By Sue Murphy
Breathe, breathe. It’s only a few short weeks until the football season begins.
I love watching football, especially when I don’t have a dog in the hunt, although I don’t care what team I’m watching, when some poor kicker stands facing a win-or-lose field goal, I have to leave the room. It’s excruciating. Poor guy, out there all alone.
In golf, every player is a kicker, every player is out there by himself with everyone staring at him. But golf is different. Golf fans cheer for everyone, celebrate every par-saving chip and groan over each missed putt. They may have a favorite player, but you don’t see Phil Mickelson foam fingers or buttons that say, “Cage the Tiger.” In golf, it’s not us against them; It’s everyone against the course.
I was out of town for the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, but I stood happily along the ropes at the Regions Tradition tournament. The Pro-Am day was great fun, seeing big name coaches and celebrities being carted around (literally) with the golfing greats, although I have to tell you, the highlight for me was when Dr. Condoleezza Rice walked up to the men’s tee, made a super shot, and insisted on walking. My kind of gal.
On day two, after the celebrities had cleared the course, it was time to get serious. I started by watching the players practice putting on the green by the clubhouse. ViJay Singh worked meticulously, same distance, different angles, over and over again. John Daly appeared with a cup in one hand (probably an Instant Breakfast) and a club in the other. A few strokes and he headed to the tee. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
Golf is different all around. Football is raucous and physical. Golf is calm and measured and purposeful. The fans are expected to be quiet, except for the one guy who yells “Get in the hole!” every single time. But even he waits until the ball leaves the tee. Think about it. No one holds up “Hush Ya’ll” signs at the Alabama/Auburn game, and good luck to them if they did.
I’m sure all golfers have their personal issues (some more than others) but you don’t see players yelling obscenities at the official who swoops in to make a rules determination. There’s very little spitting either, which I appreciate immensely. And if anyone arrived juiced up on performance-enhancing drugs, we’d know it. “Wow, Bob just hit the 17th green from the 14th tee!” The commentators might even have to raise their voices above a whisper for that one.
That’s one area where golf and football are the same: the commentators know more than the players. Just ask them. They know where the player should place his tee shot. They know which club the guy should use. They know everything. It’s probably good for the players that the commentators left their clubs in the garage because if they joined the tour, no one would stand a chance.
I’m glad Birmingham scored such prestigious golf tournaments this year. Fans could come to watch world-class play and then eat at the restaurant voted best in the United States. Take that, Atlanta.
More importantly, I think Birmingham needs golf. It’s the perfect yin to our football yang, and in a few short weeks, we’ll be yanging up big time. But if the pressure gets to you, if you just can’t watch when that poor kicker is facing a 45-yard field goal for the win, turn to the Golf Channel for a few minutes of respite. Breathe, breathe.