Lance Comes Clean, and So Do I

Lance Armstrong 2010
Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images

It’s been quite a week.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to complete a “Real Food” cleanse:  No refined grains, refined or artificial sweeteners, or store-bought food items containing more than five ingredients for 10 days.

Oh, and no alcohol or caffeine either.

I’ve just completed day three, and so far the cleanse hasn’t been too terrible.  I am not much of a dessert eater, so giving up refined sugar in sweets hasn’t been too taxing.  Hidden sugar can be tricky, though.  For example, mustard contains sugar.  Mustard!  Who knew?  I love my fancy mustards, and can tell you firsthand that without them, a lunch of roast beef on whole grain bread – three days in a row — is pretty bland, especially when you can’t chase it down with a bag of Cheetos or a side of curly fries.

Forgoing caffeine… Well, that’s been really rough.  I am only now regaining most of my faculties after the most brutal caffeine withdrawal I’ve ever experienced:  Blinding headache, chills and overwhelming nausea that nearly sent me running for the Red Bull.  I don’t even LIKE Red Bull.

Thankfully, I am clawing my way back to the land of the living, just in time to take in two riveting sports stories: The wheels blowing off the Lance Armstrong P.R. bus, and Manti Te’o whodunit saga.

Armstrong’s decision to come clean (pun intended) tomorrow on Oprah’s Next Chapter is fascinating, and I will be watching it, recording it, and hopefully blogging about it.  Does he really think he’s still in control of the narrative?  How far will he go with his admissions of doping, and will anyone believe him?

The story of Manti Te’o’s dead-girlfriend-who-wasn’t just emerged today.  Wow.  It’s going to take a lot more than an Oprah Winfrey interview to sort that one out. Is Te’o just a dumb, gullible jock who fell for a cruel hoax, and if so who was behind it?  Or is he an opportunistic publicity seeker who helped fabricate “Lennay Kekua”, to boost his image leading up to the NFL draft?

So much sporting news to keep track of, and react to — all without the benefit of performance enhancing caffeine.  Can I do it?  In seven days, all will be revealed.  Stay tuned!

Paterno: A Review Of The Book… and The Man

Joe Paterno Statue RemovalI am not a college football fan.  I never have been, although heaven knows I’ve tried for the sake of others who live-and-die by it every fall Saturday.  The only thing I really like about college football is the marching bands.  The NFL needs more marching bands.

Prior to 2011, if you had told me that Joe Paterno was the head coach at Notre Dame I would have nodded sheepishly.  I had no idea, despite having relatives who went to Penn State and still live in State College, Pennsylvania.  Likewise, if the Jerry Sandusky/PSU scandal hadn’t happened, there isn’t a snowball’s chance I’d have ever read the new biography Paterno, by Joe Posnanski.  (As noted in previous blogs, I am a big fan of Posnanski’s blogging, though.)

Of course, the scandal did happen, and so I read the book.  I’d like to say it was illuminating, and that it made sense of the madness.  I’d like to tell you that it clearly established Joe Paterno’s innocence, or culpability.  Unfortunately, it did none of that.

Posnanski had already decided to write his biography of ‘Joe Pa’ long before the allegations of former defensive coordinator Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children surfaced.  By that point, he’d already spent nearly a year in State College, with unprecedented access to Paterno, his family and colleagues, and more than five decades of hand scribbled notes about football, and life.  I think it’s safe to say, if Sandusky’s criminal acts had not been discovered, the book would have been a glowing, reverential account of Paterno’s life.

But in early 2011, the scandal broke.  In November of that year, Sandusky was indicted on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys.  Paterno was vilified, fired, and diagnosed with terminal cancer all in short order.  On January 22, 2012, Joe Paterno died.  To no one’s surprise, these events sped up the launch of Posnanski’s book by nearly one year.

And so the first thing I noticed about Paterno was, it felt rushed.  Most biographers linger over the details of their subjects’ early years.  They interview friends and teachers to help readers understand what makes their subjects tick.  Posnanski covers little of Paterno’s upbringing in Brooklyn, aside from the fact that his parents were driven and demanding and expected great things from their son.  They wanted him to be a lawyer.  His father (who as sparingly described, seemed to be a kind, principled man) thought Joe could be president.

His military service is presented primarily through overly cheerful letters home that revealed next-to-nothing, and his college years at Brown University are covered in just a handful of pages.   At the point Paterno joins the coaching staff at PSU, he’s still pretty much an enigma.

The rest of the book lays out his football successes and failures chronologically, with occasional references to the future when (dah-DUM) everything would go terribly wrong.  Those interjections felt like teases. Sort of, “If you are reading this book to find out what Joe Pa knew about Sandusky’s shenanigans, stay tuned.”

Paterno didn’t meet my expectations, but I’m glad I read it.  For someone who knew nothing of Joe Paterno before he – and PSU – became infamous, it provides clues to how such heinous acts could have been committed, right under the nose of the architect of the “Grand Experiment”.  And the weird thing is, it’s not really complicated.

Joe Paterno was a smart guy, who liked to think of himself as intellectual because he read the classics sometimes.  But he wasn’t an intellectual.  He was utterly two-dimensional.  He cared about football.  (So did school administrators, and the Board of Directors by the way.)  He wasn’t focused on wealth or pedigree, but you can bet he cared deeply about winning, success and achievement.  His life was football, and everything – EVERYTHING – else took a backseat including his family, his friends (of which he had precious few), his health… and in the end, I believe, the welfare of vulnerable children.

Do I think Joe Paterno was aware that Jerry Sandusky had victimized children on the PSU campus?  Absolutely.  He later admitted that when then-graduate assistant Mike McCreary reported seeing Sandusky and a boy in the locker room showers, he knew “something sexual” was probably going on.  But as Posnanski hammers home throughout the book, Paterno did not believe in distractions of any kind.  Football was The Thing.  He did what was required of him; he reported the incident… and then he returned his focus to coaching, and preserving his job in the face of growing demands that he retire.

Posnanski makes much of Joe Paterno’s dedication to the intellectual growth of young men in his care.  Many players are quoted, looking back wistfully at all that Joe Pa taught them.  He fought like hell to instill important life lessons, and give players the tools for an adult life of prosperity, fulfillment and public service.

This was all great, commendable stuff.  But Joe Pa loved a winner, especially a diamond in the rough.  He reveled in telling stories about the raw talents he helped hone and buff, who succeeded on the field… and later in business, or law.  (Was it coincidental that Paterno’s parents wanted him to be a lawyer or politician, and that he seemed to hand-pick players to push very aggressively toward law school, followed by political office?)

Posnanski suggests that Paterno snubbed Jerry Sandusky’s Second Mile charity because he and Sandusky had a strained relationship.  In fact, they openly disliked one another.  Apparently, the at-risk kids Sandusky brought on the PSU campus drove Paterno nuts.   I think Joe Pa had no time for these kids because they were damaged, well beyond anything he’d encounter when recruiting high school football prodigies.  These kids probably showed little athletic prowess, and had no interest in discussing the classics.

After reading Paterno, I can’t help but suspect that if Sandusky’s shower victim had been a poor-but-motivated Pop Warner standout – a modern-day Horatio Alger character in cleats – Joe Paterno would not only have reported the suspected crime, he would have followed up, and pressed, bullied and badgered… like only Joe Pa could.

U.S. Gymnasts Are In the Pink

fencing maskI love the Olympics.  I love almost everything about them.  As I get older, I don’t just watch the sports I play (tennis), or wish I played (competitive soccer).  I appreciate ALL the athletes’ tremendous talent and dedication, and am now more likely to take the smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat approach to the games.  I watch everything.

So, I may not know the difference between a sabre and an épée… but I have decided that fencing is cool.  I especially like it when competitors trick out their face shields with their national flags.  And when their helmets are electric, and light up when touched by opponents’ weapons – that’s even better.

But what of those fencers who don’t have flag masks, and just wear… WHITE?  I mean, clearly that is some kind of subversive statement, no?  It IS!  Just ask our friends at Fox News.

It truly is a slow news day when, in a quest to say something – ANYTHING – to rile up viewers, pundits at Fox News criticize America’s gymnasts because of what they are wearing.

That’s right, Fox’s America Live host Alisyn Camerota has taken the U.S. Women’s gymnastics squad – comprised of girls averaging 16 years of age – to task because, in the process of winning gold medals last week, they wore leotards that were (*gasp*) hot pink.

“Gabby had that great moment, everybody was so excited… and she’s in hot pink.”

You won’t see a better set up than that in Olympic beach volleyball. Camerota then asked her guest, radio host David Webb (co-founder of advocacy group Tea Party 365) to weigh in.  Webb lamented that the team’s dress is an example of a slight “anti-American feeling.”

“The Chinese are wearing red predominantly as that’s their national color, if you will. So why not us, with the red white and blue?…  There’s a meaning behind the red white and blue that’s been lost in time. The field of stars. You know, the blood that’s been shed… that’s what we need to focus on and get that out in our country.”

See this is where I get confused.  I had assumed that the choice of leotard color was — for these teenage girls who have devoted their lives to the DREAM of representing the USA in the Olympics — a matter of looking pretty.  Of making their families, friends and America proud.  Of matching their attire with their copious amounts of hair glitter.

Turns out, leotards are supposed to conjure up bloody battlefields?  Sorry, I just don’t follow.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our flag. I wave it with the best of them. I get choked up every, single time an Olympic champion takes the top spot on the podium for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  But to those who laud our “stars and stripes” as a unique representation of the United States… I did about 90 seconds of internet research today, and discovered something shocking.  SHOCKING!

Red, white and blue.  The stars and stripes.  We don’t own them!

There are at least 30 flags in the world that are red, white and blue.  Twenty of them, including the flag of those lefty French, have stripes. (Mon Dieu!)  Two have one or more stars.  Eight feature both stars and stripes, including North Korea and… CUBA!  (How did this happen?  Quick, can we find a way to blame Bill Clinton?)

So get over yourselves, you sanctimonious rabble-rousers at Fox News who just CAN’T LET AMERICANS FEEL GOOD for once.  We get it, you made your fortune and built your viewership by scaring the bejesus out of people.  Look out, it’s a Muslim!  It’s Planned Parenthood!  It’s a high school science teacher with a fossil, talking about Darwinism!

Picking on dedicated, talented teenaged girls who are bringing home a gold medal?  That’s beneath even you.

Gabby, McKayla, Aly, Kyla and Jordyn.  You know it’s coming ladies.  Fox News will come a knocking, wanting an interview.  Don’t say no.  Do it… but be sure to wear hot pink!

Badminton: You Can’t Win For Losing

shuttlecockOne of my favorite sports bloggers, Joe Posnanski, has written a really funny piece about the Olympic badminton scandal involving eight players from three countries, who intentionally tanked their doubles matches.  Joe does a great job explaining the round robin system that incents players to lose.

I don’t know much about badminton, beyond the backyard version most of us played when we were about 12 years old.  Earlier in the week, an NBC sportscaster provided a quick remedial education on what makes Olympic badminton a demanding sport, including the fact that the shuttlecock can travel at speeds topping 100 mph.  (If you are asking yourself whether I’m referring to an African or European shuttlecock right now, you watch too much Monty Python.)

When I think of an athlete taking a dive, it’s usually for money, like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.  Or Marlon Brando’s character in On the Waterfront.

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been SOMEbody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

The athlete has to be subtle, so that his sabotage goes undetected.  So how, I wondered when I first heard the story, would one know if an Olympic-level badminton player was throwing a match?

Turns out it’s not difficult, when everyone on the court is trying to lose.  It’s also hysterical… unless you traveled to London for the Olympics and paid a tidy sum for your ticket to watch badminton, of course.

If both you and your opponent desperately want to lose, you can’t do anything but play your absolute, humiliating worst.  If you try to up your game even a little, to look more convincing – say, because everyone in the building is booing you – your opponent can put forth just slightly less effort and win.  Er, I mean… lose.

The only solution is, everyone puts forth as little effort as possible.  I’m surprised these players even bothered to take the covers off their racquets.

I second Joe’s recommendation; you have to watch the video.

What do you think the Chinese players were saying between points?  Given how angry the spectators were, perhaps they were planning their escape route for after the match.

“Wait, you remembered to leave the keys in the ignition right?”

Anyone else want to caption this?

Chinese badminton players

Freeh Ends Paterno’s End Run

Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno
Spanier and Paterno, Better Days.

Publication of the 267-page Freeh Report on Penn State University’s actions related to sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky dominated the news today.  Let me tell you, it is a fascinating, disturbing read.

The media has already dissected the report – which is based on 3.5 million emails and other documents and 430 interviews of current and former university officials, including trustees – left, front and sideways, so I can’t say my observations are earthshattering but… here they are:

The Heartlessness Of the Matter: The report hammers home that University President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary Schultz, Head Football Coach Joe Paterno and Athletic Director Tim Curley never demonstrated, “through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”   Their concern was ensuring that — if assaults happened – they happened somewhere OTHER THAN on the Penn State Campus.

They never spoke to Sandusky about the 1998 assault of an 11-year-old boy in the Lasch Building showers, which was reported to the University Police Department by the boy’s mother.  Likewise, they failed to ask about the welfare of Victim 2 from 2001, whose assault was witnessed and reported by Assistant Coach Mike McQueary.  When McQuery told Joe Paterno what he saw between Sandusky and the boy in the showers, Paterno waited several days to alert Curley and Schultz so as not to interfere with their weekends.

What’s more, according to his attorney Sandusky offered to provide the name of Victim 2 to Curley for questioning, but Curley said he didn’t want it.

What Jerry Knew: For more than a dozen years the “leadership” at Penn State looked the other way while Jerry Sandusky did as he pleased.  Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley were all aware of accusations against him – but Sandusky knew the PSU culture, and recognized that he had immunity.  He was untouchable.

In the face of the 1998 allegations, when interviewed by police and a Public Welfare case worker, Sandusky explained that he hugged the boy in the shower but that it wasn’t sexual.  He was cautioned against showering with boys in the future, and agreed to stop doing so.  It should have surprised no one that, over the next four years, Sandusky assaulted at least four more boys — often in those same showers.

Shortly AFTER the 1998 incident, Sandusky announced his intention to retire but requested a position running a youth camp so that he could continue to work with young people “through Penn State”.  That didn’t happen, but I suspect it was only because he was rehired for one year to assist Paterno.

Gary Schultz Is a Liar: And not a very smart one considering the evidence Louis Freeh was able to uncover about his activities related to Sandusky.  Although he testified before a grand jury in 2011 that he never knew details of the 1998 allegations, his personal emails and handwritten notes prove otherwise.  In a memo at that time, he expressed concern that Sandusky’s behavior might at best be “inappropriate” and at worst be sexually improper.  He questioned if there could be “other children”.

After interviewing Sandusky, University Police Chief Harmon reassured Schultz via email that he could “justify” not pursuing charges due to lack of clear evidence of a crime.  Justify?  An interesting word choice.

Later, after no charges were filed Schultz wrote an email to Curley and Spainer:  “I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us.”

In a Nutshell: A great analogy in the report sums up the Penn State football culture perfectly.  In 1997 – just one year before allegations of sexual abuse first surfaced – Spanier declared a sports agent “persona non grata” on campus for buying $400 worth of clothing for a Penn State football player.  Spanier said the agent “fooled around with the integrity of the University, and I won’t stand for that.”

Um, O.K.

Closing Out the US Open

2012 US Open ScoreboardWouldn’t you know it, just when I had deciphered the nearly incomprehensible leader board at the Olympic Club… the US Open was over.

The Club posted scores the old-school way; A couple of guys had stacks of cards with either players’ names, or red and black numbers, on them and updated the scoreboard manually based on instructions coming through their earpieces.  Jumbotron?  What’s a jumbotron?

Kind of low-tech, when you consider we were just a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley.  But it was rewarding too, in a way.  When I was ultimately able to make out who was in the lead and his score for the tournament, I puffed up a little like I’d cracked a secret code.

Maybe I was having so much trouble reading the scoreboard on the final day because I’d spent four hours in the wind and fog in the grandstands at the 18th.  I am only now regaining feeling in my fingers and toes.  There’s a rumor that it was toasty in other parts of the Bay Area on Sunday, but I saw none of it.  Behold the microclimate.

And so my US Open week has come to a close.  I have hung up my fanny pack – the only bag-ish thing in my closet that met the 8”x8”x8” size limit strictly enforced by the Olympic Club.  It smarts to know that I had such an awful, unflattering item from the 80’s still in my closet.  But let me be clear — I carried it over my shoulder like a tiny purse. I swear, that thing was not once worn in the traditional around-the-waist manner.  I HAVE standards!

A few additional closing thoughts:

Golf fans are good fans.  They are courteous and well-behaved.  Case in point:  On Friday I was in the crowded stands at the 7th, and a man stood to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods on the 9th. Some patrons seated further back did not feel like rising to the occasion, however, and shouted for him to sit down.

He ignored them.

Things got a little heated, and a gentleman sitting near me became pretty insistent.  Standing man said he wouldn’t sit until after Tiger’s tee shot, because otherwise he couldn’t see.  So my neighbor loudly called him a jerk.  I kid you not. Just that — a jerk.

Standing man look wounded.  He replied, “That’s not fair, sir.”  Then… he took his seat.  No punches or concession food thrown, no curse words hurled.  And so I say, golf fans are good fans.

Jason Day

In the hole!  When I watch golf on TV, I simultaneously scratch my head and roll my eyes when fans yell “Get in the hole!” the moment a golfer hits a drive, especially when the hole is a par 4 or greater.  But I now realize it’s kind of a joke.  Other fans chuckle when they hear it.  I guess it’s like when somebody pulls out a guitar to serenade his buddies, and one of them yells “Freebird!”

Tiger Woods Practice GreenAgain, there’s something about Tiger.  When Tiger Woods bogeyed the 1st and 2nd holes, and double bogeyed the 3rd on Sunday, a lot of fans went home.  They said “Forget it, Tiger’s done.”  Are you kidding me?  You went to the trouble and expense – not to mention risked hypothermia — to attend the US Open, when all you really cared about was a Tiger Woods victory?  It wasn’t even 3 pm, and there was so much great golf yet to be played…

I wish the course hadn’t been so difficult.  So “extremely penalizing”, in the words of Phil Mickelson.  Watching the world’s finest players struggle to reach the green, and miss putt after putt, was at times a little tedious.  But I’m glad I stuck it out to the bitter-cold end.  The photo-finish was worth it… even if cameras were prohibited for the likes of me.

Opening Up: Day Two At the Olympic Club

Rory McIlory

I was back at the Olympic Club in San Francisco bright and early on Friday morning, to catch day two of the 2012 US Open Championship.  It was a great day, with Tiger clawing to take the lead and Phil Mickelson making the cut by the skin of his teeth. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed during regular tournament play, so all the photos here are from Wednesday’s practice day.

Today (Saturday) I stayed home to watch the action from my living room sofa, and it was fun to just relax and let The Golf Channel do all the work.  I had the best seat in the house.

Watching at home can be stressful, though.  With TV cameras at every hole, the action is fast paced, and rather un-golf-like.  There’s an awful lot of talking and analysis, drowning out the dulcet sounds of birds chirping and the breeze in the cypress trees.  Still, viewers don’t miss a thing.

And so it occurs to me that attending a golf tournament is a great exercise in patience for someone like me, who does not possess that particular virtue in abundance.  I have to accept that I can’t be everywhere, to see all my favorite players’ triumphs and collapses.  I’ll hear the crowd roar and know something big is happening elsewhere.  I really hate that I’m missing something, but there’s not a thing I can do about it.

Or maybe I’ll spend 20 minutes slinking and slithering my way into a great spot to see Tiger or Rory tee off… only to have a Marshall, or professional photographer with a $15,000 lens that I covet, step directly in front of me at the last second, blocking my previously-awesome view.  I have no choice but to roll with it.

In the sunshine, green grass and Pacific breezes at the Olympic Club, there’s nothing to fret about. I have a DVR, after all.  They were invented to combat such dilemmas. And so I’ll be setting mine to record tomorrow, for the final day of play, so that I’ll know what all the cheering was about!

Until then, a few more photos…

John Peterson

I had no idea who this handsome man was when I saw him on the practice green on Wednesday, but for obvious reasons I decided to photograph him.  Many times.  I know his name now, though.  He’s 23-year-old LSU graduate and 2011 NCAA golf champ John Peterson, and today he hit a hole in one.


Andy Zhang

Also worthy of a shout out is 14-year-old Andy Zhang.  He didn’t make the cut, and today Beau Hossler was the amateur name on everyone’s lips.  But hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Andy, because his US Open press conference was pretty endearing.

Ricky Fowler

Finally, here’s Rickie Fowler.  I followed his group for a few holes on Wednesday, and women all around me were swooning.  I never completely understood his appeal until I saw him.  Now I get it.


Practice Makes Perfect: Observations From the 2012 US Open

The Olympic Club

Tiger Woods

There’s something about Tiger Woods.  Golf fans love Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, and call them by their first names as if they’ve been friends for years.  We know their practice rituals, and personal details.  But with Tiger, it’s different.  He is in a class by himself.

This was evident at the practice green, where I hung out for an hour or two on Wednesday, the final practice day of this year’s US Open.  It was quiet and low-key as 15 or so players, and their caddies and coaches, milled around.  I heard a few spectators ask the whereabouts of “Bubba”, and lament “Rory’s” late tee-off time.  Then things changed.  First, TV crews popped up all around – seemingly out of nowhere.  There was even a big television camera on a crane that was long enough to get footage on the opposite side of the practice green.  Where did THAT come from?

Then the idle chitchat among spectators stopped, replaced by murmurs of “He’s here. Tiger’s HERE.”  It spread like the wave at a Major League Baseball game.

To what can we attribute this reaction? It’s true, Tiger is a spectacular talent and when he catastrophically fell from grace, most of us couldn’t look away.

Perhaps fans want to see a resurrection of sorts.  Americans love redemption, almost as much as we love to watch the rich and powerful fall down off their pedestals.  Or maybe fans have always reacted with hushed reverence when they got a glimpse of Tiger.   If that’s the case – and the guy can’t enter a room, practice area, or public event without the earth’s rotation noticeably slowing – it might help explain why he came to see himself as above the rules and social norms the rest of us live by.

Golf BagsMany professional caddies smoke.  This is a little surprising if you work under the assumption that smoking may not be conducive to cardio-pulmonary health.  A professional golfer’s bag loaded with clubs probably weighs 30 pounds, and caddies have to run with those things hanging over their shoulders – often uphill.  Smoking and caddying seem sort of incompatible but…

Miguel Ángel JiménezWhere there’s smoke, there’s Miguel Ángel Jiménez. The forty-seven-year-old Spanish golfer may smoke huge stinky stogies that seem to last for hours, but he’s clearly all about health and wellness.  Check it out.  No tight hammies on this guy!


Practice DayThey don’t call them practice days for nothing.  I went to golf tournaments in college, including a few practice rounds.  I guess I missed something, because I entered Wednesday expecting players to play 18 holes while following all the rules, as they got a feel for the course.  Not so.  There were mulligans galore, and on the greens each player probably took 10 practice putts from various locations.  On the 8th hole at Olympic, the green is on a hill.  Hit the ball short of the pin, and it’ll roll 20 yards or more back down onto the fairway.  Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell took turns testing this.

Golfers are outliers.  In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell demonstrates that excellence is no accident.  The average aficionado in anything — be it sports, music or computer programming — devotes about 10,000 hours to practice to get that way.  His hypothesis was supported on the practice green, where I watched players hit the same putt over and over — sometimes as part of precise drills.  I’d watch them miss eight inches to the left, then six inches, then four, then two until… success. Then they’d place the ball a foot or so from where it was before, and start all over.

cell phoneNo one would give me the time of day.  The US Open has a very strict “no cell phone” policy.  Security practically administers a TSA scan before they let you climb on a shuttle bus to the course, to ensure you aren’t smuggling one.  I missed having my phone and data access, but mostly I missed knowing what time it was.  Rising at the disorienting hour of 5 a.m. messed with my body clock, and it was too foggy to judge the hour by looking at the sun. Next time I’ll bring a watch.

And finally… Rory needs to get a grip.  Like golfers of every ilk, Rory McIlroy has perfected an insouciant lean-on-driver pose between shots.  Unfortunately, the bobblehead that shares his name and likeness — a gift from the San Francisco Giants — has not.

Rory McIlroy BobbleheadRory McIlroy

Just Another Day At the Office

Quite a day.  I teed off with Yang and Watney at 12:41, played 18, then came home to watch Matty Cain pitch a perfect game. I’m exhausted!  Mom told me there’d be days like this.

Wait, mom never said any such thing! Today was a GREAT, completely unusual day to be savored and remembered… even if I really didn’t play in the US Open.  I just walked around the beautiful golf course, taking photos of the players, until my camera was like an anvil and I couldn’t take one more step.

Then I handed things over to Matt Cain…

US Open Practice Day Schedule

I Was Mad… But Then Came Madbum!

Rory McIlroy and Sergio RomoI have more than 100 reasons to dislike San Francisco Giants Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer tonight, and each has a dollar sign in front of it.

It was Irish Heritage Night at AT&T Park, and I went to the game in search of a Rory McIlroy bobblehead, and a photo-op of him (Rory, not the bobblehead) throwing out the first pitch.  I splurged on a seat in my favorite section by the Giants dugout.  It’s Larry territory — perfect for photo taking.

Rory threw pretty well for someone who once divulged on Twitter that the only sport he doesn’t care for is… baseball.  Then, I couldn’t believe it – he joined us all in Costa del Baerville, taking a seat four rows in front of me, next to Larry!

Unfortunately, this is when the trouble started.  It was crazy.  Streams of Larry Baer’s BFFs appeared out of nowhere, and stood fawning over Rory and air kissing one another — even after the game started.

For the rest of us, the expectation that one should wait until an at-bat is finished before getting up/returning to one’s seat applies.  Don’t time your restroom break just right? You may be forced to crawl back to your seat on your belly.

Not so for Larry and friends.

Baer was positively giddy, glad-handing and moving his friends and family around constantly.  At one point, while he was standing and blocking everyone’s view, Melky Caberea hit a smoking foul ball that whizzed no more than five feet from his head.  I don’t wish Larry injury, but I’m not sure getting bonked on the head would necessarily do him much harm.  (ZING!)

I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about Baer, but after tonight I know this for sure:  There is not a down-to-earth bone in his body.  He flamboyantly worked the crowd in “his” section.  The problem is, no more than 75% of the folks sitting there appeared to be his guests.  The rest of us paid a substantial amount of money for our tickets and wanted to watch THE GAME instead of Larry pressing the flesh.

The next time Larry Baer decides to throw a party during a Giants game, I would respectfully suggest that he rent a luxury suite upstairs.  He can certainly afford it.

Despite my feud with Larry and his entourage, I would be remiss if I didn’t say… it was a great game for the Giants.  I got a bobblehead, albeit a slightly defective one. Rory’s tiny driver keeps falling out of his hand.  I think a dab of Liquid Nails may be in order, but I suspect that’s not regulation and the USGA will disapprove.

Madison Bumgarner hit his first Major League home run tonight.  How could I stay mad, when I was so happy for Madbum?  Brandon Belt hit one too, and more than one helpful fan yelled down to Manager Bruce Bochy — just to make sure he saw it.