Saturday, April 12, 2008

A tradition unlike any other

My dad loved sports. Loved them. He could watch just about any sport that came on TV--football, basketball, baseball, track & field, all the Olympic events, and golf. The other thing Dad loved--Boyscouts--was not something I could share, so I learned at his knee to love sports. I rooted for the New York Yankees when I was four years old and Roger Maris was going for 61 in '61. I rooted for the Boston Celtics because Dad loved Bob Cousy, and later when Larry Bird became his favorite player ("you've gotta cheer for a man who can't jump to save his life"). And I was watching the Oakland Raiders when John Madden was their coach. The first fight song I learned was the University of Washington's--"Bow Down to Washington", where my parents met, but I also sang with gusto, "Hail to the Victors Valiant" to the Wolverines of Michigan when we lived there during Dad's PhD years. And then we moved to Pullman, and "Fight, fight, fight for Washington State" became the song of my childhood. All those college sports, all those hapless Cougar teams (but oh, the sweetness of these last two hoop seasons!). And somewhere along the way, I became a sports fan on my own. Not just to be with my dad, but because the drama--the 'thrill of victory, the agony of defeat'--pulled me in.

Even golf. I know, I know, that might seem like a stretch, but I love golf. I even know when it happened. The Masters 1975, Jack Nicklaus and an amazing 40 foot putt on 16. The breathtaking beauty of Augusta National. Even the horrifically ugly green jacket that every golfer wants to wear. More than any trophy, more than the money, a golfer's aim is to have the previous winner put that jacket on him. I'm sitting here this Saturday afternoon when I could be outside, watching these men walk those greens, cross Hogan's bridge at Amen corner (the 12th green is the most beautiful spot on the course!), compete against the field, but really just against themselves, and it's as pure sport as there is. One must be honest, play the ball where it lies, and be respectful of the others around them. And gets to do so in a beautiful place.

Then the green jacket. You win the Masters, you wear the jacket for life. In the club for life. It's 'a tradition unlike any other,' as the commercials say, and I believe it.

We have our own 'Masters' to play, it turns out. "Run the race in such a way that you win the prize," Paul tells us. "Put on Christ." We put him on, and we're in the club. And what a course we get to walk--and I'm telling you, I'd much rather be wearing the King of glory than that bright green jacket!

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