Losing It

Jul. 21 - [I've decided to start including more links on the site, both here in the daily briefing room and from the new Rubbernecking link on the homepage. I'll update the Rubbernecking page whenever I come across anything especially interesting (or stupid). The daily briefing will remain on its current schedule.]

I've never watched a game of golf in my life and haven't played a full 18-hole game in about two decades. On Saturday afternoon, however, the DMB found out that Denmark's Thomas Bjorn was making waves at the British Open and that was that. Watching was compulsory.

He ended the afternoon leading the pack. The DMB—hardly a golf fan herself—was thrilled. Her enthusiasm got to me. As an American, I naturally watch any international sporting event that isn't soccer wondering not whether my country will be well-represented, but which of my countrymen will win. If an American doesn't win, it's easy to shrug off the loss. We're like the New York Yankees of world sport.

It's different in Denmark—a country which could fit comfortably within the borders of Wisconsin. If you try to imagine our country fielding all its athletes, artists, scientists, astronauts, and farmers from the Badger state, you can get a pretty good idea of what it's like to be a Dane—and why they're so excited when one of their own makes an international splash.

So we decided to watch the last round of the Open on Sunday. I found myself rooting for Bjorn. The Danish commentators were exhilirated—I couldn't understand everything they said, but you don't need Berlitz to get the meaning of "o, o, o!"

It was in fact a very exciting round. We cringed in fear as Ben Curtis scored four consecutive birdies on the front nine and moved into first place; we jumped up and high-fived when he bogied repeatedly on the back nine while Bjorn moved ahead on a series of birdies.

If you're a golf fan, you hardly need to read this paragraph. On the sixteenth hole Bjorn drove straight into a bunker. That was a rough bit of luck, but what the hell; he was 4 points below par, a full three strokes ahead of Curtis, who was already done for the day, and four strokes ahead of his next-closest competitors. If he could just muddle through and make par on the final three holes, he'd still win.

A Danish champion at the British Open! Could it actually happen? It seemed inevitable—which only proves that you can be a Red Sox fan your whole life without learning anything.

As Bjorn addressed the ball from the bunker, the DMB translated the Danish commentary for me. "They say bunkers are his strength," she said. "He might be able to dodge this bullet."

Bjorn executed a quick, firm stroke of his club and the ball popped out of the bunker and onto the green.

And rolled back toward him.

And fell into the bunker.

Bjorn barely moved. He stared down at the ball blankly. He resumed his stance, drew back his club, and swung again. Once again the ball popped cleanly out of the bunker onto the green.

Once more it rolled slowly back toward him.

Once more it plopped down into the bunker.

Thomas Bjorn stared down at the ball again. Did he want to kick it? Did he want to scream? To cry? To slash his wrists? To curse God and die?

Probably. But of course he didn't. He played out the rest of the game and lost to Ben Curtis by a single stroke.

An American had won—but I was crushed. The DMB was inconsolable. "I want to cry," she said.

But of course she didn't.

I didn't feel as bad as I did when a certain ground ball went dribbling down the first base line and between a certain first-baseman's legs in 1986, costing the Red Sox their first World Series victory since 1918. That had been calamity on a cosmic scale. The sight of Thomas Bjorn in his bunker, however, watching in stoic stupefaction as his little white Tileist dribbled back toward him a second time, will be hard to shake. I imagine the image has seared itself into the collective Danish memory.

But it's probably seared itself to the memories of everyone who saw it. After all, the guy was two pars away from a two- to three-stroke victory at the British Open. His struggle in that bunker was a good example of the metaphorical power of sport. It was like a visual Book of Job—without the happy biblical ending.

Hanks & Simpson

A friendly reader writes: "Dear Mr. Moron: My pal here at work has a birthday on July 9, and I happily informed her that she shared her birthday with the likes of Tom Hanks and O.J. Simpson. She smiled at the first and frowned at the latter. Then today, while reading your delightful piece on 'pie in the face' history -- I see that you have Mr. Hanks and Mr. Simpson listed again with a July 17 birthday, however the year of their birth is one year prior to their listed dates for July 9. I am dazed and confused (nothing unusual for me, but this time you are the cause if it all). Please clear this up for me so I can sleep peacefully at night, for I fear worrying about Tom & OJ celebrating on the wrong day will have me tossing and turning for weeks."

According to IMDB, which is at least as reliable as the guys I was asking at the corner bodega, Mr. Hanks was born on July 9, 1956 in Concord, California and Mr. Simpson was born on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco.

I'll get around to updating the July birthday page sooner or later.

It's Ernest Hemingway's birthday (see Friday's Weekend Briefing). It's also the birthday of Jon Lovitz (1957), Robin Williams (1952), Cat Stevens (1948), Kenneth Starr (1946), Don Knotts (1924), Isaac Stern (1920), and Marshall McLuhan (1911).

Happy Monday!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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