Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terps Nation Running Diary - 12.12.07 vs. Ohio

OK, gonna try a running diary edition of Terps Nation tonight. I have tried it a few times, never felt it was even worth sending out, but here goes nothing. It’s tip off time at md’s Comcast Center, 8 p.m. Md. is in the home “shirt is too tight, pants are too loose” white unis that look, in person, ridiculous, but maybe that’s just me.

Playing the Ohio Bobcats, decked out in green, just “Ohio.” Not exactly a basketball factory; Gary Trent went there if you remember him, decent power forward who stuck around the nba a few years. The Bobcats are pretty good this year, only 2 losses, both by 2 points, on the road at Temple and at Holy Cross.

Looks like that’s Steve Buckhantz doing play by play tonight.

I’m up in the media section behind the bucket; deep left corner. I am to the media section what Jerome Burney is to the Md team right now; just an unknown guy trying to mix in. Md. controls the tip to Braxton Dupree, who is doing a poor imitation of Lonny Baxter. Second pass of the game is a turnover. That’s nice.

That place is about half full, this team isn’t inspiring sellouts just yet; Leon Williams first bucket for Ohio, he is going to be a problem. The big fella is from Baltimore, and he looks 30 years old, big, ripped, strong.

I’m sitting next to the student radio team by the way, bless his heart, the play by play man is wearing a suit, He’s got a snazzy red shirt with a blue tie, practicing for his future first job in Allentown, or maybe Harrisonburg. I think Harrisonburg is the smallest market that actually has a TV station.

What’s going on in the game? Oh, 1741 left to play, 4-4, Braxton Dupree on the jam after a nice feed from Hayes.

I like sitting next to the college play by play guy, feel like I have my own little personal radio announcer just two seats away. Lord knows no one else is listening to him.

But that’s not what it’s about anyway, I shouldn’t make fun, this kid is into it, he’s pretty good, and getting great experience. Maybe he’ll start in Des Moines.

OK, back to back 3s from Ohio and real quick it’s 10-4 bobcats. I think Md. is going to lose tonight, they are just not that good. Another pull up jumper and it’s 12-4 ohio. The coach who replaced Michael Adams for Maryland is upset, he’s staring down the players as they walk to the huddle and they are thinking, ‘who is that guy staring at us?’

Let’s take a reset peoeple, 1612 left in the half, Ohio hasn’t missed a shot according to student radio guy, and it’s 12-4.

Gary inserts Cliff Tucker for Osbourne and Osby for Dupree, that was quick.

We’ve got our first tv timeout, 12-6 in eventual winner Ohio’s favor.

OK, here comes the stats girl, kind of a pudgy number, last year’s stats hander-outer was, shall we say, more talented?

Hayes just missed a wide open 3 from the top of the key. I like him and all, but JJ Redick he is not. That’s all I’m sayin.

Ohio just put in either a light skinned black guy or a white guy with a really weird looking curly afro.

OOOH, Tucker with a great drive into the lane to draw the D and a dish to Gist for a big jam, I like this Tucker.

Alright, we got 1320 in the first half, its 12-8 Ohio, Md. is playing good D now, of course as I say that, some guy named Jerome throws in an off balance left handed hook shot.

The Turtle is wearing a Santa hat.

Hayes just missed another wide open 3. Mark Price he is not.

Did I mention I hosted the radio pre-game show tonight? My first gig since the Butler loss in the tournament last year. The sports director decided he wanted the job and the station manager liked me but said it was in the guy’s contract if he wanted the gig so there wasn’t much I could do other than pay moderate attention to the team and back him up, which is what I’m doing tonight. He is on vacation.

Horrible pass by Vasquez right to an ohio guy, they come down and miss, then md converts on the other end quickly, its’ 14-10 and ohio calls a TO. OK, md might win, but this team ain’t blowing anyone out.

I’ve been typing non stop for a while, I’m taking a break, it’s 8:22 p.m.

My man Jerome Tillman, gotta give him his full name props, just dunked really hard on Osby, a tomahawk over his fro, “tomafro?”

We’ve got a TV timout and it’s 16-10 ohio.

OK there’s 10 minutes left in the first half, it’s half past 8 and the joint is still only about half full. The locals aren’t exactly coming out in droves to see the 6-4 Terps. Cont me among the people who are into this team, however. They aren’t great of course, but there’s some freshman who might develop and ultimately get more minutes, and at the very least, at least we don’t have to watch Ikene Ebekwe shoot free throws anymore.

That said, he could play some D.

How am I doing so far? I am no Bill Simmons but I’ll gut it out. I’ve tried this a bunch of times in the past and always punted about 10 minutes in. I’m hanging in there til the end baby.

Speaking of Bill Simmons, who is great, and reinvented modern sports writing in my opinion, everyone thinks he also invented the whole real-time running diary thing, but I have to give proper credit to Norman Chad, who was doing it when Bill was dating cheerleaders (get the reference? Here’s a hint, “You don’t buy me out, I buy YOU out.”)

Hey, I have to give credits to the refs this year too for finally calling some walks. Not sure if anyone else has noticed, but they are definitely calling the shuffle the feet before you dribble move more this year than ever.

Nice alley-oop from osby to gist, it’s 16-12 Ohio, 8:55 left.

An “emphatic dunk” says our student broadcaster. Just took a quick peek into the rafters and here are the jerseys I see, Blake, Baxter, Dixon,

Wait, quick aside, Osby just traveled in the lane for the second time in the last 2 minutes, Keith Booth probably showed him that move.

OK, back to the rafters, then Francis, Booth, Smith., Williams…

And I just wanna say, “FRANCIS?” Steve francis played one season at Maryland, yeah, he was great, but you just don’t hnag the jersey of a guy who stuck around for one season, then refused to take millions of dollars from Vancouver and demanded a trade to Houston, then has proceeded to have a very mediocre nba career. I think the school says they hang the jersey of any all American and that’s why it’s up there, not retired, honored, but I’m saying there should be a caveat for a one and done guy. You think Coach K. has a William Avery jersey hanging in their place? I don’t.

We have a Fridge sighting. He is sitting in front of the press section and I’m certain he is going to walk out during halftime to encourage our great Maryland fans to travel to the Emerald Bowl to see the 6-6 Terps take on Oregon State.

If I was single and 10 years younger, I think I would go to SF to see that game on Dec. 28. But I’m 37 with 2 kids and if I tell Jennifer I’m leaving town for a few days to go to the Emerald Bowl, she would rightfully tell me I’m a loser. That said, it would be fun. Anyone want to go to San Francisco? We could pull this thing off in 36 hours.

What’s going on in the game anyway. Oh, it’s 21-14 Ohio, Leon Williams just completed a 3-point play for our eventual winner, Ohio University.

“Good court vision by Vasquez” according to radio guy leads to a quick Milbourne basket, Terps are within 5.

Did I mention Fridge is fat? In real life he looks like two people, neither of them skinny. He’s fat. How fat is he? His metal folding chair just screamed for a sub. He’s fat I tell you.

Md is in a dog fight here, Osby just did a whirling spin move and missed.

Nice running floater by Hayes cuts it to 23-18. He’s no Matt Kovarik either.

We’ve got 3:30 left in the half and it’s 25-18 Ohio.

Official timeout.

Crowd just got as loud as it’s been all night. Osby block? Gist jam? No, an 8 year-old just won a $50 gift certificate to the beltway plaza mall for showing off some nifty dance moves.

Terps dance team is on the court, doing their thing to the pep band’s version “get this groove, sompn’ sompn sopm; I, it’s allright, oughta sight…” What is that song?

Back to live action.

One of Maryland’s new freshman is in; Dino Gregory, he looks OK, just like the rest of the freshman class. He is no Joe Smith a la 1995.

Hayes just missed a pull-up J, he is no Juan Dixon. Gary told him to be more assertive and he is doing it, now he just needs to be more accurate.

It’s 27-18 Ohio and Gary calls a quick TO, 2:38 left in the half.

Osby throws it away after the TO, that couldn’t have been the play Gary called.

Gist tries a 3 and hits all backboard. He is no Rodney Elliott.

Ouch, a 3 from Ohio on the next possession and our third winner from a non-conference opponent in the history Comcast center is up, 30-18.

Milbourne answers with a 3, it’s 30-21. Quick steal and layin and terps draw to 30-23.

Under a minute left. I gotta get the wireless internet password from the md tech guy. There’s like 30 people along press row with laptops watching and I guess reporting on this game. How many people does it take to report on the MarylandOhio game?

Hayes just missed a wide open 3 from the right wing. He’s no Johnny Rhodes.Wait, maybe he is.

Last 15 seconds, ohio ball, up by 9. Terps get a steal but Gist gives it right back, and Mr. whitefro chucks in a little jumper. YOUR bobcats are winning 34-23 at the half; this one might not even be close.

Ah, the builid-up for the fridge appearance begins. It’s 8:49 p.m. and on the video board begins the md. football highlight reel. YOUR 6-6 Terps baby, bowl BOUND. I will try to transcribe the whole speech:

“Thank you everyone, I’d like to thank everyone for their support this year. Our fans, especially our student body, you were great. I am also going to ask for your support at the Emerald Bowl out in San Francisco on Dec. 28th, we need your hep. Go Terps.”

I may have missed a little but that was the gist it.

He’s walking back to his seat now. Someone should tell Fridge that pleats aren’t a great look on his build.

I’m going to take a break, hit the media room and eat some cookies, back in a few minutes. 8:50 p.m.

OK, back. It’s 9:02 p.m. Went with a sugar cookie and a cup of coffee for the halftime snack. Thought about double dipping and grabbing a chocolate chip also but I am carrying a few extra lbs right now and exerted an ounce of self control. Really wanted that second cookie though. You should see the media guys pile in for the cookies at halftime by the way. They put out two really big plates of chocolate chip, chocolate fudge chip, sugar and oatmeal raisin. Oatmeal raisin and sugar are always the last to go but believe me, they go.

Got the halftime stats sitting here for me when I got back. James gist is our leading Terps with 8; Hayes is 1-5 with 2 points, oh for 3 from 3. Milbourne has 5 and Osby has 4.

Md had 10 TO’s to Ohio’s 9. Glaring stat of the half is that Ohio just shot it really well, 14-24 from the field and 3-8 from 3.

We’re back to live action and Terps start with a dunk by Milbourne and cut it to 9. I wonder if Gary yelled during the halftime talk.

Vasquez comes out clapping and screaming like a wild man, he is fired up. (quick note – I wrote this whole thing in real time and only went back this morning to clean up typos. When I got home from the game last night around 12:30, turned on Comcast and saw the lowlights and saw Vasquez with the crazy facial hair. Couldn’t see that from my seat. Wow.)

OOOH, 3 by Milbourne after a 2 by Ohio and the crowd is trying to get into it.

Osby starts the second half for Dupree, that whole Dupree starting thing needs to stop, Osby is better.

Terrapin sports radio girl is trying to find my producer, Steve, and he is AWOL, she is trying to tell him that fridge wants to do a radio show to promote the Emerald Bowl. Steve eventually shows up and they work it out.

Back to the game, it’s 38-28 Ohio with Milbourne at the line, he just missed 2 straight free throws, but Ohio is called for a lane violation so he gets a chance to miss 3 in a row but gets this one… which reminds of the old 3 to make 2 rule in the nba, anyone remember that? Best players in the world get 3 to make 2? Whose idea was that?

Steal by the Terps on the inbounds, it’s 38-29, can they make a run?

Just got a call from Herbst.

Him: “are we losing?”

Me “It’s 40-29”

Call drops. Cell coverage at Comcast isn’t just bad, it’s almost non-existent. That said, it was poetic drop call.

Back to the action, we’ve got 1718 left in this game, an eventual loss.

Terps call timeout, losing 42-29. I’m watching Gary in the huddle and he seems calm enough. I think he really likes this team’s effort, they just aren’t that great.

This just in, the men’s game vs. Delaware has been moved to 6 p.m. to avoid a conflict with the Emerald Bowl on ESPN, which begins at 8:30.

It’s now time for our Tenacity Shell Shuffle.

Here comes stat girl. She told me during the half that she has finals tomorrow. College.

The shell is in Terrapin #2 by the way, the crowd roars. I have gas. I hope college student radio guy isn’t distracted, that was bad.

I just realized that the college radio team is 3 guys but only one seems to be talking. The middle guy just said something I think. They are all well dressed.

Wow, it’s 44-29 ohio, this is bad.

15:55 left, waiting for the tv TO.

Gary is calling play 2, and Hayes throws a bad pass in the lane looking for Gist, first hint of a few boos from the crowd and md calls a :30 TO to protect the ball after a scramble.

Redshirt freshman Jerome Burney is in the game for md, he is wearing #32 and looks a little like Joe Smith but, um, he is no Joe Smith.

Official timeout after a Vasquez turnover. 15:30 left in the game. I just let another one go. Maybe it’s the coffee.

This is tiring, great dish by Vasquez to Tucker, it’s is 44-31, then ohio walks, Md. has some life, they need to go on a run, still plenty of time, 14;49 left.

Hayes missed another 3 a few possessions ago I think he’s gunshy now but he needs to keep shooting I think, he can shoot, just not tonight so far.

Vasquez misses a wide open 3.

I think the most entertaining guy in the building is the student radio play by play man, he has energy. Osby misses a chippy. This is not going well.

Hey, have I told you about the food thing? Wow, here comes fridge walking toward his seat. He is so big that if you saw him randomly on the street, you would do a double take and think to yourself, that guy is really big. Can’t be healthy.

Ohio just got like 3 or 4 offensive rebounds culminating in a frustration foul by Gist, his fourth. Didn’t even realize he was in foul trouble. Her comes dino gregory, maybe he’s the answer.

What time is it? I bet simmons uses a program where it writes the time when he types, he can’t always look at the clock. Wait, I’ve been looking at my phone each time, much easier to just stare down at the computer, it’s 9:25 and Vasquez just missed another 3, followed by tucker missing a lay-up after, as my college radio friend said “a beautiful outlet pass by Osby.” Then he went with, “Holy cow, everything going wrong for the terps right now.”

48-31 Ohio with 11 minutes left.

There’s a 3 from Hayes. Man, did Md. need that.

Holy cow again, no one picks up Tillman and he posterizes Osby for the second time of the night. College radio guy just mouthed “Wow” to me. We’ve got a rapport of silent facial gestures going now. Tech on Tillman for too much celebration. Maybe he just realized his team is killing Maryland in Maryland.

Just had a little chit-chat with student radio guy. I introduced myself and told him he’s doing a nice job, which he is. His name is Joey. He said Ohio came into the game shooting 50 percent from the field, which I did not know. Then said, “how does Maryland let a 6-6, 240-pound guy dribble the length of the floor and dunk?” I didn’t know either. This kid is going places.

10:52 left in the game and Hayes is shooting 2 for the tech on the Ohio guy who celebrated a little too much, he misses the first and makes the second. He’s no Greg Manning. I need some Gas X at this point.

3 by Vasquez draws it to 50-38 with 10:22 to go, I ask again, can the Terps make a run?

Vasquez misses a long 3 after making one; he is trying to bring md back but we’ve got 8:10 to go and Ohio with a 10 point lead. Their guard pulls up for a little j to push it back to 13 and we’re inside 8. Have I mentioned that Ohio is going to win?

I hope I’m wrong of course. Hayes comes down after an Ohio miss and nails his second three, he’s got to keep shooting. It’s 54-44 with 7:04 left. I’m not saying it can’t happen.

Oh, forgot to complete the food-gate story. Media guys are none too happy about recent decision by Terps sports information to take away the free pre-game meal for games that start at 9 during the week or take place on weekends, with rationale that you have time to buy your own dinner for games at those times. Higher ups threw the day to day media guy under the bus by making him send an email to the regulars saying that in order to exert some “reasonable sanity” to our budget we are taking away some pre-game meals. This did not go over well with the masses, who enjoy dining hall food on occasion, it’s free and brings them back to when they had their very own dining hall food. They did feed us tonight, it was burgers and pasta salad. But by the time I got there, they had run out of burgers and the SID had to go out to the concessions and buy personal pizzas, so I had a papa john’s and it was bad, but it was free, because this game started at 8. If the game started at 9, I would not have been fed. Understand the system?

Back to the action … ohio is killing md on offensive boards in the second half, not sure what the toal is … what I just heard Joey say that Ohio stud, the Baltimore native Leon Williams, has 13 boards. Wow.

We’ve got a 10-point game, 56-46 with 547 to go and Joey says md is showing signs of life.

7th foul of the half on Ohio, and Braxton Dupree goes to the line, misses the one and one but terps get the rebound. After a missed 3 by tucker, gist gets called for his 5th foul, an over the back, and he is back to the bench for the night. The James Gist era isn’t as fabulous as I’d hoped it would be. I like him a lot of course, very good player, sometimes great, but not a superstar and md. desperately needs a superstar.

It’s back up to 12. and terps are running out of time, Vasquez hits a 3 to cut it to 58-49 with 4:30 to play, Md. hasn’t been any closer all half.

Wait just a second here people… Md. forces a TO and I fart again (what did I eat? Oh yeah) and Adrian Bowie throws down a dunk. We have a 7-point game with 4:11 to play. No more coffee for me.

Walking violation and Md. will have the ball with 3:49 to go, down by 7. It ain’t over yet.

Hayes misses a wide open three that would have cut the lead to 4. He’s no (you pick).

OK, it’s crunch time, let’s take a look at who Gary has on the floor for this crucial stretch. Gist fouled out, so Dino Gregory is in for him, with Hayes and Vasquez in the backcourt, Cliff Tucker on the wing (not milbourne) and osby in the middle.

Crazy runner by Vasquez, the lead is 5, I think md might win. I’m just sayin. Ohio is starting to feel a little pressure, keeps turning the ball over, I think it’s getting to them.

Vasquez just tried to make a 10 out of 10 level difficulty 3 off the dribble and a spin … guess what? Missed. Are you shocked? I like the guy but he’s not Magic Johnson.

That said, Ohio has gone cold, Terps have the ball and 1:40 left, Vasquez misses a layuip, gets the ball back, but then Vasquez charges on the baseline and gives it back.

ANOTHER turnover by Ohio, they are trying to let md win, it’s 58-53 with 1:30 to go; Tucker is fouled on the baseline, and he’s going to the line for a 1 and 1. Joey just said Tucker was ranked something or over by Rivals coming into the season, the front end of the one and one isn’t even close, Ohio ball.

Missed J by Hayes but a tip-in by Gregory and it’s 58-55 Ohio, they are currently choking. 50.9 left. Md only has 5 fouls so far, so they are going to need to foul twice to put Ohio in the bonus.. Do you foul here? If you play out the shot clock and they miss, you are down by 3 with 15 seconds left, you gotta foul right?

Gary is just playing the D, they try to get a steal for 20 seconds, doesn’t work, then foul away from the ball, that’s the 6th. So I guess now they’ll try for a steal and then send ohio to the line, it’s the right move, wish they hadn’t waited so long but they were trying to trap for a steal.

Student section is about 1/3 full by the way.

29.2 left, Ohio calls a TO on the inbound. Just did a word count check, we are bearing down on 3700. Anyone reading this nonsense? My fingers hurt. I’ve been typing about nothing for 2 hours. Gas has subsided. I think.

Joey just thanked the listeners on WMUC sports, taking time out on their Wednesday to take in Terps basketball. I’m guessing only his suitemates and mom are listening but the kid is good. He’s no Johnny Holliday of course.

OK, 27.5 left, and Ohio’s Jerome Tillman, Mr. Osby facial, is at the line for 1/1.

First one is a swish, that was big. He misses #2, here we go. Vasquez down the court, fakes a pass, takes a 3 and front rims it, he’s 5 of 16 on the night. I know this b/c I just looked on Joey’s real-time boxscore laptop.

Ohio makes 2 free throws and they are up six . Hayes airball and there’s 7.3 seconds left. Ohio bench is pretty happy right now. Md is not going to foul, Ohio holds the ball and that’s it, 61-55 Bobcats. I thought it might work out this way. This team… they are no 2002 Terps.

Hey, best news is that it’s only 10:01 p.m., I go on the air in about 30 minutes, might get home before midnight if I’m lucky.

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a running diary.


Written in real-time from 8-10 p.m. on 12.12.07

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Terence Morris Update for Baltimore Sun - October 2007

The Baltimore Sun

October 19, 2007 Friday


BYLINE: Greg Abel, Special to The Sun


LENGTH: 778 words


New York -- His career on the brink of oblivion, Terence Morris took the first steps toward basketball revival in Jerusalem last winter.

The University of Maryland product, who helped the Terrapins reach the Final Four for the first time in 2001, bounced around the NBA and the NBA Development League and competed for a team in Greece over the past five years, playing sparingly.

In December 2006, his agent, Mike Kneisley of Washington-based The Neustadt Group, worked out a deal with Hapoel Jerusalem, a well-regarded Israeli club that was looking for a power forward for the remainder of the season. So off Morris went on his continuing basketball odyssey.

Morris started slowly but began turning heads with a few huge games - particularly against Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv - including a 17-rebound effort in the league championship game.

Fast forward to last week, and the Frederick native was back in the United States, laced up and decked out in Maccabi gold. The EuroLeague power signed him to a one-year deal, and he was at Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks in an exhibition game. Morris is not back in the NBA but is expected to play a prominent role on a team highly regarded worldwide.

"It's just an opportunity," Morris said after the game, looking much like the lean, athletic forward who thrilled and frustrated Maryland fans during his four years in College Park.

Against the Knicks, Morris finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench. He played much as he did at Maryland, disruptive on defense, dunking home baskets around the rim and looking at times like an NBA talent and at times as if he could use a shot of espresso.

Morris entered the national scene during his sophomore season, 1998-99, when he was named first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference after averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Teammate Steve Francis left for the NBA, but Morris elected to stay. The next two years, he played well but not spectacularly, and he was ultimately drafted in the second round, 34th overall by the Atlanta Hawks. A trade sent him to Houston, where he stuck for two years with the Rockets and still maintains his home.

For Morris, 28, this year is huge in terms of how his basketball career will play out, his agent said. After being cut in January 2006 by the Orlando Magic, the NBA market had dried up.

"Step one was putting him in a good situation with a decent team in Europe where he could get some minutes," Kneisley said. "He parlayed that. Step two is doing well with Maccabi. They are a powerhouse team. People pay attention to big teams in the EuroLeague."

Step three is next year. Morris has just a one-year deal in the "high six figures" according to The Neustadt Group, so his play this year will dictate whether he goes backward or forward, whether he can make the jump back to the NBA or sign with Macabbi or another big-time European club. If he plays below expectations, he could find himself looking for a job again.

But, without a doubt, the opportunity is there. In just the past few years, former Terp Sarunas Jasikevicius (now back in Europe with Panthinaikos in Greece), Maceo Baston (Toronto Raptors), and Anthony Parker (also with the Raptors) have jumped from Maccabi to the NBA.

This year, Maccabi features several prominent Americans, including Marcus Fizer, who had four productive seasons with the Chicago Bulls; Will Bynum, the guard from Georgia Tech; and Vonteego Cummings, a former All-Big East guard from Pittsburgh who has played in the NBA. The team plays its weekend games in Israel, but during the week it travels to play in the EuroLeague against the best clubs throughout Europe.

"To be honest with you, I'd never heard of Maccabi before I came over to Israel," Morris said. "But when people hear the name, they know it's big-time."

In just a few weeks of playing together, Fizer has been impressed with Morris. "He's extremely talented, just a beast on defense," Fizer said. "We really haven't tapped into his offensive skills yet, but we know he can shoot."

Being cast about overseas does have some advantages, even for Morris, a self-described homebody, who said his favorite activities are talking with friends, grabbing a bite to eat and watching movies. He has seen ancient Greece and said his most memorable trip was a dip in the Dead Sea.

When asked about his goals, however, Morris said he wouldn't mind settling in one place.

"Every year it's been a different place after the first two in Houston," he said. "I'm just trying to find a home and play somewhere I feel comfortable. I'd like it to be in the NBA, but if it's not in the NBA, it can be in Europe, too."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Stolen Car, An Essay

This actually happened

My car was stolen in the wee hours of Monday morning, 7/30/07. I woke up that morning and looked outside at 7:45 to find that my car was gone. I immediately called the police and then my insurance company. A police officer came and I filed the report. He basically said that what usually takes place in these situations is that it was a 15 year old kid who takes it for a joy ride for a few days and when it runs out of gas and he just leaves it somewhere. A few days later a neighbor will call to notify the police of an abandoned car, it gets picked up and then I might get it back.

When I talked to Geico, they told me that about 60 percent of stolen cars come back. As far as insurance goes, I was in good shape on the policy, they said they wait 20 days until filing a claim for a "total loss" so I had to wait a while to see what would happen. It was a lease, so it's not like I was getting money back; it would just be a wash after my $500 deductible and the $1500 trade in, and I'd have to start over getting a new car. Not fun. The week goes by and I hear nothing. While I'm driving around town in my wife's car I'm looking around for my stolen car, knowing that I'm not going to find it but kind of getting a kick out of thinking that I might. Did I mention my golf clubs were in the trunk? And golf shoes, a stroller, a car seat, a bunch of CDs and kids books.

Fast forward to this Saturday, 8/4. I went out to run errands with Ethan in tow. Jennifer is two weeks from giving birth at most and getting some rest at home. I was driving my neighbor Rob's car, he was nice enough to lend it to me for the last few days while he was in Vegas on a business trip. Ethan and I went to the bank and the cell phone store and get to Home Depot around 1 p.m., it was our last stop before heading home. He had been a good sport and was starting to get tired and cranky and needed a nap. I bought a hose and sprinkler and some plastic storage containers and loaded them in the car. I put him in his car seat and was walking around to the front of the car to leave when I saw it.

… and them.

At first I just notice that it's a black Mazda 6, new, just like mine.

Then I look at the tags.. that sequence looks familiar.. looks like…

but … there's no way…

It's parked in a handicap spot right at the front of Home Depot. I just stared at the car, incredulous.

I didn't have the tag sequence memorized, but it looked right. I pulled out my cell phone and walked toward the car.

A black man, skinny, small, about 25, was messing with something in the back seat. There's a woman outside the car in the front.

I had to be sure. A few months ago someone scraped my back bumper in a parking lot and left some yellow paint on the rear bumper. I got close enough and saw yellow paint. Holy @#$# A#!#. This was my car. Holy !#!@#$#@$ !#$!#@!

For a second or two I just stood there. I literally could not believe it.

In that instant all the options came rushing through my mind.. do I run over there and approach the guy? Attack him? Do I just call the cops? Remember I had Ethan in the car and I thought Mr. car thief was about to go into Home Depot so I figured I had him nailed. He would go in the store, I'd call the cops, and by the time he came out they would be there to nab him.

But then he got in the driver's seat. And the woman with him started walking across the parking lot… I called 911 and I am trying to stay coherent and give them the story … adrenaline is pumping like crazy… "I see him. I see the guy who stole my car. I am at the home depot at the Reisterstown road plaza… I see my car… it's a black mazda6 2007, license plates 5CL N40 … send someone to the home depot now, please!

They ask for my cell number and name, I give it to them. They ask for a description of the guy.

The woman is walking away… she makes eye contact with me… seems to know somehow that something is up, starts shaking her head side to side like, "don't mess with that guy," or "I don't know anything." In hindsight, I probably should have stayed with her and tried to find out where this guy lives or something. .. or should I have run up and punched him in the head? Should I have tried to box him in with my car? (I don't think it would have worked, he wasn't blocked in on either side). The passenger side of my car was already banged up with a new dent, red paint. This guy coulda been dangerous. I mean, I know he steal cars, what else does he do?

Now I am nervous because he's on the move and the window to run up over there and confront him just closed. I keep 911 on the phone and back up .. bang! Right into the shopping cart I was just unloading, it goes flying across the parking lot. No time to get it or care. Oh yeah, Ethan is in the back seat, tired, saying out loud, "Daddy, where are we going?" He is calm. I am freaking. The guy starts driving through the lot and I think he's headed for the main road but he weaves through the parking center lot. I am hoping/thinking he won't see me so I can just tail him somewhere and call the cops again when he parks. He gets to the light to where you leave the shopping center and stops for a second and then runs right through it. I check the traffic and run it too. I am now officially in a car chase. Blood is pumping furiously. I am yelling on the phone line to the cops now, "I AM RIGHT BEHIND MY STOLEN CAR. I AM RIGHT NEAR THE REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA… they tell me that an officer is on the way. The 911 call ends.

I am not sure if the guy knows I am tailing him but he's driving like a crazy person. There's no way to know if he just runs lights and stop signs because that's how people who steal cars drive, or because he knows the guy behind him in a borrowed Acura with an inquisitive and tired 2-year-old in the back is actually the guy who owns the car he is driving.

Now I'm thinking !#$!@# ! Why didn't I approach him in the parking lot? Cut to my inner dialogue: I am a [insert P-word]. No you're not, he could have had a gun. Ethan is in the car.

Ethan is a chatterbox, he starts talking:

"Daddy, where are we going?"

"Daddy found the mean man who stole his car, we are following him so the police can help.

"I thought Swiper took your car."

I almost laugh.

"No Ethan, a mean man took daddy's car."

"Daddy, did he borrow it?

"No, he took it without asking."

I call 911 again to give them a location update. Now we're at Fallstaff and Cross Country, the part where you can make a right past the stop sign without stopping; he goes straight without stopping. I follow him and for the first time it dawns on me that this probably is not going to work out in my favor and I can't believe that either. WHERE ARE THE COPS???

String of obscenities flies from my mouth.

"Sorry Ethan, daddy was upset."

"Daddy are you angry?"

"No, Ethan, everything is OK…

I call 911 again, now we are at Greenspring and Smith Ave., the guy is weaving around here like crazy person. In my freakin car. He guns it on Smith, had to be going 70, 80, and he is gone I can't keep following.

Now I'm at Seven Mile Lane and Reisterstown Road, he officially lost me. My phone rings. It's the dispatcher. She says she's been given three locations as to where I am and I need to stay put so an officer can meet me.

I meet a cop at a dunkin donuts at Reistertown Road and fallstaff. He was calm, not in a hurry, not looking like he was looking for anything. I tell him the whole story, he just kinda nods and takes it in, says he wasn't close enough and the location kept changing.

I am furious. Angry. Frustrated. Relieved that Ethan is OK but wondering if other men might have stepped up and attacked this guy right then and there to get their car back. In my defense, I keep reminding myself that I thought he was going in the store; he could have had a gun or a knife, I remind myself. Insurance is going to pay for this anyway, I remind myself, why should I get myself killed?

Then I remember the woman, I tell the cop, 'let's go back to Home Depot and see if I can find this woman and ask her what she knows. We drive back there. It's 100 and humid outside. It's after 2 p.m. When I make him get out to the Home Depot again, Ethan is apoplectic, wants to go home. Cop follows me to Home Depot… I take Ethan out of his car seat again and as he's crying and we're walking aisle by aisle looking for the woman I caught a glimpse of … no sign of her, this whole thing isn't going to pan out for me.

Then I'm thinking, I can't believe this guy is just using my car like it's his… still has my tags on it, just driving it around, not even very far from my house in Mt. Washingoton. Nice police work Baltimore City. Is it fair to be pissed at them? I guess they can't be on every corner, but this guy is driving around in my car with my tags like a maniac and they can't stop him?


Can't get it out of my mind. Wondering if I should drive around myself looking for it… 13 more days until Geico starts the paperwork for "total loss." Can't believe I ran into the guy. Can't believe I didn't get him.



On Sunday, Jen, and Ethan and I go to the market downtown under 83. We see a cop and I stop him, tell him my whole story and ask him if I did the right thing, what could I have done different, what could the police have done different, why couldn't they, for example, have the responding officer call my cell phone in real time to get location updates as opposed to going to a specific location…

Cop says to me, "Are you standing here, in one piece, having this conversation with me?"


"You did the right thing."

Then, as an aside, he says to me… between you and me, our police department is not in good shape right now.

Gee… you think?



They found my car the following Thursday after the Saturday chase, abandoned in an apartment parking lot not far from Fallstaff and Park Heights Ave. Geico called me, not the cops. They didn't even try to get a hold of me, impounded the car at the impound lot off Pulaski Highway downtown. I went down Friday morning to pick it up and it was a mess; dented and trashed inside. I had a it towed to the dealership where I bought it. Fast forward and it took 6 weeks and about 6200 to get it back to good shape (all but $500 covered by Geico, so I do have to say they did a good job.) What a mess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What it's Like to Go to the Masters

A Weekend at the Masters.

This past weekend I had to opportunity and privilege to go to the Masters, so I thought I’d share what it’s like

I thought this might be handled best in a Q&A with myself. Right now I am typing on Sindler’s laptop as we drive on Sunday night from Augusta to Atlanta, where we have a flight out in the morning. Just warning you in advance, this will be a print and read, it was an eventful and interesting 3 days and I have two and a half hours to kill.

Here goes:

You went to the Masters? Really? How’d you score badges?

Let’s just say Sindler has access to them and we’ve been waiting for the right year to go and it finally came together.

When did you get in town?

We arrived Thursday night in Atlanta, met at the airport, he rented a silver Corolla (surprisingly peppy), picked me up when my flight got in (he came in from Denver, me from Baltimore) and made the 2.5 hour trek to Augusta. Once in Augusta, we stayed at a really nice $300 a night hotel.

Wait, only part of that is true.

We stayed in a $300 a night hotel, but it was the Sleep Inn. A fleabag that otherwise goes for $49/night. But, like all things in Augusta, everything is different during Masters Week. The best things I can say about the Sleep Inn is that the door did not open directly onto the parking lot. Also, there was a fridge and a microwave.

What else is different in Augusta during Masters Week?

Well, that’s actually hard to answer because I had only driven through Augusta once like 8 years ago when Greame lived nearby in Aiken and took us past “the grounds” as they are called. For starters though, everything in town is closed Masters Week in Augusta.

Schools are off and businesses – other than restaurants, bars, and hotels of course – take a break like it’s a national holiday. Many of the town’s resident leave and rent their homes for anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 and up/week to visitors. Renting one’s home is such a big business in Augusta that many are built specifically to rent for more money during Masters Week. For example, if someone were about to build a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house, they might instead built a 4 bedroom, 4 bath house so that each bedroom can be used as a stand-alone suite for VIP visitors and rent for significantly more cash the first week in April.

Why do you know this?

Part of going down to the Masters for me involved a gig writing a story for the Sports Business Journal about the hospitality scene in Augusta. For this idea and the hook-ups that followed I have to thank Patrick McGee, my friend and former colleague from Octagon. Patrick knows the ins and outs and paved the way for the story; we also hung out before and after the rounds around town. The guy knew back roads to the course when traffic was backed up, set us up at two different hospitality venues for hang time before and after the rounds while the masses were bellied up at Hooters or Waffle House (not that there’s anything wrong with Hooters or the Waffle House) and, in general, served as our Masters sensei.

Anyway, the Masters is a different golf tournament for a lot of reasons, many of which most people know, but for those who aren’t up to date on the quirky, elitist traditions, here’s a primer: (for those of you who know the tournament, the club and its history better than me, my apologies if I get any of this wrong):

The Masters is run by the members of Augusta National golf club, which was founded by legendary amateur Bobby Jones of Atlanta of his friend and financial advisor Cliff Roberts of New York in the 1930s.

Players are invited to play in the tournament by the club based on a list of qualification standards, some of which are changed and updated over the years. One of the great ones is that champions earn a lifetime invitation; that’s why you see the legends there, year after year. Gary Player, for example, just played in his 50th Masters.

The PGA Tour does not run or manage the Masters. (The PGA tour actually doesn’t own or manage any of the majors – Augusta runs the Masters, the USGA runs the US Open, the Royal and Ancient runs the Open Championship, and the PGA of America runs the PGA Championship. Incidentally, that’s why the PGA tour makes such a big deal out of the Players Championship and calls it the “5th Major,” throwing a ton of money at it; they want the one that they run/own to be a big deal.)

But I digress… how did we get here… let’s get back to the Masters and what it’s like to go.

Here’s the thing. The Masters is a really cool, interesting and unique event as much for what is not at Augusta as it is for what is at Augusta. Let me explain. At most golf tournaments, corporate logos and hospitality are everywhere. There are sampling tents, hospitality tents… tents, tents, tents everywhere all over place. There are digital scoreboards, and video replays around the finishing holes.

At the Masters? It’s about the golf. Period. The course has not one sign on it of a corporate sponsor, unless of course you include the Masters logo, which is everywhere. You can’t even walk on the course with a coke can or a starbucks coffee cup because they don’t want those things on the grounds. I tried to walk in on Friday with a cup of Starbucks and had to throw it out (I coulda poured it in a Masters cup but didn’t know that yet).

That’s all great Greg, but you’re kind of babbling. What is it like to attend the golf tournament?

Sorry. I am tired. It is 9 p.m. Sunday, been walking the course for 3 days. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Ok, like I said, we stayed at the fabulous Sleep Inn Augusta, which is about a mile and half from the course. We wake up Friday morning and we have our badges and it’s cold out, like 40 degrees and windy. It was chilly all weekend, but never so cold that you didn’t want to be out there. Sindler insisted on wearing shorts each day by the way.

On Friday, our first day, there’s a lot of nervous anticipation. One thing I should mention is that because I was writing about hospitality at the Masters, we got to experience hospitality at the Masters by going to these clubhouses that have been built and set-up across Washington Rd. from the main public entrance to Augusta.

Day one we went to the Double Eagle club, which is about 100 yards from the main gate, the closest you can be without being on the grounds.

The guys there are very cool, I do a couple of interviews, and by 10 a.m., Sindler and I are walking onto the grounds.

You might guess or know that they take security and their rules very seriously at Augusta National. Here are some of them in no particular order:

  • No cell phones on the course.
  • No electronic devices of any kind.
  • No cheering for misses.
  • No running (we violated that one once; gave a light jog to see a putt and the ranger told us, ‘no running.’ I felt like a 12-year-old at the summer pool).
  • Folding chairs allowed, can’t have arms.
  • You can bring in a bottle of water or coffee but it can’t have a logo.
  • There’s more… I don’t mean to make it sound restrictive. It’s really not. They have their rules and you go, learn them and have a great time.

Here are some really cool traditions

You can leave your little folding chair anywhere you want on the course – so you can get to a great spot at Amen Corner early in the morning, set up at a key spot and watch; then leave your chair in the designated “sitting area” and no one will sit in your chair or move it all day. Really. You can leave it there at 11 a.m., come back at 2 and have the same seat (though you are told not to leave your chair for an “inordinate” amount of time).

What about the freaking course Abel?

OK, OK. It was a surreal experience walking on the course for the first time. Augusta isn’t just green, it’s super green, green green. The fairways are so lush you want to lie down in them and take a nap; but don’t lie down, because there is no lying down at Augusta while watching the golf; we saw a few people who were made to sit up for violating that one.

After walking through the main entrance you pass the huge merchandise store (more on that later), then emerge to the course and on your right is a large scoreboard with everyone’s results in alphabetic order; updated throughout the day. The scoreboard, like everything else at Augusta, is old school.

You have an impulse to whip out your camera and take a picture. No cameras. (though you can bring a camera on practice round days earlier in the week)

After the scoreboard, you walk up a big hill (the course is crazy hilly, much hillier than it looks on TV) and you’re about 200 yards from #1 tee which is perched at the top of a hill.

And my feeling at that moment was, ‘holy crap, we are at The Masters.’

How did you take it in?

The first day we decided to walk the course to see the whole thing. Like I said, it’s very hilly and we didn’t stay with one group. You get a pairings sheet when you walk in and you see who is playing with whom and you start following some groups around, finding strategic places to stand or sit and watch; and every once in a while you stop and think, ‘this is crazy, we’re at the Masters.’

They give out a little booklet called a Spectator Guide and in it is all sorts of information, rules, history, players bios and tips on the best viewing spots, purportedly written by Bobby Jones (and I’m sure some of it was), though it makes reference to great moments by Tiger Woods and others who didn’t come around until after Jones was dead, so I don’t think he wrote those parts, but I’m guessing an Augusta member wouldn’t put it past him. I would like to quote from the spectator guide now to give you a sense for how it’s written, this passage captures it:

“Before starting out, I’d like to observe that experienced spectators realize that the least satisfactory way of watching a medal play tournament is to trek around the course with one particular group of players. It’s an accepted fact that walking 18 holes is more tiring than playing them. I would suggest that greater enjoyment for the spectator may be provided by a little organization of his activities, according to his interest and energy.”

Random notes from Day One on the course:

We saw Luke Donald make an eagle chip on #2.

Our first foray into the concession stands was a memorable moment, more on the concessions later.

Hung out for a while on the downslope of a hill on #6. No. 6 is a downhill par three and you can plop down in a grassy area and see tee shots fly overhead at the green and to your right, you can see the players approach the green on the par 3 16th. It’s a nice convergence where there’s a ton of action.

A lack of roars

Here’s the thing about going this year… there weren’t a lot of ROARS of fans going nuts when something big happened, because not that many big things happened. With the dry, windy conditions, it was more a matter of survival, the players weren’t scoring, so you heard groans or polite claps for pars and bogeys, but not until Sunday afternoon, when a few players made eagles, did we hear a few of the roars that Augusta is famous for.

What else stood out?

I need to spend a little time talking about the way the concessions are priced and sold at Augusta because it’s unlike anywhere else. You have probably heard about this, but the food is very inexpensive. I wrote down the menu board for the sandwiches, here it is:

Tuna Salad - $1.50

BBQ -- $1.50

Egg Salad -- $1.50

Pimento Cheese -- $1.50

Chicken Breast -- $2.50

Turkey on wheat -- $1.50

Masters Club* -- $2.50

Ham and Cheese -- $1.50

*turkey, ham, and cheese

Beers are $2 or $2.50 for a beer in a souvenir cup. They don’t tell you the kind of beer you are drinking, it is called Light, Regular, or Import. I saw some Heineken bottles, but I don’t know what kind of regular and light beer they sold, probably miller or bud.

Klondike bars, snickers, and M&Ms, potato chips, sodas, and bottled water are also available, all for between .75 and $1.50. You can also buy aspirin and Tylenol for .50.

All of the sandwiches are wrapped in green cellophane so that if you drop a wrapper, it likely won’t show up on TV.

The sandwiches were good and also very basic. No lettuce and tomato on anything. A chicken sandwich is a slightly spicy breaded chicken breast on a roll, that’s it. You can add some mustard if you want. Made fresh daily, served cold.

Throughout each day, we probably went to the food line 3-4 times, and would rack up a few sandwiches, a candy bar, a beer and a water, whatever … and the bill was always around $6 or $8.

We never stopped talking about it.

The other thing is the price of the badge. If you are lucky enough to own badges, the cost for a badge for all four days of the Masters is $175. That’s it. But in the after-market they can go for thousands, up to $7,000 or $8,000 for all four days if you buy in advance from a broker and want to be sure; you can pick one up for less than $1,000 per day to go for a day. On Sunday, which was Easter Sunday, scalpers were offering $250 or $300 for our badges, so I’m guessing they’d try to sell them for double that price.

OK, enough of the Q&A format, I am just going to dump all the info on you in no particular order. Sorry if this is a bit disorganized.

Other random moments to share:
Loved watching from amen corner on Friday. We set up shop along 11 fairway and watched a host of players struggle. Bogey after bogey after bogey.

We saw Phil Mickelson scramble his way to a bogey. All we saw was a recovery shot land near us about 120 out… then he hit a shot to about 5 or 6 feet and made the putt, we thought he saved par because we couldn’t see him batting it out of the woods for his second shot. After he makes the putt, I overheard a petite, cute blonde say to her friend “that was his best bogey ever.”

At that moment, not only did I realize that Phil made bogey, not par, but I realized we were standing right near Amy Mickelson while the whole thing unfolded. Good thing neither of us made any man boob jokes. She was, by the way, very cute and seemed nice, not stunningly hot or anything.

Friday night had a fun night out. Went to Hooters Augusta with McGee another guy from his office in the golf division, Jeremy, and young British pro golfer named Rob who they represent. Good times. Cool talking to a young golf pro about his experience watching the Masters. There were also the Hooters calendar girls signing calendars. Hooters is very cheesy but Augusta does not have a ton to offer.

Every day Sindler wore his Michigan hat with the big blue M on it.

And, I kid you not, he probably got 20-25 comments a day on it, along the lines of:

  • ‘You go to Michigan?’
  • “Go blue”
  • “Go Buckeyes. Heh, heh.”
  • “You from Michigan?”

And on and on, it was uncanny.

We saw the Appleby blow-up close up on Saturday. He had a 2 or 3 stroke lead on the field at the time and was the only player in red numbers heading to 17 at -1. We watched him play 15 and 16 and decided to follow him home because he was the hottest player on the course. We get a head start and walked up 17 fairway to the top of the hill where most players’ drives were landing.

We saw one ball out in the middle and everyone is like ‘is that Appleby?’ and then someone points out that he is shorter and WAY left. He was in the bunker on #7, the next fairway over. We were right there. So we go down a few yards and line up along the ropes knowing that he’s going to have a big shot in front of us.

We’re literally about 15 yards away as he paces back and forth to size up the shot and by the time he screws his shoes deep in the sand and is ready to hit, there are hundreds of people nearby. And part of me is watching the shot and another part is thinking about how weird it is that all these people (mostly men, crowd was 20-1 men on Friday, 10-1 men on Saturday and about 5-1 men on Sunday*) were totally quiet.

*these figures are guesstimates Sindler and I came up with (in case you thought we conducted a formal survey); but it was all guys Friday, a few more women Saturday, much more women and families Sunday.

Back to the action… Appleby stands over the ball for a while concentrating. It’s an odd thing watching this… he is immersed in what he is doing; he had to ask a few people to move over, and I can’t even imagine trying to play golf in that kind of pressure and environment. I guess, like anything else, you get used to it, but to see a huge mass of people gather and not make any noise in a situation like that was surreal.

Anyway, he draws the club back, lets it fly and catches the upslope of the trap, then a tree branch, then plunk, down on the ground about 100 yards up. Then he hits an approach to the greenside trap; blasts out in 4 and 3-jacks for 7. Painful to watch. Bye bye green jacket.

Our close encounter with Appleby got even closer after he crushed a tee shot down the middle on 18 following the triple. We watched him drive to see if he’d get back on track, then ducked in the men’s room between 17 green and 18 tee. As I’m walking in, here comes Appleby walking out, right past us. “Pro golfers, they’re just like us! They use the urinals at the men’s room!”

Seriously, that’s what crazy, interesting and fun about a golf tournament. This was the Masters, this guy was just leading, late in the day on Saturday. And he takes a piss right with the fans before walking up 18. That’d be a little like Derek Jeter taking a squirt among the chuckleheads in the bathroom under the bleachers before a key at bat at Yankee stadium during Game 5 of the World Series. You think they might have said something? Golf is just different.

I take the urinal next to the guy who was next to Appleby and he goes, “I didn’t say anything. I just stared straight ahead.”

Probably for the best. Wouldn’t it have been cooler if Appleby had just birdied and it would have been fun to say congratulations? Do you high five in that situation? Probably not. Also, per Sindler, Appleby did not flush or wash his hands. I’m just sayin.

As an aside, I’ve been writing for about an hour now. We’re 40 miles outside Atlanta.

What else can I tell you about Augusta and what it’s like to go? I mentioned the houses and hotels. There aren’t many nice hotels in town. Actually, I found out there are two, a Marriott and a Double tree, so just about all the VIPS who come into town rent homes.

There is massive cottage industry down there of companies that set up visitors, which is what I wrote about for the Sports Business Journal. Often, for a big company, they will rent out 6-10 homes in a subdivision all next to each other. One of the homes will serve as the hospitality center, where everyone comes over for meals, picks up their transportation and badges, and hangs out before and after the golf.

Like I said, there are also ‘clubhouses’ all around the course but across the street and off the grounds, where companies can hang out during the day. These places have full bars and food all day, hitting nets in the back, massage therapists and the works.

But honestly, Sindler and I agreed that you don’t really need all that stuff. Sure, it’s great, but it’s also great just to be at the course, eat the food that’s there, take it all in, move around and get a sports experience that is unlike any other. See with golf you aren’t just sitting in one spot, you are walking all over the place all day long. You probably walk four or five miles, so it’s also good exercise and fantastic justification for eating four sandwiches, a pack or two of M&Ms and a Klondike bar while sipping a few beers.

You can also, of course, just plunk your chair down in a spot and watch the players roll through. On Saturday, we got a great seat at 10 green and stayed there for about 2 hours.

I feel like I’m talking about everything other than the course. But I don’t know how many ways I can say the course is amazing. It’s amazing. It’s like what you see on TV but better, more vivid, real. And because Augusta and CBS do such a great job of telling you that Augusta is all about tradition, you can’t help but feel like you’re standing and walking a course that screams, or better yet, whispers “tradition” in your ear as you make your way around.

As I mentioned, there are no electronic scoreboards or updates on the course. All the updates you get come from the old school scoreboards. So another effect of going to the Masters is that it removes you completely from our blinkety-blink, rapid fire world of constant information coming at you from all directions. It’s actually quite nice.

We had a lot of fun on Sunday sitting in the grandstands on 17, watching players come through and watching the numbers go up on the board. But, when you hear a big roar from 8, 13 or 15 (the par 5s), you can’t help but feel like you’re missing something.

Weird not having a cell phone on the course. When I was standing greenside watching someone putt for example, I kept reaching for mine to make sure it was off, only to realize it wasn’t there.

Augusta did provide banks of phones for the patrons to use, all of which had free long distance for anywhere in the U.S., courtesy, the phones said, of AT&T. I thought that was cool.

We met Lee Elder, the first African American man to play at Augusta, on Saturday morning. He was hanging out at one of the hospitality venues that I was writing about and we had breakfast with him. We asked him about playing the course and what it was like, asked him if there’s been much progress since his day and he said, in so many words, ‘not really’ in terms of the way minorities are treated by club.

He said he doesn’t like the par 3 12th, thinks it’s an unfair hole because the way the wind swirls and the steep embankment up front.

I haven’t written about the merchandise yet. So I’ll do that and try to wrap this thing up. OK, after you get through security at the main entrance, on your right is the massive merchandise store. We hit it on Friday morning, our first day.

Here are some tidbits about Masters merchandise:

You cannot buy Masters merchandise anywhere else but at Augusta (unless it’s on Ebay or something similar). They don’t license the rights to the logo to anyone else. It’s their brand, they sell it in their store only.

You can only buy Masters merchandise during Masters week. It’s not like you can show up at the course in July and walk into the pro shop to buy some stuff. Not happening.

So here’s what does happen. People go in this store – it’s a huge store, about the size of a supersized Walgreen’s, maybe bigger… not quite a Dick’s sporting goods, but bigger than a normal Walgreen’s or Rite Aid… and anything you might ever want with a Masters logo is in there… towels, blankets, trinkets, maybe 50 different kinds of hats and 100 or more styles of shirts, pullovers, windshirts, jackets, pants, shorts, I mean everything. And you go in there, and you want all of it.

You’re at the Masters, you don’t know when you might come back and you start piling up stuff in an arm basket like a mother of four hunting down toilet paper and bread before a blizzard.

I watched one guy with a long list of names and sizes in one hand and his basket was piled WAY over the little plastic handles. I asked him what he thought he was about to spend and he said $2,500.

We talked to a clerk who had just waited on found one guy whose tab was $25,000. He bought 20 watches alone. Now, you have to think that this is for resale on Ebay or somewhere, but it’s all part of the weird Masters vibe, a traditional unlike any other for sure.

You know what I just realized? There really aren’t even any signs of any kind anywhere on the course. The concessions aren’t labeled with a big sign that says “Food and Beverage” or anything like that, there are just these modest little food and drink centers around the course, set up like a quaint outdoor market, where you pull sammys and chips from bins and walk up to a register.

They do a great job with the registers, check outs, everything moves fast. At the merchandise store, for example, there are 22 checkout lines staffed all day with at least 3 registers… so that’s 66 checkout people ringing up the patrons, all … day … long.

Even long bathroom lines move fast. (though you see long lines of men and never a line for women, which is another oddity) You see a huge line, wind your way to the front and there’s a guy inside the restroom directing traffic, “move up, move up. Stop. Back right. Front left. Move up, move up, Stop…” etc. etc. They think of everything.

OK, we are now getting close to Atlanta, so I will actually try to stop. Sunday was a fun day, we spent it hopping around the course, sitting in the grandstand at 17 for a while, then watching the action at 9 green, then making our way down to 15 and 16. After the leaders came through 16, we had nowhere to go, the course tightens up because there’s 30,000 people there watching a few golf holes, so we packed it up and left.

Before I finish I’d be remiss not to mention something that was on my mind as I took in the Masters for three days this weekend. To get ready, I bought a book called The Masters where the writer, Curt Sampson, chronicles the history and evolution of the club and its signature tournament. (tuhn-mint).

Sampson writes that golf is a melting pot in Scotland and anyone with the pence can walk up and play the Old Course at St. Andrews, which has done nothing to diminish its legend. “Come play says St. Andrews. Stay away, says Augusta National. Unless you know a member.”

So, while you do feel welcome and privileged to be on the grounds enjoying Masters week – and they do an absolutely first class job with everything – I also felt a bittersweet notion of knowing that so many people would like to come here, be here, and perhaps even play here someday and that it cannot happen – not without money or connections or both – and that’s a shame. It’s also what makes Augusta, Augusta.

Here’s a big thanks to Sindler for the badges and McGee for the hook-ups. It was an unforgettable sports experience. Hope you enjoyed the babble.


Written April 8-10, 2007