Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Daughter's Emmy Award

She is in deep preparation, testing out her lines before the most trusted, discarding those that fall flat, tweaking the ones that remain, always tinkering to find the right balance. She is searching for the deepest truths, the ones that will resonate most with her audience, the ones that will draw the deepest laughs and the most knowing nods. No, I am not describing you know whom readying to do battle against you know what. Rather, I am speaking of something infinitely harder: writing a best woman speech about a bride to be.
My daughter Alex is in the final moments of study, reciting her lines like a Shakespearean actress, working on tone, inflection. Her greatest concern is that she will not live up to the impossibly high standard she set with her Emmy (that was the bride's name) winning performance last year: a rollicking two minutes that had the crowd in the palm of her hand from hello. It was a thing of beauty and there are more than a few of those assembled who consider it the gold standard. In the immediate aftermath, many came up and congratulated me as if I had done something worthy of admiration. Having taken part in the act that produced Alex does not, I believe, qualify me for special recognition.
Even today, if questioned, most of those at my daughter's coronation, also known as Emmy's rehearsal dinner, could still recall a gem or two, a magnificent blend of humor, sarcasm and pure wit, not too long or short, in many ways the equivalent of Goldilocks finding the perfect bed after trying and discarding all the others.
This weekend's subject is a person my daughter has known since they were both but tiny, adorable toddlers. She is intimately aware of all the peccadilloes, each slip and fall, every laugh and tear of her oldest and dearest friend. And that can make the task even harder, as there are too many roads to travel, too many stories to discard. Excess, despite what one of my friends suggests, is not always best.
Alex is getting married next year and I will face a slightly less Herculean task: the dad speech. I have found best man and best woman speeches almost universally engaging, the landscape dotted with ridiculously good stories and songs, tales replete with intelligent, witty banter. As for the profound words of dads like me, not so much. They tend to the sappy (my strong point), the pointless (my weakness), filled with often questionable humor, lingering far too long or lasting less than one full paragraph. So my bar is decidedly lower. Kind of like you know what in his running battle of words with you know who.
As the finishing touches are applied to my daughter's makeup and comments tomorrow night, I will worry a bit and hope that my little girl comes up with another award: the Morgan, for making  it a most memorable two minutes (give or take a few seconds), full of fun, of joy, of good memories and great expectations. Kind of like a marriage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Champion of Change

I agree wholeheartedly with those who suggest that Donald Trump would be the champion of change were he to be crowned Emperor on November 8. As of January 20, 2017 the American people could well expect that things will stop moving in their present trajectory. Let me count the ways:
1. Return to the good old days of recession and possible depression as years of job growth come to an abrupt end as trade wars with foreign nations proliferate, decimating our job force.
2.  Trickle down failures dominate our landscape as large tax cuts for the one per cent deliver nothing but large tax cuts for the one per cent. Government coffers are almost bone dry and only thing to grow larger is the possibility of collapse of our physical infrastructure and the destruction of our social safety net.
3. Nuclear war is not the abstraction it has been for over seven decades and North Korea or some other aberrant element is goaded by Mr. Trump into an exchange of emotional and then physical explosions.
4. Race relations deteriorate as Mr. Trump continues to bait and alienate with his lethal combination of brutal words and deeds. Martial law becomes the two most common words on the nightly news.
5. We have boots on the ground in ever escalating numbers as Mr. Trump follows through on his pledge to eradicate ISIS. Our former allies abandon us and America is left bleeding money and lives as our President turns his bully pulpit into the bully march around the globe.
6. Russia returns as a superpower as Mr. Putin thoroughly outmaneuvers a bewildered Mr. Trump at every turn.
The list is endless. Choose an issue, any  topic that warrants our serious consideration and attention, and I will show you how Mr. Trump will be an agent for change.

Mr. Trump has pushed fear and hatred as his central themes, of Muslims, of Mexicans, of weak armies and weak soldiers, of blacks, of women, of an America in free fall. I fully concur with him that we should be afraid, very afraid of what the future holds if this country makes the wrong choice on November 8.
Donald Trump, champion of change. In the worst way possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Still a Man Hears What He Wants to Hear and Disregards the Rest

I am worried. I am worried because I know what I heard and saw last night is not what millions of other Americans witnessed. I am reminded of the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song, The Boxer: "still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."
What did those who support Donald Trump hear last night? What did those who are undecided, or maybe contemplating a third party vote or just sitting this one out, hear? How much will their immediate responses be amended by what they read in the paper this morning, by what their colleagues at work inform them, by what the talking head tells them they really saw, even if they never noticed?
I turn to my newspaper, my cable network station for confirmation, for reassurance, for fortification. But there are millions upon millions who mock my choices, find them reprehensible and of less than no value. And they have more than ample ammunition at their fingertips to validate their belief and to assure them, no matter what I thought I witnessed last night, that their man, Donald Trump, was magnificent and in his full glory.
I won't know the temperature of this country for a few days, until the next set of polls instructs me as to whether my ears and eyes lied to me, whether Ms Clinton was presidential or wonkish, astute or acerbic, ready or not to lead this nation. I won't know for a few days whether Mr. Trump was a consummate liar, vague and unprepared, defensive and annoying, or if he was none of these but persuasive and thoughtful, demonstrative and defiant, and ready to lead this nation.

For many, last night's debate was merely :"A pocket full of mumbles, such are promises. All lies and jests."  I wait to learn if the truths I thought were evident were truly there or but products of a wishful imagination, mere mirage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

On the Death of Arnie Palmer


He played the game with passion, with swagger. Hitching up his pants, showing off those massive forearms, he was a swashbuckler, an Errol Flynn of the links.
And if John Kennedy was made for the age of television, so was Arnie Palmer. He revealed his emotions, he captured our hearts and we became his Army. When he won, we were overjoyed. And when the failures came, when he had that double bogey on the 72nd at the Masters, we suffered almost as much as the King.

His battles with Jack Nicklaus were the stuff of legend, the Golden Bear with all his length and his youth challenging the undeniable greatness that was Arnie. Along with Gary Player, these three dominated an era of golf and made the game compelling for an entire generation. 
Arnie never really faded from view, his appeal and magnetism still present to the last. And we, the members of his Army, never left his side. Now and forever we will recall his love of competition, his passion and that strange swing that didn't so much strike the ball as attack it.

There are few athletes in any sport who change the entire complexion of their game. From a sport of kings, Palmer made it a sport of the people, as we were inevitably and inexorably drawn in by the sheer force of Palmer's skills and personality. Before there was "I wanna be like Mike" there was Arnie, and we all wanted to be just like him. And for those who grew up with Arnie as our first hero of sport, we still do.

Round One

Let's Get Ready to Stumble
In the blue corner, wearing a lovely pantsuit, out of the state of New York by way of Arkansas, weighing in at (it is really impolite to guess the size of a woman), the former first lady, senator and secretary of state (no Donald, not that kind of secretary), the feisty, sometimes beaten but never defeated, the woman so much of America loves to hate,  the one and only Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In the red corner, his face glowing a wonderful shade of orange, also hailing from the Empire state (and this man knows a lot about empires), weighing in on almost everything but knowing next to nothing, the former master of Atlantic City (before it collapsed), the Miss Universe pageant (before it became totally irrelevant), and of course the one and only Apprentice (and its equally important first cousin, the Celebrity Apprentice), the ferocious, sometimes a loser but always a winner, the man who never met a mirror he didn't like, the one and only (thank God) Donald John Trump.

As they meet in the center of the ring, the referee, Lester Holt, reminds the combatants to play nice, no biting, kicking or pulling of hair (especially Mr. Trump's), no making up crap on the fly, no boring us with a hundred little facts, no facial expressions, no sighs, no finger pointing and definitely no talking out of turn. For the first violation there is a warning. The second leads to a point being taken away, and the third leads to the candidate being hauled out on a stretcher, the victim of a TKO, or at least of his or her own hubris.

As the countdown clock, which seemed to start three years ago (on those cable station screens which have so much scrolling of breaking news that we seem to forget what story we are watching), reaches zero (Dick Clark would be rolling over in his grave), the crowd roars in anticipation of the greatest disaster to befall this nation since Hostess Twinkies were temporarily removed from the shelves. 
And with that Mr.Trump, seemingly deeply offended by the instructions of Mr. Holt which the Republican candidate knows were intended to move the needle in the favor of Ms. Clinton, suddenly leaves the stage, shouting something about media bias and Lester Holt being a lackey for the man (or in this case, woman). Ms. Clinton, stunned and confused, smiling that smile that does a pretty lousy job of hiding everything she is thinking, wanders away, asking Huma Abedin as she reaches the wings whether that was a good or a bad thing that just happened (maybe she is not the best person to ask this question).

Think it couldn't play out this way? You, me and 100 million others will be tuning in just to see if it does.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Warning - This is not intended for mature audiences

Where is the politics in our political discourse? 

This debate will likely be won or lost not on a stance on abortion, health care reform, the environment, the economy, the depth of Ms. Clinton's grasp of issues or the fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding of Mr. Trump but on a wink or nod, a poorly placed grimace or a well timed smile.

Not on Black Lives Matter or ISIS, not trade with China or a nuclear North Korea, not Iran, not Putin or even the Wall, but whether Mr. Trump holds his tongue in reply to an accusation of his opponent  or Ms. Clinton loses her cool in response to one of Mr. Trump's whoppers, or yet another reference to Benghazi.

Mr. Trump is not studying in advance of Monday, even as Ms. Clinton fills her head with facts and figures. For him, this is entertainment. For her, school. For him, a play.  For her, lecture. 

Two divergent figures on stage. Not judged by the character of their being but their ability to stay in character. Not on winning a point, but an Emmy. The election seemingly hanging by a chad not on tax plans or spending cuts, not on invasions or retreats, not poverty or riches, but a Donald zinger or a Hillary laugh.

This could not be how it was intended.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

One Small Favor

Why am I so troubled, so worried and perplexed
Why am I so harried, so hassled and so vexed
Why am I uncertain, so fearful of my shadow
Why is there this darkness that's seeped into my marrow

What can cause such tension, such damage to my soul
What can leave me empty, this cleaving of my whole
What evil is there lurking, what is this devil's name
What Lucifer arises, what Satan lays it's claim

In all my days and equal nights, in all that I have known
In all the twists and every turn, in all that I've been shown
Never have I come upon a danger such as this
Never seen a warning sign signal the abyss

Turn away my glance, must not look into its eye
My screams will do me nothing, no need my bootless cry
Must I spend my days so burdened, from now into the future
Must I spend my nights so wounded, left bleeding with no suture

There is but one true answer, one remedy so certain
There is but one solution, one way to stop the hurtin'
One lever to be pulled, one hand that I must play
One way to make the sun shine and brush the clouds away

For I will wake the morrow renewed, like newborn child
Look upon the vast horizon, with expectations wild
Happy and contented, at last I'll find my peace
Serene and much elated, at last I'll be released

If only this can happen, I dare not ask for more
If just this one thing happens, I will want no more
No more sorrow, no more fear, no shudder and no shake
No more worry, no more tears, whether sleep or when I wake

Just need this one small favor, just need this one small thing
Just need to make this happen, then I'll fly on open wing
Just make the Donald disappear, please take him from our sight
And then I'll live with endless joy, instead of endless plight.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

New Top 10 - Revisionist History

A new top 10

1. George Washington - "OK, OK, I cut down that damn cherry tree, but it was about ready to fall anyway."

2. John Wilkes Booth - "I shot Lincoln but I was aiming at the mouse that was running across the floor."

3. Mark Sanford - "I was on the Appalachian Trail and then I took a detour to the house of some woman who invited me in to take a shower."

4. Bill Clinton - "I had sex with that woman, but it was her idea."

5. George Bush - "Read my lips. Maybe a few new taxes, but very small ones, so you won't even notice."

6. Bernie Madoff - "Maybe not 12 per cent, but at least 10, guaranteed."

7. Vladimir Putin - "We are not annexing Crimea. Those are not our soldiers, just some guys who made a wrong turn, and kind of got lost. Like Mark Sanford."

8. The tobacco industry - "Did we say smoking doesn't kill. I think we were misquoted."

9. Marco Rubio - "When I said I wasn't running again, I was merely stating that I had stopped jogging."

10. Donald Trump - "Hillary Clinton started this vile falsehood about our beloved President, and I put an end to it."

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Talk

Last evening, I gave a talk on the art of writing letters to the editor of the New York Times. I think, and hope it was well received.

For those unable to attend, don't worry. You can hear my words, from first to last.

Part essay, part pieces on politics, sports and the highs and lows of life, a bit of poetry (with a nod to Dr. Seuss), and hopefully much poetic sounding prose.

I hope you enjoy.

Patriotism on Bended Knee

In the wake of 9/11, there was a fervor to project unity and strength, a love for this country and for each other. We wrapped ourselves in the flag and sang our national anthem arm in arm. Rudy Giuliani made a career out of this patriotism, with his noun, a verb and 9/11. 

But we were not then a country at peace with itself, our political parties at war and our citizens armed with words and actions against one another. And 15 years later, we remain a house deeply divided.
We are a nation in crisis, and no singing of a national anthem can hide our flaws. We do not need to rise in unison to show we are as one. Instead we need to do the hard work that remains undone, recognize our shortcomings and strive to overcome them, meet our prejudices, our biases and hatreds head on.

Like the rallying cry of "Hamilton" , "we're gonna rise up", but we rise to fight the injustice not to mask it. And until we act in concert according to the aspirations of our anthem, Mr. Kaepernick and others aggrieved, whether high schooler or pro, football player or bricklayer, have good cause to kneel in silent protest. 

It is not in the words of an anthem but the actions of its citizens that this country can reveal its greatness.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Deplorable Donald Trump

   Trump's "Deplorable" Deflections

We can protest his hypocrisy, paraphrase his travesties, ridicule his heartlessness. But even as we belittle Mr. Trump for his belittling of so many, we cannot but be troubled by Ms.Clinton's oops moment.

Do not say she spoke the truth, though that might be so. It is in the castigation itself that the damage is done. It is not that so many of Mr. Trump's followers are bonded by anger, hatred, bias and resentment but that EVERY Republican voter feels that Ms. Clinton may have been pointing an accusing finger at them personally. 

Like Mr. Trump's attack on all Mexicans, although some "might be good" or Mr. Romney's 47 per cent remark, Ms. Clinton's demeaning an entire group is but recipe for disaster. Putting people in buckets, or binders, can only put you in a bind.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sisyphus and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump entered our home not through the front door but the television. He spoke to us not in the coffee shop but from a stage in an arena. He reminded us of his greatness, and others frailties, from his computer. He didn't study policy. Heck, he didn't even read. 

Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime pushing a boulder up a hill. She has done the hard work, the hardest really, logging the countless hours of learning, traveling the remotest of roads, fighting the toughest of battles. And for all her effort, all her energy devoted to us and the cause of humanity, she has endured far more slings and arrows across the bow than she ever deserved.

And where Mr. Trump most certainly would have been applauded for persevering through illness, Ms. Clinton is taunted, and it is suggested she is too weak to hold the highest office. The truth is that she is probably the strongest, physically and mentally of anyone we have seen upon this stage, a person who does not quit, does not surrender, does not back down. 

So, while Mr. Trump heads back to his own bed for a night's sleep, Ms. Clinton once more is forced to roll that boulder back up the hill. With any luck, this time she will make it to the top.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trump and the Applause Sign

 "Did you see the polls today?" was his primary theme song, "the Wall" his go to whenever the crowd seemed to be drifting off. 

He is an entertainer, trying out his shtick, seeing what the hoi polloi responds best to, creating not a platform but a series of routines.
When his Don Rickles impression got a thumbs up, Trump became a serial basher. If one "bit" got tired, or the  response sour,  like with his "McCain is no hero", he could just move on in search of the next victim. 

Far too much of America has been taken in by a charlatan, a deeply flawed candidate masquerading as whatever sells well in the moment. He is a chameleon, able to change positions in a flash, tethered not to any beliefs but only to the next routine that gathers applause. 

It is not the stuff that heroes are made of. Nor a President.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Kid in a Candy Store

For me it was like walking through the dugout past Mickey, Yogi and Whitey. There they were, Gail, Nick and Frank. Part of Murderer's Row, or as the public commonly refers to them, op ed writers for the New York Times.
Having spent almost every morning over these past years in a very one sided relationship with Gail Collins, Nicholas Kristof, Frank Bruni and others in the lineup from Paul Krugman to David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Charles Blow and Ross Douthat, I felt like I knew them intimately. I wondered if any of them read the letter's section of their paper, if any of them ever commented to themselves about one of my critiques of a column they wrote. But I couldn't ask, as I was but a guest in their home.

I had called Sue earlier in the day, told her I was working on her street (which I was, even though it was sort of on the opposite side of the city) and asked if I could stop by later. When I met up with her I advised that, apart from my wife, she and Tom knew more about my thoughts and feelings than anyone. She chuckled. Sue, Tom and Mary comprise the team of editors in the letters department of the Times. 

My son said I must have been like a kid in a candy store. I can only imagine my permanent grin as Sue escorted me around, showing me a little of the layout of the letters page for tomorrow's paper, telling me who resided in what office or cubicle. There the reporters sat, over there the video equipment for the on-line pieces. 

In some way I think Sue was as anxious to meet me as I was to finally be face to face with her. Who, after all, was this man who corresponded with her several days a week for nearly a decade? When the elevator door opened was she surprised to see a small, bald, semi-old man emerge? And was she disappointed that I was certainly much smarter, much more erudite on paper than I was in person? If she was, she hid it well, making me feel more like an honored guest than a wide eyed interloper. 

It is a very strange obsession that has attached to my being. There can be but a few handful of others like me who have made a passionate, long term commitment to writing to the New York Times.  Sue and I spoke of a possible gathering in the future of our small group of the most persistent. Where we can exchange our tales, discuss the hours spent revealing our thoughts to strangers, sizing up our competition. And maybe even meeting the Babe Ruth of our team, Felicia. If I have hit a few home runs over the years, Felicia has smacked hundreds.

When it was time to leave and I finally let Sue get back to her job, there was more than a touch of sadness. When I walked out into the street I was no longer that guy whose letters showed up regularly in the New York Times, but just another nameless person walking back to his car, fighting the traffic on the West Side Highway, heading home for the evening. 

But oh what a glorious tale I had to tell. Me, Frank, Gail and Nick, together at last. Imagining, as I strolled by, one of them exclaiming, "is that really Nussbaum? Do you think I could talk to him for a minute?"

The way it was always meant to be.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Heart of Darkness


("The Black Eyes in Trump's Life")

 A black eye to a teacher. A bad newspaper boy.  A childish stunt with a fellow student. Errors by underlings on housing requests. Allegations of sexual improprieties. Three marriages. I can hear the Trump supporters right now saying "is that the best you've got?"

But I would suggest it is not in the litany of what Mr. Trump has done wrong, but what he has not done right over his 70 years that should speak volumes. Where, with all this money and power, did Mr. Trump put it to good use? What charities has he supported with significant monies from his own pocket? What journeys has he made to help those in need? What are the list not of his bad works, but of his good ones?

For the heart of this small, petty, virulent man lies not in what he has accomplished but what he has failed to accomplish. Not in his towers,in his casinos, in his golf courses, but in the hospitals that do not bear his name, in the streets he has not walked comforting those whose life has made a turn for the worse, in the days and nights, the years and the decades he has not devoted to using his fame and wealth to benefit anyone but himself.

The tragedy and travesty that is Donald Trump should be centered not on his myriad mistakes but rather on the absence of anything positive that would make his life one worth admiring.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Death By a Thousand Cuts

Hillary Clinton has been cut up and picked at more than a piece of bad meat at a wedding. She has been dissected as often as a frog in a science class.

Her alleged misdeeds run from Benghazi to Whitewater, from email abuse to abuse of Monica, from favors for Sidney Blumenthal to Huma Abedin, from Wall Street speeches to Clinton Foundation meetings, seemingly from the time of her birth to the death of Vince Foster.

And yet, what have all these allegations, all these insinuations, all these malevolent implications revealed?
For all the effort to discredit Ms.Clinton, to find a way to get her thrown in jail or at least get her out of their hair, the Republican machine has managed to find a bunch of smoke but absolutely no raging fire.
Hillary Clinton is deemed dishonest and untrustworthy because that is how she has been forever branded.  If you, I or even Mr. Krugman were investigated to the degree that this candidate had been, we too would be considered damaged goods. And if Mr. Trump and his various questionable endeavors had undergone the level of scrutiny to which Ms. Clinton had been subjected, I think we all well know what the outcome would have revealed.
Death by a thousand cuts is the burden Ms. Clinton has had to carry with her every step of this campaign. Sometimes it must get very heavy.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Day I Quit the Game

It had been leading to this all summer. In almost six decades of playing golf I had never experienced anything like this. My wife's advise to quit kept running through my head as I made my way from hole to hole.

I said little to my playing partner. Though we shared a cart, not much conversation took place each time I hopped in. He basically left me to my own thoughts, sensing there was something different going on in my head.

I was so little when the clubs were first put in my hand, only six. My dad was a golfer, and if he liked it, well so did I. I was a natural, the game coming to me easily and the scores descending rapidly. Though I was lazy and never interested in practicing, for several years in my teens I could give a pretty good scare to par on some days.

As I meandered around the course this Saturday in early September,  I thought about the countless occasions I had made my way from tee to green. Of the time three decades past when the magic had been there for a full round. Hole in one, two chip ins and a final total of 71. Of all the years that followed and all the disappointments, the thrown clubs, the sulking and whining, the joy having vanished, the good walk spoiled.

But nothing had prepared me for what had happened this summer. It began with the thousandth adjustment to my swing, as I searched for a way to relocate the manner in which I had been able to tame the beast so many years before.

I was at the range, a place that I still almost never frequented, but frustration had forced me there. "Do this" I thought to myself. And I did. And for one shot, that slice which had been my constant companion longer than my wife, was nowhere to be seen. The ball flew straight and true, the geometry of swing and result as if Einstein had invented a new theory of relativity.

I thought of that moment, and of the ones that had preceded today during the course of this summer, as I made my way, hole to hole and shot to shot on this Saturday morning.

It was as if I drank from the fountain of youth when I emerged from the driving range that day in the early spring of 2016. I was no more the old guy with the bad back, the one who could only report of having once consistently shot scores in the 70's. I was that kid again.

I never kept a handicap, never kept an ongoing record of my rounds, but I knew that 13 of my last 17 scores had been under 80. And I could feel that something wonderful and unique was possible.

I parred the pretty difficult first, a hole that had always given me headaches in the past. My drive had been pushed, but instead of landing in the trap, it caromed off the side and landed in perfect position. If good luck could follow me this day, well who knew where this might be headed.

Par on two, par on three. Birdie on four, snaking in a twenty footer with a big left to right break. I never made left to right putts. Birdie on five. Now I was two under.

In all the years of chasing a dimpled ball around a pasture, I don't think I ever stood on a tee at two under par.  I take that back. I did once, that day decades removed when the stars aligned and I posted that 71. I was three under that day but bogeys on 17 and 18 left the final tally a mere shot the right side of heaven.

On six, I had my first bobble. An errant second shot landed me in the bunker to the right of the green. In this the summer of my great "content" my sand play had been mediocre at best. Now I hit a crisp shot, only to watch it trickle down an incline and come to rest nearly 20 feet from the hole. Another tough left to righter. Another putt made. Still two under.

A mistake on seven led to the first bogey of the day. Almost birdied eight. Still one under.

Nine was one of the two hardest fours on the course. Out of bounds on the right, the slope bringing balls in that direction and almost willing bad swings. I don't think I ever played this hole in par, for even after my best drive, I would be left with an uphill 175 yard shot to a place where more trouble lurked. Today a four foot straight putt was all that lay between me and a 34 on the front nine. I missed.

Par for this course had been 70 for nearly all its existence. But too many errant tee shots off the tee on the par four eleventh had  led to litigation with an irate homeowner, turned 70 to 69, four to three and 360 to 180.

Par on 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and then birdie on 15, barely missing eagle with my chip shot into the par 5. Par on 16.

I stood on the 17th tee at one under, two potential pars away from a 68. Forget that this was not a hard layout, forget that this was a perfect day, no breeze to distract and challenge my shots. Nothing else mattered but what was almost in my grasp.

Over the years, through all the frustration and angst, all the times I wondered out loud why I continued to go back to the course seeking to retrieve something I had lost nearly a half century earlier, there had been one consistent message from my wife: "you should have quit the day you shot that 71." She had been with me then, had witnessed first hand the ball disappearing into the cup in a single stroke from the tee. And, as I stood on 17, I thought again about her advise.

Decent tee shot on 17, followed by a really well struck seven iron, but it ended up at the back of the green. After my first three putt of the day I arrived at 18 needing par for 69.

I had been like a pitcher throwing a no hitter, sitting by himself at the end of the dugout, alone with his thoughts, nobody mentioning the obvious for fear the next batter would hit a vicious line drive single up the middle.

I had slipped but once. As I approached my birdie putt on 15, someone from the neighboring tee on 16 announced to my group that he had just birdied the last hole. "I need the birdie putt to go one under for the day." I retorted. Couldn't allow someone else a ray of sunshine when the day was only about my glory, even if it meant challenging the no hit taboo.

18 was about a 370 yard par four with little trouble, especially to the left, unless you pulled the ball very far to a grove of trees. Which I did, as I let out a bit of a primal scream. Only as the ball hit one tree squarely it rebounded into the fairway. Luck had followed me from the first tee shot to the last.
But the angle of return had been decidedly backward and so my wood second shot came up a little short. The chip which followed brought me to within about 12 feet of 69.

As the putt began its right to left curl, it looked true and pure. About two inches from glory, the ball came to rest, seemingly unaware of what one additional roll would have meant.

"That would have been for 69" my cart companion informed our other two partners. Somehow they seemed unimpressed, more focused on their eight footers than taking in the greatness of my accomplishment.

So, after nearly six decades of mulligans and gimmes, of shanks and three putts, of wind and rain, of trials and tribulations, I had played probably the best round of my life. If I had somehow managed to par 17 and 18, the asterisk would have been removed.

My wife's words kept running through my head on my drive home. Wouldn't this be the perfect time to pack it in, going out in style, like Kevin Costner had in that movie about the aging pitcher who found one last moment of glory, threw a no hitter and then headed into the sunset?

I pulled into the garage, took the clubs out of the trunk and put them gently against the wall. I walked into the house, shouted a greeting to my wife and son and headed to the computer.

I thought to myself,  "I should see if my friends can play Wednesday." So much for the day I quit the game.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wrapping Ourselves in the American Flag

We watch our Olympic athletes, in the moments after triumph, literally drape themselves in the flag. We listen to our politicians speak with huge red, white and blue reminders of their allegiance to this country looming in the background.

"Oh say can you see I am a patriot, oh say can you see I believe in everything this flag symbolizes." 

But what if the flag is tinged in the blood of injustice, in the words of hatred, in the acts of oppression? Do we have the same mandate to wrap ourselves in it then? Or do we have the right, as Mr. Kaepernick, to shed our blind adherence, to open our eyes and our mouths to the wrongs being perpetrated? Doesn't our flag allow us, even invite us, the right to express our dissatisfaction that the ideals envisioned in our anthem and symbolized by that flag are not being maintained?

There will always be visceral response to an athlete, particularly a black athlete, speaking his mind. "We pay you to perform for us, not to engage in discourse with us. Your job is not to make us think."

But it is the job of every American to put this nation's ideals to the test, and when that examination reveals our faults, to voice in ways deep and profound, the disappointment in our shortcomings. Mr. Kaepernick by his action and words is not abandoning us, but merely embracing what our flag, our anthem, intends.