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Complimentary

6/12/2008

When my future wife and I told my Nan that we were going to get married, she took my future wife aside and said:

He likes to play sports. You know he plays baseball and football and basketball and tennis and street hockey and golf. If you want to have a happy marriage and have a man who won’t run around with other girls or spend time in the gin mills, let him play his sports.

My wife has never stopped me from playing anything, but I’ve never taken advantage of it either. Okay, I’ve seldom taken advantage of it.

At barely 5-foot 9-inches tall and my playing weight being 10 pounds on either side of 155, I’ve never been a gifted athlete. What I’ve lacked in size and strength, I tried to make up for with speed, quickness, intelligence, and grit. I always tried to figure out how to be a technical athlete. To compete, I needed it.

This morning while playing golf in the sub-zero temperatures, I nearly knocked a ball on the green at the par 4 thirteenth hole. I swung hard. Really hard. As hard as I could.

I always wonder what that swing looks like. I always hope that it’s balanced and coordinated, and not hacky and wild.

My partner was our club’s Club Champion for the last three years. He is a big, strong guy. But he is also a gifted, technical golfer. He knows golf, so I asked him, “Roc, how does it look when I swing hard like that?”

“You look like a guy who knows what he’s doing.”

The best compliment I could ask for from the game’s best player. At least the best player in my world.

He’s not the first top-notch player give me a compliment. It happened once before. This time a basketball player.

Let me tell you this: When it comes to the most important part of playing basketball, getting the ball in the hole, I suck. I can dribble; I can penetrate; I can play D. I can’t shoot. The way I say it is “I have everything but the bottom of the net.”

When I was in late teens and early 20s, I would get involved in some high caliber pickup games. In many of these games, the two best players on the court would choose up sides. I was accustomed to being picked last.

One evening I was picked first by the best player ever to play at the park. I thought it must be a mistake, so I asked him, “Bird, you’ve played a lot of ball with me. Why’d you pick me? You know I can’t shoot.”

“I don’t need you to shoot, Jim. I can shoot. I know you hustle on defense. You bring the ball up the court safely. And you’ll pass me the ball. That’s all I need.”

Again, it’s the best compliment I could get from the game’s best player. At least the best player in my world.

My favorite compliment has to be when playing softball though. My size belies my abilities. I’m a small guy, but I can hit the ball hard. I’m a line-drive hitter that gets the ball in and through the gap in a hurry.

When outfielders first see me come to the plate, they don’t know what I can do. They see a little guy and figure they can cheat a little. They play in.

I take advantage of their folly.

The compliment comes the next time I’m up at the plate. The outfielders are playing twenty steps back.

An Aside

Jim Verd was a high school jock. Bigger than me by three. Maybe four.

He played varsity football and baseball. I think he wrestled too.

I’ve known him since second grade. He never considered me to be athletic in any way. Well, not until we needed an extra guy for softball when we were in our 30s and a bloated and daft Jim Verd got the call.

He was immediately inserted in the shortstop position on the field. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

When he saw me going out to center field, he asked incredulously, “Jimmy, what are you doing out there?” He expected me to be hidden in right field or behind the plate.

I smiled and said, “Just watch.”

Besides being able to hit, in the field I developed a little something I like to call “Fuck You Batter.” That’s turning hits into outs. Getting the ball when it’s in the air at all costs. Diving. Lunging. Leaping. Sprinting. Glove flashing. Denying. Fuck. You. Batter.

And wouldn’t you know it, in the first inning of a game that I ever played with Verd the batter hit a hard sinking liner toward the gap. I sprinted, flashed, dove, and “Fuck You Batter.” Right. In. Front. Of. Verd. Who was darting backward.

I jumped up. Verd was 10 feet from me. Running past him with a shit-eating grin, I flipped him the ball and said, “That’s why.”

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Swimming With the Big Fish

19/11/2008

In 2000, Tiger Woods won golf’s US Open. He did so in historic fashion — he was the only person under par in the entire field and wound up winning by 15 strokes. In doing so, he held the title for all four of professional golf’s major tournaments. This earned him continued comparisons with the all-time sports greats.

But that wasn’t the story for me.

Jeffrey Wilson plays golf once a week — Thursdays at 12 noon.

Jeffrey Wilson made it through a couple-o’-three qualifying tournaments and earned his way to play in the US Open. He was only one of two amateurs to do so.

Jeffrey Wilson “made the cut” and was able to play Saturday and Sunday at the USGA’s most prestigious event. He was the only amateur to do so. And he bettered many a pro.

Jeffrey Wilson didn’t win, but he competed against (and beat many) people who make golf their career. He would’ve won $11,000 if he were a pro. Not bad for a week’s work.

Jeffrey Wilson was back at his desk the day after being low amateur at the US Open. 9 AM. He said he’d be ready to sell Toyota’s at 9:15 AM. He’d need some coffee first.

Jeffrey Wilson played golf on Thursday. 12 Noon. As he does every week. Once a week.

But the week before that, Jeffrey Wilson swam with the big fish.

:::

This story was originally published on JimFormation.com in June of 2000.
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God and Uncle Pat

1/11/2008

My grandfather built Bey Lea Golf Course. That’s right, built it.

He, my dad, my Uncle Pat, and a crew of hand-picked workers cleared the land, sculpted the fairways and greens, laid the irrigation system, planted the grass, and all that. Pop was in charge of it all.

I played a round of golf with Uncle Pat this summer and hit my ball behind the willow tree at the bottom of the 10th fairway. “You know, Uncle Pat. I always hit it behind this stupid tree. I curse God every weekend for planting it there.”

“Umm, Jimmy. I planted that tree,” Uncle Pat said. Turns out that he and the current superintendent of the course, my Uncle Gary, planted almost all of the trees on the course.

“Well then, Uncle Pat, I curse you. At least I can put a face to my misery — and, if I feel particularly vitriolic, I can call you.”

I think of Uncle Pat every time I play the 10th hole. And probably curse him every other time. I haven’t called him yet.

This morning I hit the ball under that tree. Of course.

I started telling the above story to Jack, our golf association’s resident Born-Again Christian. When I got to the part about cursing God, Jack says, “You know, I used to curse God to. But I came to realize that He truly loves me. If you had a personal relationship with God, you wouldn’t feel the need to curse him anymore either. He really loves you, you know. We are both blessed.”

“Jack, I don’t curse God anymore. Turns out my Uncle Pat planted that stupid tree. I curse him now.

“I appreciate your sentiment though, and your dedication, and your courage to take the opportunity to preach to me. I really opened myself up to the sermon, but you’ve done your duty and it’s out of your system. We can just finish the round now, right?”

Jack smiled, “Of course.”

All Jack ever wants is the opportunity to say his piece. We all let him, though he sometimes has to pay for it with good-hearted needling.

As far as evangelizers go, Jack is among the most pleasant and unobtrusive I’ve met. If I ever feel the calling to turn back to the Church, Jack’s is the first number I’ll call.

In the meantime, I’ll curse Uncle Pat for planting the damned tree at the bottom of the tenth. But I’ll curse God for the bad bounces in the fairway that put me there.

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The Buck Stops Here

25/07/2008

It is obvious to me that the reasons that we were told that our armies needed to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein were wrong. Iraq was not in cahoots with al Qaida. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and weren’t poised to use them against us. Iraq was not actively building nuclear weapons. Iraq was not harboring terrorists.

We sent our troops into war against a foreign nation for the wrong reasons — at least not for the reasons cited. At best, we’ve made a horrible mistake. At worst, we’ve committed murder.

Either someone screwed up royally or someone is lying to us. I believe the latter.

Now over 4,000 American servicemen and women are dead. Over 100,000 innocent Iraqis are dead. A horrible precedent of unprovoked war has been created. The United States’ moral foundation has been compromised; our stead as world leader squandered. The Constitution has been circumvented. And no one has taken responsibility for it.

“The Buck Stops Here,” said a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk. He was responsible for the decisions his administration made. The current administration, I fear, won’t even admit that there is a “buck.”

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today imploring Congress to find the administration responsible for sending us to war under false pretenses. And then find the administration responsible for all ramifications and fall-out of sending us to war.

Here is the outline of the resolution being presented to the Committee:

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of
Aggression.

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article IX
Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor

Article X
Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes

Article XI
Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation’s Natural Resources

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Article XIX
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to “Black Sites” Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture

Article XX
Imprisoning Children

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements

Article XXVII
Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply

Article XXVIII
Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice

Article XXIX
Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

Article XXXIII
Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Article XXXV
Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders

You can read the details of the resolution here (pdf file).

This is heady stuff. In my opinion, the hearing today is among the most important news item of the year. I don’t understand why it’s not being covered that way.

I think Congress needs to investigate this deeply. I think that George Bush and his administration should have the opportunity to respond to the investigation.

The most appropriate forum is probably an impeachment hearing. Bush should embrace such a hearing to prove that he did the right thing. He won’t.

Hell, we’re not even going to get a full impeachment hearing.

Still, this is important.

Is anyone listening?

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Dying Words

10/04/2008

Most people who have played tournament golf as a youngster have dreamed of playing at Augusta National Golf Course and competing in the annual Masters tournament that is held there. I certainly did.

I’m thinking of this as I watch the amateur golfer, Michael Thompson, hitting into the 16th hole on that course at that tournament. He’s 20 years my junior.

When I was a kid, I had an incredible record as a high school golfer. I went into my matches prepared to win and, in my senior year, won almost all of them. So good was I that I was one of the top 10 high school golfers in the state. That was 25 years ago.

I recently started playing again. I’m a 4-handicap. And still dream of playing in the Masters.

Or, at least, I used to dream of it – until just now. Just now – I realized it will never be me.

This happens to most of us high school athletes. For a moment, we were somebody; a somebody with a bright-eyed possible future. Then, head down, we live our lives only to look back and see the promises of a glorious future fluttering behind us like shabby moths.

When I was 30-years-old my Pop asked me why I stopped playing competitive golf. I stopped because I didn’t have the time to commit to it. I had a life to begin.

“That’s a shame,” he said. “Because there were a lot of us old guys ready to invest some seed money in you just to see how far you could go.”

“Pop,” I said. “Those are words you should’ve died with.”

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