Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm one of those lucky souls who doesn't have to pay for golf stuff, you know, balls, clubs, gloves, etc. But I like to keep thunderously up to date, so the other day I visited one of those big golf stores, to see what was going on. I'm pretty unrecognizable as long as I keep my mouth shut, so I just blended in and shuffled around with the rest of the sad sacks that were there to search for something that might improve their games, and therefore, their lives.

You know, some people are really weird about this game. There was this one guy who was wandering around the store, muttering to himself, and occasionally trying something out or slipping something on. At one stage, he had a FootJoy strapped into what looked like a snow shoe on one foot, an Etonic on the other, Greg Norman's Secret on his left wrist, and a large beachball between his knees, while he made practice swings with what looked like a baseball bat filled with water. The guy looked like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

I felt like handing him a harmonica and ramming a trumpet up his butt, but then I remembered I was in Texas, so I decided against it. He probably had a Master's degree in quantum mechanics, and he might have been carrying a concealed nuclear warhead.

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed there was a lot of bizarre stuff for sale -- you know, the kind of things that only a certifiable raving golf nutcase would buy. And I thought to myself that surely there couldn't be that many of those around, could there? But in a departure from my normal M.O., and against all my better instincts, I decided to do some research. So I pulled aside one of the sales associates, a pimply youth, and revealed my identity.

He didn't know who I was, even after I had told him. But, in defense of my own undeniable famousness, it appeared that he didn't know who he was either, so I let all the air out of him, and went to find somebody else. I needed to find the kind of sick, Golf Channel-watching, psychopathic shank victim who should be working in such an establishment. It didn't take long before I had cornered "Norm," who was over in men's apparel, wearing a pair of those guaranteed-never-to-get-you-laid plus-twos, fog-lamp glasses, and an overdose-of-Zoloft grin.

Norm had a spectacular speech impediment, to which he seemed quite oblivious, but he turned out to be a veritable unused mineshaft of obscure information. Almost drowning me in sputum, he ran through the store's top sellers at breakneck speed and with frightening accuracy.

I must admit I was quite taken aback at both the volume of the saliva Norm was capable of producing and the amount of totally useless crap that he was peddling to the unsuspecting general public. I couldn't fathom that there were people in this country who were gullible enough to believe that any of this stuff might make them into a better golfer!

I thought, what sort of an idiot would spend a fortune on something so obviously full of hot air, or believe such exaggerated claims? Then I remembered that CBS hired me and that GOLF Magazine actually gives me money to write this majestic piece of sports journalism, which is ribbed and guaranteed to increase your reading pleasure or they will give you my money back.

It's at times like this that I wish this print were much smaller. But anyway, perhaps there's something to this. Maybe, if you strap on the patented "Elbow and Love-Handle Truss," and hit 10 large buckets of "Correct-O-Nuts" with a laser beam on the bill of your weighted "Head-Down Helmet," tomorrow, when you take it all off, you might shoot lower. I mean if you think about it (which you shouldn't), you should! The game would have to be a little easier if you weren't wearing all that crap, wouldn't it?

That's it! What a stroke of genius, and how fitting, that in golf, which is an impossible sport, scientists could create such a simple way to help improve the average Joe. I can see the applications in other sports already. In swimming for instance, how long can it be before we see the introduction of the new, stainless steel, full-body Speedo?

I can see the infomercial for it now: Mark Spitz, encased in the new training aid, drowning at the bottom of the pool, followed by that Irish girl -- you know, the one that swam like an anchor the year before, but the next thing you knew she'd won 17 gold medals? She developed gills and had a dorsal buttock, but she didn't do any drugs.

"After just one session in the new 'Steelo,' we guarantee you (if you're not dead) that afterwards, you will find swimming a lot easier!"

Yeah, I imagine so. And if you are dead, you can have your money back. I ordered one of those golf-training aids (which shall remain both nameless and useless) a while ago and sent it straight back, just to see if they would actually send me a refund. It promised, "Six to eight shots off my scores, or my money back!"

"Dadgummit!" I thought. "If this puppy works, I'm hangin' up the microphone and headin' back out there, to whup me a whole can of Tiger ass!"

Turns out, they had me on a technicality because I never used it. They sent it back. Perfect, I thought. Just what I need, a band for my left wrist, attached by rubber surgical tubing to an alligator scrotum clip, to stop me from "over-swinging." No kidding, I guess it would, but I'm in no mood to find out, and they can keep their lousy $19.95. How the hell did they know it hadn't been used? That's what I want to know. Not that it matters, as I'd probably need more than eight shots of a start to get in front of you-know-who.

The truth is, none of this upsets me nearly as much as the whole knick-knack industry, which was also heavily represented in this store. I mean, I'm in a golf discount warehouse, and they're selling wall-mounted, rubberized, singing fish. Now, that's Wal-Mart territory, where at least you can buy a shotgun as well, so that you can line up the fish with that hideous dancing Santa and blow the damn things to bits.

I believe that there is no place for knick-knacks in this modern world of ours. The words themselves are obnoxious enough. Knick and Knack. They sound like a pair of irritating, fuzzy, TV rodents, and I don't know about any of you, but I want a Teletubbie pinata party for my 43d birthday. But I digress.

Golf knick-knacks are utterly horrifying, and it's the people who have to make them I feel sorry for. Imagine spending your working hours in a glass-blowing sweatshop, making kelly green copies of tiny, sharp-nosed pipe smoking figures, breaking nasty little golf clubs over their knobbly little knees, titled "The Angry Leprechaun Ashtray."

"Lord, rather let me fling myself under the sacred wheels of your electric golf cart, as you make the celestial turn in 29 and burn holy rubber from the great halfway house in the sky. Much more acceptable would it be, to writhe like road kill, stained with the angelic mustard from your heavenly wiener, and spend eternity having divots taken from my unworthy personage, by the bounceless sole of your 60-degree wedge, than to have to make one of those accursed ashtrays."

If you haven't caught the drift that I don't like these things by now, you are officially not paying attention. Spare a thought also for the person sitting in the woodshop, stenciling on a picture frame -- underneath a print of a bunch of tweed-infested old duffers -- those words we know so well, "Old golfers never die." Yes, we know they never die, and we are also very well aware of what they lose.

I just hope that 150 years from now, "The Antiques Roadshow" is still on the air, and that some kind, gray haired old lady brings in that very same print. There will be a nerdy looking guy, with dandruff and a pocket square, who will listen patiently as the old lady explains how it has been in her family for five generations, and to be honest, she has absolutely no idea of its value, although she did have a great uncle Norm, who told her mother once that it was one of a kind and very valuable. Then, the nerdy guy will smile, pick up the print, and smash it over the old lady's head, and in a fit of foaming-at-the-mouth insanity, tell her that 150 years ago, it was a worthless piece of crap, which is precisely the estimate he would be inclined to give her now.

Then, in my ideal future world, on the floor, among the fragments of her precious family heirloom, the old lady would find a hand-written letter from Bobby Jones to Ben Hogan, in which Mr. Jones had revealed the secret of golf.

Hey, I like old ladies, okay?

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