A Sports Fan Speaks  

There comes a time...

There is a time on every truly great golf course when the designer forces the player to face his fears, confront himself in the mirror, over-analyze his own inner turmoil and ultimately either successfully triumph or endure endless future hours of range time discussing “weak grip” or “casting from the top.” Most famously, we all can cast our minds to the 17th Tee at the TPC Sawgrass and the generalizations of ‘golf as a reflection of life’ that NBC’s Master of the Moronic, Johnny Miller chucks around like rice at a wedding. But, truth is, in those moments, alone with your thoughts, a player and often times a person, is defined. The ability that the true Greats like Jack and Tiger had in their prime to block out the world around them, a form of uber-tunnel vision is what allowed them to consistently dominate the sport over extended periods of time. The rest of us see the water instead of the green, see the forest instead of the fairway or if a certain 23-year old Irishman is to be believed, are just not in a good place mentally dentally.

“…when you’re driftin’…” When Rory McIlroy walked off the 9th Hole in his Friday round at the Honda Classic after army golfing his way to +7 through the first eight, it left a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of fans of the current World #1. Yes, the highly publicized and highly lucrative equipment switch to Nike is undoubtedly a factor, as are the demands on his time by sponsors, press and fans alike but with great success comes the inevitable great responsibility. Nothing alienates the bill-payers and irritates one’s fellow competitors quicker than the Daly-esque mid-round WD due to Molar Malfunction, Lost Ball Syndrome or the hitherto undiagnosed Distant Girlfriend Disorder. When the Golden Bear remarks that you “shouldn’t have walked off the golf course” it means one of 2 things – either 1) you should have run or 2) it’s time to get back to ♫♫those bare necessities, those simple bare necessities and forget about your worry and your strife♫♫.

“…comes a time…” It is easy to forget that McIlroy is still just 23. With two Majors already it seems as though he’s been on the world stage for a long time and while we embrace his youthful enthusiasm and raw talent we often forget that highly emotive personalities are almost always a double-edged sword. The beautiful tapestries he painted at Kiawah Island and Congressional that left the field gasping for air are a testament to his talent but the small-town boy within is undoubtedly still struggling to come to terms with his status as a global celebrity and the intense scrutiny that comes with the position. Staring into the jaws of The Bear Trap on a particularly unfriendly and windy Florida morning at PGA National with a Driver that feels like swinging an untamed python and a smarting wisdom tooth, an early handshake and home to the new house around the corner may seem like a good idea at the time but we can safely assume that neither the PR machine nor Mom and Dad back home were too impressed.

“…when you settle down…” Time will tell of course. For Rory, it might mean some time off the stage and some casual £10 Skins with the members at Holywood Golf Club on the weekend if only to rediscover the depth of joy that comes from golf at its simplest. It took the reluctance of friends to tee it up with me and the disappointment of a father in my behaviour when he did, for me to re-examine my involvement in the sport. The misplaced belief that my Dad’s proudest moment would be the day I turned Pro was eventually offset by the enlightened understanding that he beamed far brighter at my on-course laughter and joy than over any score I ever signed my name to. Maybe that’s maturity, maybe that’s prioritizing or maybe, just maybe it is an understanding that whilst golf and golf courses often force us to confront the fears and insecurities in ourselves, it is the support and comfort of family which ultimately enables us to overcome them.

“…comes a light, feelin’s liftin’…” Few holes have the beauty and elegance of the 18th at Harbour Town. I was Even Par with two birdies and a double on the short 9th and standing over the ball on the Tee it happened… my mind went completely blank of any recognizable swing thoughts. I remember thinking that the Old Man would really love this track and with the safety valve thought of him over my shoulder saying; “Just hit it hard and hold it” (to this day I still have no idea what that means) I somehow found the short grass. Standing in the fairway I remember feeling I should play safe, middle of the green, make par, blah blah blah. Fired at the marsh-side pin, made double and walked off the 18th with a Cheshire Cat smile that couldn’t have been wider. It’s just golf after all.

“…lift that baby right off the ground…” And so Kelowna, it is time for my family and I to fly. I truly want to thank you all for allowing me to opine and tell some stories over the last two years, it has been a true pleasure. My thanks to the wonderful staff at Castanet for putting up with me and helping me out when so required. Until another time Kelowna…

Editor's note:  All of us here at Castanet are sad to see Sean go!  We very much appreciate his valuable contribution to our site through his weekly sports articles.  We wish Sean and his family the very best in the future!


The envelope please...

Thankfully, I once again managed to completely avoid watching the Oscars in favour of the final of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts but let’s see if I got the gist of it – 4 hours of pre-game Red Carpet coverage and extensive interviews of pseudo-celebs attired in some animal print concoction by Dolce Channel Armani, endless Seth McFarlane un-funnies that appear to be written by the creators of Mike & Molly, Jack Nicholson in dark shades sound asleep, several speeches that thank the talented losers, Steven Spielberg gets shafted again, a dearly departed honour roll, Barbara Streisand sings something memorable and we fade to black… How’d I do? So for all of you who had the misfortune to sit through the Annual Hollywood Drivel Fest, allow me to present the semi-topical, sport-sensitive Commish Awards which will, at least for now, provide a Lance Armstrong-sized testosterone shot to combat the all-encompassing Tour de Talk Show discussions of Anne Hathaway’s dress.

Best Supporting Actress: Danica Patrick takes the award in a landslide. Few sporting events have the pre-amble and lead-up of the Daytona 500 but the endless hours of discussion of Patrick’s romantic relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and her Pole Award - *stripper joke deleted* - left most spectator’s almost immune to the fact that, having driven a very solid and safe race, the final lap saw the NASCAR veterans freeze her out and she coasted over the finish line in 8th place. It was a definitive statement to her and her team – even high profile rookies, gender regardless, have dues to pay on the track. Other nominees included Oprah Winfrey for her ‘hard-hitting’ journalistic interview of Lance and Liz Carmouche for her role in the Rhonda Rousey Show by director Dana White.

Best Actress: The only award to receive 100% of the votes and it goes of course to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo for his ground-breaking, gender-bending role as the love of Mante’I Teo’s life, Lennay Kekua. Although the parallels can be drawn to Dustin Hoffman’s “Tootsie” and the 2010 classic “Catfish” Tuiasosopo’s dedication to the craft and immersion in to the persona almost completely makes one forget the sheer stupidity of the Notre Dame linebacker. Yes folks, 18-20 NFL teams have apparently still expressed 1st Round interest in Teo leading me to believe that Forrest Gump’s mama may well have been right – “stupid is as stupid does.”

Best Supporting Actor: This was an incredibly difficult category but the Commish Award finally went to Joe Flacco’s agent Joe Linta who continues to sell the idea that the Ravens QB has as many Championships as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning who make $18M and $20M annually respectively and as a bonus is only 28. What the man says is true – of course what is also true is that he has the same number of Championships as Trent Dilfer, Doug Williams and Brad Johnson and we may very well see the Ravens franchise tag Mr. Flacco for the 2013 season which would pay him in the region of some $14.6M and then see what the Draft brings. The plot continues to thicken. Other nominees here included Jack Harbaugh for the sheer number of times ESPN interviewed him and Hilton Botha for his incredible impersonation of Inspector Clouseau in the initial investigation at the Pistorius crime scene – this may well have been an Academy snub.

Best Actor: This was without doubt the deepest category with so many great choices. Tim Tebow still has the ESPN vote in a very creepy Harvey Weinstein “Shakespeare In Love” beats “Saving Private Ryan” kind of way, Oscar Pistorius deserves mention for his tragic Tarentino-style telling of “Love and a .45” and of course Mante’I Teo who has proven the Kirk Lazarus (“Tropic Thunder”) mantra on acting completely wrong and like Tugg Speedman goes full-on Simple Jack. But the winner has to be Lance Armstrong here and this really is a Lifetime Achievement Award of sorts. His decision to tell truths about lies and actions no longer punishable due to statutes of limitations – and to Oprah no less - and to continue to not co-operate with WADA or USADA is a level of villainy not seen since Heath Ledger reinvented the Joker. Yes Lance, chaos most definitely is fair…

Best Director: With a very late polling surge PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem squeaks out a win for his announcement that the Tour does not support the anchoring ban suggested by both the R&A and USGA and this sets up the possibility that if the governing bodies stick to their positions the Tour may very well play by a different set of rules than the rest of the world of golf. So… in the 4 Majors both the US Open and British will not allow anchoring and the Men of the Masters will most likely follow their lead, leaving the PGA alone as the Belly Putting Championship of golf and giving the sport the level of functionality most often associated with the world of boxing. The lobbying of special interest club manufacturers no doubt won this for Finchem over pre-Award favorite Gary Bettman and his unique take on labour relations in a post-Curt Flood world.

Best Movie: The Academy, facing an extremely varied and difficult choice in this category, opted for a surprisingly high budget story with minimal release… a story of young love and money, of mentorship and dreams dashed, of personal growth on the public stage and of risking it all on the flip of a coin. It is of course “Goalie”, directed by Mike Gillis and is the epic saga of one man’s inability to correctly assess the value in the people around him and his failure to consequentially allow them to flourish. The sound track too is spectacular and is highlighted by Alain Vigneault’s mournful version of “Torn Between Two Lovers”. The only criticism is that the story seems a tad contrived towards the end, as if we are to expect a Part 2.

Unfortunately Kelowna, my time in the fair Okanagan is waning and we shall have but one more meeting so until next week…

Bullet in the Chamber

Often times I find the catalogue of weekly sporting news, which I hastily scribble down in an effort to prepare for my Monday assault on your armchair opinions, horribly skewed towards an athlete or arena of athletic endeavour that I feel deserves our attention if solely for the purpose of scorn, derision or mild ridicule. This is primarily due to 2 prominent factors – a) there being a never ending parade of athletes, agents and sporting management who appear to believe that it is their Prime Directive to prove to visiting alien life forms that ‘stupid’ is more than just a state of mind and b) our Fan fascination with star power is founded on the notion that We built ‘em up for the sole express purpose of bringing ‘em down. Somehow, this makes us feel a whole lot better about ourselves in a parallel Dr. Phil universe when out of the blue our flawed, all-too-human Superstars implode, publicly combust and fall to Earth like just another random asteroid.

We speak this week of course, of Nike’s latest fallen icon and focal point of quite possibly the most ill-advised – albeit in hindsight – catchphrase of all time, Oscar Pistorius. As an aside, I would desperately like to know who is running the Ethics and Morality Vetting Department over there at the Swoosh because, on the heels of Lance Armstrong’s admission that he injected everything but the frozen remains of Ted Williams into his system and Tiger’s propensity for the Perkins’ Daily Sandwich Special (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more) it seems as though only Jay Feaster is doing a consistently worse job on a day-to-day basis. Good grief… the only thing that could have made this add any worse would have been to have had Ted Nugent in the background pointing a loaded AR-15 at Piers Morgan and a hologram of Steve Prefontaine.

The facts in this story are still not clear but what is known is this – Reeva Steenkamp is dead and the Blade Runner, one of the true Fan and Media darlings of the London Olympics has been charged with her murder. She was reportedly shot four times in the head and hands and it was initially suggested that this was a Valentine’s Day surprise gone horribly wrong. However, subsequent reports have said that Steenkamp was dressed in her nightgown, the bed showed signs of both having been in it, three of the 9MM gunshots went through the bathroom door and most disturbing of all – the discovery of a bloody cricket bat and the suggestion that Steenkamp’s skull had indeed been crushed. Police requested blood tests from Pistorius and while those results are still pending it seems as though the only possible eventuality that could further taint this already brutal murder would be a discovery of anabolic rage as a contributing factor to an already senseless crime.

While this will now play out in the Main Stream Global Media as a hideous South African remake of the O.J. Simpson story complete with topical commentary on celebrity gun culture and the pressures of life in the lime-light, it seems as though this will likely be a more bitter pill to swallow for most Sports Fans. While not everyone recognized that the Blade Runner had a right to make the crossover as a participant in the ‘able-bodied’ Olympics, there were very few in their right minds who didn’t recognize that his triumph of spirit over his own personal adversity was the truest embodiment of the Olympic ideal. The saddest irony which served as a subtext to his realization of his Olympic Dream was that, had he won Gold or any medal, the pervasive discourse amongst the so-called ‘enlightened’ Fan would have had a much different tone eerily reminiscent of those historically exclusionary days which almost every sport has struggled to conveniently forget. Sadly, he will no longer wear the mantle of role model, reluctant or otherwise from here on in and will be known as Defendant and will be judged by his peers on perhaps the most level playing field he has ever encountered.

Maybe, just maybe that is why Charles Barkley was right all those years ago. As Fans, we have this terrible tendency to - in an effort to inspire our children to bigger and better things - point at the dreaded TV screen and suggest that somehow those abstract stars of sport and entertainment should somehow represent a moral compass that our youth can aspire to. As we continue to microscopically dissect the lives of our ‘heroes’ there are few that seem to escape with their reputations intact – the intense daily scrutiny often reveals what is perhaps the easiest of truths – the gift of athletic genius does not come with a Survivor immunity necklace to protect the wearer from the human frailties which so often lose track of true magnetic moral North. Neither does the gift of being a parent but the subtle difference is that we get to look our children in the eyes every day and explain our triumphs and our mistakes… and that my friends is being a Role Model.

Until next time Kelowna…


A superb Super Bowl...honestly

Yes, the Baltimore Ravens are World Champions again after an entertaining, drama packed, over-analyzed, under-lit Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. It was a game that had just about everything one has come to know and love about the sporting spectacular – 7 hours of pre-game coverage to rehash the previous 2 weeks of hype over deer antler spray, an over-abundance of commercials which had all the humour of a Judd Apatow script submission for Schindler’s List, a half-time show which henceforth will be used as the official NFL concussion test and a power outage which caused a momentum shift which would have made Frank Reich cringe. Hell, it would have made the Third Reich cringe. And then… it was over and Joe Flacco was the MVP – which meant about 12 more people other than himself think he is an ‘elite QB’ and worth $20M per year – and Phil Simms finally stopped speaking and Jim Nantz could go back to golf where he belongs and yes, finally Ray Lewis could retire and join ESPN and spend the quiet years considering when he will publicly tell Oprah the truth about a missing blood-stained white suit.

Listen, I come not to bury Ray Lewis, I come to praise him – sort of. Perhaps no icon of the sport has reaped greater rewards from his 2nd chance to make a good 1st impression or from a public’s convenient memory loss than Ray Lewis and while I applaud his transformation, I am always a tad wary of the newborn religious warrior whose eyes have a tendency to glaze over at every mention of the Almighty. In truth, I haven’t seen someone glorify the unseen this much since Mante’i Teo dropped his confused derriere onto Dr. Phil’s couch. While the Ravens may have ridden the wave of Lewis retirement emotion all the way to the finish line, Ray himself spent much of The Last Ride looking like he was trying to tackle ghosts… or fend them off. I see it now – a remake of A Christmas Carol with Ray Lewis as Ebenezer Scrooge fending off apparitions from his past and defending his present failure to donate nary a penny to his own charitable foundation. Quick, get me Tyler Perry on the phone, he’ll be perfect for this…

What will stand out most for many about this Super Bowl will, of course be, the 34 minute power outage which according to some sources may or may not have had something to do with Beyonce’s Half-Time Show… a lighting spectacular which had engineers at the Beaver Dam wondering what they could do to perk up Las Vegas a bit. There was the briefest of nanoseconds during the performance where the world-wide audience actually thought about caring about who the other 2 members of Destiny’s Child were and then they re-focused on the headliner’s legs – well, all except of course The Real Housewives of FOX News who will regale us all with refried stories of how she lip-synched at the Obama Inauguration Part 2. In the meantime, Roger Goodell, in an effort to decrease his already sagging ratings in the city of New Orleans has issued an extensive Bounty Program aimed at tracking down and bringing to justice those responsible for the electrical malfunction at the Superdome. They will tried, sent to death row and then subsequently forgiven by Justice Paul Tagliabue while Reba McIntyre sings The Night The Lights Went Out In Louisiana for background effect.

And when the lights did come back on? That 28-6 lead that the Ravens had built up on the strength of Flacco’s arm and Jacoby Jones’ legs disappeared faster than a plate of beignets in Haloti Ngata’s locker or Lennay Kekua or a Ray Lewis limo… you pick. Fact is, Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers grabbed both Mo and Mentum by the antlers and turned the game around. Trailing 34-29 inside the 2-Minute Warning and facing 4th and Goal after 2 absolutely inexplicable designed roll-out passes, Niners QB Colin Kaepernick, under an all out blitz throws a prayer towards the corner of the end-zone and WR Michael Crabtree is unquestionably held by DB Jimmy Smith...no call, Jim Harbaugh has a surprisingly mild volcanic episode and Niners Fans claim to anyone that will listen that they were robbed.

Let’s review that play shall we? No question Crabtree gets mugged – Jimmy Smith may even now still have his wallet but the referees have been letting them play all game including some particularly interesting hand-checking that had been going on between WR Anquon Boldin and that San Francisco homophobic icon DB Chris Culliver. Yes, Coach has a right to be a little peeved in the post-game presser but no more so than Falcons coach Mike Smith was when WR Roddy White got absolutely pancaked by LB Navorro Bowman at the end of the NFC Championship Game. These 2 teams, maybe more so than any other 2 in the NFL, pride themselves on their ability to physically punish and bully their opponents so no crocodile tears now when you don’t get a ticky-tack foul on a ball that landed well out-of-bounds. In reality, Crabtree had a better chance of catching bird flu than reeling in that pass and if you call Smith for the holding, then you have to call the Niner wide-out for the illegal hands to the face that sent Smith to the canvas and the very best Jim The Volcano gets is a do-over on 4th down… which in the overall context of the game just isn’t warranted. Ravens 34 – Niners 31 and we’re done here…

Until next time Kelowna…

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About the Author

Sean McEachern is above all else a Sports Fan. Originally from Ottawa, Sean was educated at Strathallan School in Scotland. A former golf professional and graduate of the San Diego Golf Academy, Sean and his fiancee settled in Kelowna in 2010. A hospitality industry 'lifer', Sean is a sports trivia enthusiast and discussionist and is currently a staff writer at www.freethesportsman.com and at Okanagan Collection magazine. Sean recently welcomed his daughter Keira to the world on July 27th. 

Follow Sean on Twitter @sportsfanspeaks and feel free to comment on any stories at www.asportsfanspeaks.com.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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