks to the Golden Bear, we have a model. What do you say, let’s start Jacking around.

Woods, Nicklaus, the Globalization of Sports

The world is most passionate about futbol, the Canucks are hockey-crazed, and in the U.S. we’ve always staked our claim to baseball, basketball, and football. Then global interdependence accelerated and now we get spanked in international baseball competitions, the bigs are a multinational polyglot, our days of bball dominance are a thing of the past, and only football remains predominantly national in orientation.

One especially poignant event took place in 2000 that illustrates the globalization of professional sports. The Dallas Mavericks had five international players on the court at the same time—Obinna Ekezie (Nigeria); Eduardo Najera (Mexico); Steve Nash (Canaduh), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany); and Zhizhi Wang (China). If you need more evidence, check out an LPGA leaderboard.

Speaking of golf, TW is known around the world as a result of his amazing on course success, endless advertising, and sexcapades. Some in the media have reported that his Swedish wife is seeking $750 million (which will only worsen our balance of trade). Until recently, I would have bet 100% of my retirement assets that TW would break Jack’s major championship record. TW sits at 14, JN has 18. Now, I’d only bet 70%.

To win a major championship, I assume the following. You have to be play really well for four consecutive rounds. To do that, you must have your swing grooved going in, be mentally focused, and injury free (TW’s US Open win at Torrey was a freakish anomaly). Pre-sexcapade-escalade-firehydrant, TW usually had his swing grooved going into majors, was always off the charts focused, and usually healthy (pre-knee problem).

Times have changed. Hard to focus on the eight footer for par with 18″ of break when you’re wondering if your wife has discovered your most recent sexts. Then there’s the neck injury. Then there’s the swing coach that decided he wanted a divorce too.

All of those things can be fixed over time. After the divorce he’ll sleep around worry-free, his neck will probably return to normal, and eventually he’ll probably get someone to take seven figures to help with his swing.

Tiger is 34 years old and Watson almost won the British last year at 59. Apart from Gary Player, has there ever been a golfer more dedicated to fitness than TW? So let’s say his window is between 15 and 25 years. All he’d have to do to pass Jack is win one major every 3 to 5 years. Assuming he plays every major every year that’s winning one of twelve or twenty championships.

But globalization is the variable that gives me pause. As of May 31st, 2010, thirty-three of the top fifty golfers in the world are international players—66% (I did that in my head). Several of the top international players are considerably younger than Tiger, just as long, and nearly as talented—McIlroy, Kaymer, Schwartzel, Villegas, Ishikawa, Davies. As a result of the globalization of golf, Tiger faces increasingly deep fields, much more so than Nicklaus did. I wish I had a research assistant to dig into the comparable world ranking figures for Nicklaus when he was in his mid-30’s. I’m guessing the number of international players in the top 50, and the non-Gary Player major championship winners, paled by comparison.

There’s also anecdotal evidence that the next generation of golfers is going to be better than the current one. Jordan Spieth, a 16 year old, finished 16th in a PGA tour event two weeks ago. Last week he finished tied for 8th in a junior golf tournament, 9 strokes behind Anthony Paolucci (66-69-69).

Then there’s a non-globalization, psychological factor. Over the last ten years, nearly everyone nearly always has been intimidated by Tiger, wilting under the pressure of playing in his shadow. Now, not as much. Can he get back to the same level of physical and mental dominance? Possibly.

And that’s why I’m only putting 70% of my retirement assets on Tiger winning five or more majors.