A GRIP ON SPORTS
Some news this morning hit me in the gut. Hard. It was almost like losing a loved one. Read on.
• Do you know CBS has televised the Masters every year since 1956, the year I was born? And, it feels to me, I've watched every single one except that first airing. Even when I was in college and televised sports were not important to me – I was too busy trying to get on TV to watch TV – I watched the Masters whenever I could. And little has changed. Every year the announcers talk about how fast the greens are. Every year there is chatter about the azaleas. Every year there are multiple references to "Amen Corner." And every year, without fail, someone tells the story of Dwight Eisenhower's tree (the large tree on the left in the picture). The big old pine tree on the left side of the 17th fairway that juts out into the driving area. The big old pine tree that is there to grab wayward drives, especially from guys who play a "fade" (like me – and the 34th president). The big old pine tree Ike, an Augusta member, tried to get the membership to cut down in 1956 (there's that year again). No dice. He might have been able to move the First Army across Europe but he couldn't move a bunch of bankers and lawyers to cut down a tree. Well, Ike was a persistent cuss – you don't win a World War without being one – and he must have kept lobbying even into the afterlife. And he finally convinced the man upstairs. Why would I say that? Because of the piece of news that moved on the wires this week. Remember that recent ice storm that brought Atlanta traffic to a crunching halt? Well, it hit Augusta as well. And the ice caused damage to a few trees. But only one was hit so hard it had to be removed. Yep, Ike's tree. The 65-foot, 100-plus-year-old loblolly pine was damaged so severely the club had to take it down. That hurts. It hurts because there are few things that last your entire life. Trees, and Masters traditions, are just a couple. We have a tree in our backyard, a Norway maple, my dad and I planted the first year in this house. It's going on 30-years-old now. My dad is no longer with us, but every spring, when the buds form on the tree, he is. He bought it, he helped me haul it home, he picked the spot to put it into the ground. He watched as I dug the hole, he helped me water it and fertilize it. He talked with it when it was young. It's strong. Its shade covers the house. It is a living reminder of my dad. And If I ever had to take it down, I would be devastated. That's on one end of the "trees-are-important-for-memories" scale. The Eisenhower tree is further down the scale, at least for me, but it does – or did – have a spot. It was always there, standing guard on Augusta's 17th hole, waiting for me to turn on the TV and watch the Masters, just as I did as a child with my dad. When it was mentioned, it was an excuse for my dad to talk about Ike, and what he meant. As I got older, it was an excuse for me to show how much I learned. And, as I grew a lot older, it became a way for me to reconnect with my past. Such touchstones are important – and rare. And we have one less now. Rest in piece Ike's tree. And Ike? If this is your doing, congratulations. You finally got your way. But the rest of us are ticked at you. So ticked, in fact, that if I had the chance, this lifelong Republican would think long and hard about voting for Stevenson.
• Chiefs: If the Chiefs need a win this season – and the past few years – all they have to do is wait for Everett to visit. The last 18 times the Silvertips have invaded the Arena, the Chiefs have won. It happened again last night, 5-3. Chris Derrick has a story and this blog post on the win, which included Mitch Holmberg's 50th goal and 100th point. ... There are lots of numbers behind Portland's hot streak.
• Preps: We had this for you yesterday, but there is also a story in today's paper on Mead's gymnastic victory.
• Mariners: Justin Smoak settled his contract with the M's recently and now believes he's their starting first baseman. We'll see. ... Mike Zunino is trying something new at the plate. ... The pitchers are throwing hard. You can watch them.
• That's it for today. In case you didn't know, it is Presidents Day, a holiday – at least for the schools. Which, coincidentally, makes my column this morning even more timely. Crazy how that works, huh? Until later ...