Friday, September 19, 2008

What’s The Big Deal About Starting 0-2?

Every year there are several really good NFL teams that stumble out of the gate, losing their first two games. This year, the Chargers, Seahawks and Vikings, all mentioned as bound for the playoffs in most of the preseason predictions, have suffered this frustrating start. In the Vikings’ case, it has already led to the starting quarterback being replaced. The poor QB barely had time to be picked in anyone’s Fantasy League before he was benched.

What follows such a dismal start are predictions of gloom by the sports media, citing the curious statistic that only a small percentage of teams that start 0-2 ever make it to the playoffs. That statistic is suspect, simply because the fact of the matter is, many of the teams that start 0-2 just keep on losing, so of course they don’t end up in the postseason. The 0-2 start is merely the truly bad team’s way of prepping the fans for the 3-13 debacle the season is going to end up being. This is much more merciful than winning your first two games, getting your fans all hyped up, and then losing the next ten games.

We should also keep in mind that the NFL season is a war of attrition. Even terrific teams destined to go deep into the playoffs lose two consecutive games at some point in the season. All it takes is a few unfortunate injuries, or running into two opponents that are on a hot streak. If you look back at playoff teams’ records after the season is concluded, you will often find that they win 4, lose 2, win 5 more, drop another couple of games, and when all’s said and done, they wind up 11-5.

The best advice for the fans of the current 0-2 teams is, RELAX. The Chargers got off to a similarly slow start last year and ended up very strong. There’s no reason to think they won’t equal or surpass last year’s record. Sometimes it seems that there are teams that don’t play their best football in September, for reasons that are difficult to identify. Their offense might not click right away. The spotty playing time starters get in the preseason may not prepare them to work well as a unit once the season starts.

One of the under discussed factors in the NFL is the relative strength of the team you are playing that week, not how they look on paper, but where the team is right at that moment, both mentally and physically. Suppose you’re facing a team that just played, and lost, a brutal game to a division rival on a Monday night. That team’s energy might be depleted when they play you, giving you somewhat of an advantage. Or they might come into your stadium as mad a hornets. Over the course of the season, these weekly situational factors might play a key role in the outcome of 4-5 of your games.

So, an 0-2 start is not so frightful after all. Of course, if you lose that third game...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Green Fees

Most of us can’t afford to join a country club, so we’re content to find a reasonably priced daily fee course in our area and make that our golfing home base, or perhaps select several we enjoy playing and visit them on a rotating basis. Once in a while, though, it’s fun to treat ourselves to an upscale golf experience, a round at one of the country’s finest courses.

Every year GOLF magazine comes out with a list of great golf courses that are accessible to the public. The list is fascinating; check out this link to it:

The list is bound to get any avid golfer’s pulse racing a little faster. Did you know you can play courses that have hosted the US Open or other of golf’s Major Championships? You can. Pinehurst (No.2) for example in Pinehurst, NC. The green fee is hefty, $339-$410. Perhaps the most famous course on the list is Pebble Beach in Northern California. The green fee there is even higher, $495-$530, but anyone who has played there will tell you it is worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. One way to stomach the high price tag is to just think of it as putting $1.50 a day away in a piggy bank for one year. That’s not so hard, is it? The Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, is a bit more reasonably priced, $275-$375 per round. But this does not include the cost of all the balls most us would hit into the water on the legendary 17th Hole.

Surprisingly, not all the courses on the list are expensive to play. Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, ID, #93 on the list, has greens fees that range from $40-$95. A true municipal course, Bethpage (Black) in Farmingdale, N.Y., another US Open venue, has extremely reasonable green fees, $50-$124. Beautiful Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, a Jack Nicklaus designed course, can be played for a modest $65-$110.

This brings up an important point: nearly all golf courses have greens fees that vary widely by season. In the South and the West, typically fees are lower in the very hot months, and much higher during tourist season in the winter and spring. Similarly, Midwestern and Northern courses are less expensive when the weather turns chilly in the fall. Many days are still pleasant enough for golf in October and November, however, and there is the added advantage of the courses being less crowded at that time.

Famous resort courses even have relative bargains on green fees at certain times. Kapalua Resort in Kapalua, Maui, has a peak greens fee of $295, but it can be as low as $80. Even Arnold Palmer’s famous Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida, can be played for as low as $110, though the greens fee is as high as $225 at other times.

The other cool thing about GOLF Magazine’s list is that the courses are dispersed all over the U.S., showing us that great golf is available wherever we live. You might not think of Nebraska as a golfer’s paradise, but right there at #60 on the list is Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg. And they charge an incredibly low $33-$51 per round.

Viva Las Vegas: Nevada now boasts 5 courses on the Top 100 list, most of them built in the last ten years.

So whether you want to treat yourself to a round at one of the most famous courses in the U.S., one of the premier resort destinations, or just a beautifully designed, challenging course, you can find one in your region of the country. GOLF Magazine came up with a list of 100, but in truth there are at least 500 fabulous courses available to daily fee players.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Healing Broken Packer Hearts

Among Packer fans, there’s a lot of hurt, anger, sadness and even depression about the departure of #4, and the way the team handled it. I don’t want to take the time to rehash the whole saga, for one thing the subject has been covered adequately by much more eloquent sportswriters than I:

What I found especially disappointing was how Packer fans turned on each other in the forums and chat rooms. If you didn’t “get with the program” and “move on” you somehow weren’t a true Packer fan, you were, these people said, often with profanity laced tirades or personal insults, “a Favre fan.”

As if that were something bad.

Well, I’m a Favre fan, then. I tend to root for individuals, not for institutions. A stadium is just steel and concrete. The people who serve in a management capacity at NFL teams come and go, and some are quickly forgotten. What matters are the players: they're the ones who through supreme effort, sweat, blood and sacrifice bring us football glory. I remember when I was kid and the Packers fired Bart Starr as coach, right at the time he was starting to be a good coach, I totally lost interest in their games for a number of years. Bart was one of the greatest Packer players in history. I thought he should have been treated better than that. He had assembled a team that had lots of upside potential. After he was let go, they had to go through several complete, miserable, iterations of rebuilding before Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren—and Brett Favre--were able to turn the team into a winner.

So, I think it is perfectly reasonable to be angry that Brett Favre is no longer with the team. The question is, what to do now? How to heal up and enjoy football again. Here are a few ideas:

Don’t be angry with the Packer players, especially Aaron Rodgers. I think it’s really poor sportsmanship to boo the players in practice or at the games. They have no say in personnel decisions. Truth be told, each of them knows they could be the next one shipped out in a trade or an outright release. And I imagine if they did get to vote on the issue, they would have nearly unanimously said to keep both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.

This continues in the blog post that follows...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Healing Broken Packer Hearts Part II

Radical Idea: Root for the New York Jets. I’ve visited the Jets website and they are quite welcoming to Packer fans. Numerous fans have already posted that they will be Jets fans this season, and are now “former” Packer fans. The Jets seem to have lots of good players, and their fan base in obviously energized. It could be quite exciting to watch Brett guide a team that was 4-12 last year to a 10-6 record or better this year.

And guys will be pleased to know the Jets just hired the lovely Jenn Sterger to be the host of their Gameday broadcasts. Not sure exactly what her NFL experience is, but she’s bound to be more interesting than some of the guys on the broadcast networks.

Take a Season Off. Time heals all wounds. Instead of watching the games and getting mad, just do something else on Sundays. Sure, check the scores or watch the highlights, but you don’t have to plan the whole day around the Packers’ game. Since they’ve been around for 90 years, they’ll most likely be around next year, too.

Pick a new team to watch. Most of us have more than one team that interests us. I’ve always liked the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, for example. They both have good teams this year, and I thought I’d watch some of their games. That way, we don’t have to be worried about how either Brett or Aaron perform.

Stay away from Internet forums. Nothing can be gained by engaging in arguments with nasty people who hide behind their screen names. You don’t have to justify your opinion that the Packers did the wrong thing in sending Brett to another team. In time, we will know who was right. I went ahead and deleted all the forums from the bookmarks on my computer.

Root for both the Packers and the Jets to succeed. Just think, if both teams win ten games this season, you have the opportunity to be happy 20 times! That means you’ll be even happier than Patriots fans, if you can imagine that.

Friday, August 08, 2008

God Bless the Jets

…for making Brett Favre and his millions of fans happy. At my house, and in many others no doubt, we went into a protracted period of mourning when he announced his retirement in March. It just seemed strange that he would leave after such a successful season both on a personal and a team level. Without jumping into the acrimonious debate of whether he was forced out by Packers’ management, the fact is that when he arrived in New York to such a warm welcome from the team, the fans—and even the Mayor—it made me feel really, really good. I think he can have two extremely productive seasons for the Jets, and perhaps even three. Jets fans are hungry for victory, their team owner committed the necessary funds to bring in talented free agents, and they were better talent-wise than their record would indicate in 2007. All these factors bode well.

And Brett richly deserves whatever remaining success he can summon out of that amazing right arm of his. Besides his athletic skill he will bring to the Jets something that I haven’t heard the news media talk much about: his incredible will to win, or perhaps refusal to lose. He causes the players around him to perform much better than they would if he weren’t there. He’s repeatedly been able to turn mediocre receivers into 1000-yard season all-stars, so he’s way ahead of the game in New York because they have excellent receivers. Without his sterling play at quarterback last year, the Packers would have been hard pressed to finish 8-8. Without his vigorous leadership in the playoff game vs. Seattle, after the Packers fell two touchdowns behind in the first quarter, they probably would have lost, instead of roaring back to score 42 points.

Those are the facts, and as President Reagan used to say, “Facts are stubborn things.”

What struck me when I watched the various media events surrounding his arrival in New York was how happy he looked. To be playing again. To be at a franchise that clearly wanted him.

The Jets play in San Diego in September, a short plane flight from where I live in Phoenix. I can’t express how grateful I am to be able to see him play in person one more time. It is an unexpected gift.

God Bless the Jets!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Season Tickets Conundrum

I’ve always been ambivalent about the idea of purchasing season tickets for a team’s games. I’ve done it before—in football, baseball and basketball, and in a way, as I’ll explain, golf. On the one hand it’s exciting to know you can see EVERY SINGLE HOME GAME your team plays. When the schedule comes out, you almost get goosebumps when you spot the games against your team’s key (or hated) rivals. This is going to be so much fun! In the case of baseball, it’s almost like your summer is all planned out for you.

And of course there is the status you can earn with your peer group when they find you have popped for the season tickets. You might even find you have more friends than you imagined…

One of my favorite experiences with baseball season tickets came when I was in high school. My father’s company purchased 8 season tickets—really good ones on the first base side only 6 rows up. His idea was to reward employees for good performance with the tickets. This worked great for about the first month of the season. But the team started off very badly and got worse from there. By July, he didn’t have many takers for the seats. Employees kept coming up with excuses why they couldn’t go to the games. He thought it looked bad that the company seats went unfilled so we ended up going to the games. This got old very quickly. By the end of August, when I saw another game on the calendar, it was like: not another baseball game! Couldn’t I stay home and mow the lawn? Or, you know, it’s really time I cleaned my room.

Next season, he didn’t renew the tickets.

Football season tickets were my favorite. There are only 8 regular season home games, and each one is truly an event to look forward to. The only drawback was late in the season in a northern climate, sitting out in the cold or rain or snow. With NFL games, they are normally sold out so there is a ready market for your seats if you can’t attend the game. Basketball season tickets I didn’t enjoy as much because the weekday games are at night and it can be difficult to get off work, grab dinner and make it to the arena by tipoff, especially if you had a long day and are tired. I recall dozing off several times in the fourth quarter of dull games. Luckily I don’t snore.

My experience with golf “season” tickets involved an entrepreneurial idea that went bad. I noticed the tournament had a VIP package you could purchase, 5 VIP passes, 15 daily tickets and parking passes. I had the bright idea that if I sold the tickets to my friends, and gave them a discount from the price you pay for an individual ticket, I could make a profit of over $150. Not bad. Until the first two days of the tournament were rained out, no one wanted the tickets, and I took about a $350 loss. Oh well. It was still a good idea, in the concept stage.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Three Free Passes

On a regular basis it seems, a celebrity or TV or radio personality says something really, really idiotic that makes a particular group in our society really, really angry and what follows is a round of recrimination, demands for the person to be fired or their products boycotted, or any number of other punishments. Next comes an even longer round of apologies, tears, and acts of contrition from the offending party, who now carries the name “disgraced” with them for however long the media decides, such as disgraced announcer, disgraced comedian, disgraced politician.

If you think about it, dis-graced implies the individual possessed some degree of grace prior to the incident. I for one have never used the words politician and grace in the same sentence.

Even a harmless golf announcer was trapped in a firestorm of negative reaction for a remark she made about Tiger Woods. And tournament golf isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of controversy. During recessionary times especially, the depth of grooves in a golfer’s sand wedge is not something I can get too worked up about.

If we look at this whole issue of media feeding on media, we see that it is a statistical certainty that every few weeks at least, someone will shoot their mouth off and offend a significant segment of the population. Why?

--The number of microphones being thrust into our faces increases exponentially while the supply of intelligent individuals remains constant, or perhaps even declines due to the ineffectiveness of the public school system and the rise of Reality TV.

--Behind the scenes of any media outlet you will find editors and producers in the quest for higher ratings, exhorting their on-air troops to be edgier, more controversial, more “fiery”. So, with the reasonable goal of pleasing their boss, the on air personalities dream up more and more outrageous things to say. They think they’re just doing their job.

--In the case of celebrities and entertainers, they have a pathological need for attention. It’s like a drug addiction that requires more and more frequent fixes. There’s no cure either. Not even finding religion helps many of these poor folks.

I have a solution for this whole problem: Three Free Passes.

This simply means anyone in the public eye is issued a voucher containing free passes that can be used to wipe out the record of three inane things that come out of their mouths and sail across the airwaves (and eventually sailing out in space to offend the tender but probably weirdly shaped ears of aliens on distant planets).

They would carry these passes with them wherever they go. When they catch themselves uttering something idiotic, they pull it out and holler “FREE PASS!” and are immediately absolved from criticism and outrage. They, and more importantly we, get to move on with our lives. No controversy, no unpleasantness, no boycotts. Just a return to the gentle rhythm of our peaceful existence.

Why three? If you say more than three really stupid things on the air, perhaps it is best you find another career, one that doesn't involve microphones or TV cameras.

By the way, I’m deeply sorry I made fun of alien’s ears. FREE PASS!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Retiring Too Soon

This week golfer Annika Sorenstam joined Brett Favre in the ranks of athletes retiring at the top of their game this year. Both of them said they had been thinking about the decision for a long time, but to their fans, the decision seemed abrupt, and even a little mystifying perhaps. Obviously playing football exacts a more physical toll on your body than playing pro golf does, so we could understand if Brett felt worn down. But his performance on the field in 2007 dispelled any notions we might have had that his skills were declining. In the memorably snowy playoff game against Seattle in Green Bay, Brett was running around the field like any of his twenty-something teammates. And the Packers are definitely a team on the rise, with some of the best young players in the NFL, and steadily improving depth at key positions like defensive line and wide receiver.

So, we ask, why quit, Brett?

Ms. Sorenstam is also enjoying a great season, and in the somewhat convoluted player ranking system the golf tours use, she is one of the top two female golfers in the world right now—she may end up the season #1. She battled through some injuries last season, but seems to be healthy now. And golfers never really “retire”. They might cut back on the tournaments they play, or just concentrate on the “majors”, but they never completely leave the scene. Golfer Julius Boros when asked why he kept playing on the PGA tour well into his 50’s responded memorably: “Retire to what? All I do now is fish and play golf.”

So, we ask, why quit, Annika?

Both of these fine athletes cited almost identical reasons: they still enjoy playing the game, but the mental strain of preparation, and the battle to stay physically and emotionally on top of your game got to be too much.

I think it comes down to a kind of stubborn pride that you need to have to be a top athlete for an extended number of years. Some athletes demand from themselves nothing less than being the best in their particular sport—and they demand that they constantly improve. When they see that holding on to that top spot is becoming more difficult each year they, perhaps wisely, choose to walk away.

For Green Bay Packer fans, one of the things they have dreaded most is the day when Brett had a poor performance on the field and the coach replaced him with the second string understudy. Now, that will never happen. He exited the game as the starting quarterback of one of the greatest sports franchises in the United States.

Annika says she’s looking forward to other things, including business ventures and getting married. I think she’s also looking forward to not having to look behind her and see the younger players catching up. And they will.

But both of these star athletes will soon see that there’s nothing that can really replace the sound of cheers when your name is announced prior to the game or on the first tee.

And they may not admit it publicly, but they will both have thoughts that they retired too soon.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Not An Easy Gig

Many newspapers with online editions now have a place at the bottom of articles where readers can post their comments about the article. Like everything else about the anonymous world of the Internet, this brings out lots of nasty people making nasty comments. It seems to me many people just use these forums to vent their anger over the sorry state of the their own lives, rather than contributing any thoughtful comment about the newspaper article in question. I much preferred the “old days” when if you wanted a letter to the editor published, you had to give the newspaper your real name and phone number so they could call and verify you were who you said you were—and you had to have your name printed with the letter. This cut down on some of the seriously deranged commentary that otherwise would have occurred.

My father’s motto was: “Let’s all be nice.” He usually meant that in the form of an order rather than a suggestion. The subtext was, “If you can’t say anything pleasant, just be quiet.” He’d be shocked to see the rudeness that passes for “discussion” on the Internet. I also doubt he’d waste his time reading any of it.

I’ve been noticing in some of the NFL articles in various newspapers that the comments being posted have a common thread: “This article is so boring.” “This writer has nothing new to say.”

It’s called the offseason, people. The writer doesn’t have anything new to say because nothin’ is happening. We bring this situation of weak content on ourselves because we visit our football web sites every day, the newspaper takes note of the huge number of visitors and assigns writers to come up with “fresh” content every day. Maybe we should be a little more understanding of the struggles these writers go through.

Being a newspaper writer or columnist is not an easy gig, even when exciting things are happening. News-wise, the NFL is in the doldrums this time of year. There’s nothing the writers can do about it. Maybe we should cut them some slack. How about posting things like: “Great grammar in that article! Congrats” or “I always learn new vocabulary words when I read your stories. Keep up the good work.”

Imagine that, a kinder, gentler Internet.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nothing Better than a Refreshing Draft

NFL Draft, that is. It’s amazing how much the annual selection of college players by the NFL has grown in popularity. When I get my new calendar in December, I make sure one of the dates I mark down first is when the April draft will be. I get a little more addicted to it each year.

The NFL owners have meetings several times a year where they get together, discuss issues the league is confronting, make decisions about rules improvement, and generally socialize with one another. For NFL fans, the draft is kind of our annual meeting. All the fans from all the teams gather around the TV to watch their favorite team’s grand strategy unfold.

The excitement builds in the week before the draft. I study all the draft guides every evening, trying to predict who my team is going to choose. This involves considerable work, because I don’t follow college football very much, and the names and accomplishments of the players to be drafted are pretty much brand new to me. Regarding my choices, I’m invariably wrong, because I think it’s unfair my team doesn’t get 3 or 4 selections in the first round. Someone should look into this and make appropriate changes to the rules.

The Draft is also a well of endless hope. The new players on our team will of course be much better than the players we have there now. These new players have never fumbled, never thrown an interception, never missed an assignment or blow a coverage. There’s almost a feeling of euphoria that comes over us, as though fans believe if their team’s General Manager is enough of a genius in the Draft this year, their pathetic 4-12 team could vault to 12-4, or the mediocre 8-8 team could sprint to the championship game. There is apparently an element of magic to this player picking business.

And it also appears this genius stuff is of a temporary nature, though, because if we look back at who our GM chose the last few years, we quickly can recall what a large percentage of the picks were duds. But this year will be different, for sure.

The NFL Draft also provides us with the adrenaline rush of a game show where the contestants can win millions of dollars. The reality is that it’s ludicrous to hand a fortune to a rookie who may be a total bust when he has to face NFL level competition. But it’s also satisfying, and uniquely American. We root for our fellow citizens to succeed and get windfalls they don’t deserve.

Not as much as we root for ourselves to get windfalls we don’t deserve, of course. But we root, nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Favorite Week in Golf…

…is Masters week. I’ve been fortunate to have had the chance to attend the US Open five times, the PGA Championship twice and the Masters once (I still hope to make it to the British Open someday). Each “Major” has it own character, its own atmosphere. The US Open always seemed extremely serious to me, perhaps because of the rather grim gentlemen in those dark blue USGA blazers who run the event. They take their golf very, very seriously—they even call the event an “examination” of the best players. How fun is that: Let’s all go watch an examination! The golfers seem more on edge right from the first tee the first day.

The PGA? It always seemed like simply an amped-up version of the typical event on the PGA Tour. The fans are more focused on the golf and less on partying perhaps, but it never seemed quite as formal as the US Open. Not quite as much pomp and circumstance. The PGA always seemed a bit underrated in terms of fan interest. I had a great time at both PGAs I attended. The PGA has over the years typically had a more geographically diverse roster of venues as well, although in recent times the US Open has opened up to different courses beside the usual Eastern seaboard based rotation of Baltusrol, Oakmont, etc. If you go way back in time to the 1930’s you can see that the PGA was once played at the course in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I grew up and one my first golf trophy (one of at least two)—Bluemound CC. Gene Sarazen was the winner that year.

Then we come to the Masters. All I could manage to say the first time I stepped foot on Augusta National was WOW! The best way I can describe the Masters is that it is as though a kindly old, and extremely wealthy, gentleman has invited you to his magnificent estate, and offered you the most gracious hospitality imaginable. All that he asks is that you behave with dignity and don’t litter the grounds. In fact they have a small army of custodial workers who pick up everything but the fallen leaves from the dogwood trees.

My Augusta adventure began inauspiciously because my secretary had booked me into a really horrible hotel in a small town not far from Augusta, the kind of dump where you can’t quite place the odor embedded in the carpet and the locks on the doors look they might fall off any minute. I ventured to the diner across the street from the hotel, and when they served me chicken fried steak with “mystery gravy” about the consistency of the paste we used in middle school art class, I decided to get back on the road and find another hotel. This wasn’t the elegant Masters experience I had in mind.

The closest I could get was a place in Columbia, South Carolina, but the accommodations and food were much better. That worked out fine except for the long commute across the Georgia border and over to Augusta National.

So late Tuesday afternoon I found myself walking the hallowed grounds of Augusta. The practice round was over for the day and I walked the back nine pretty much by myself, encountering only the occasional groundskeeper putting the finishing touches on the verdant masterpiece. That was an incredible experience, so thrilling it is still fresh in my mind years later—and that was before the tournament even started. So you can imagine how exciting it was on Thursday when the tournament actually began.

Experiencing that magnificent course, where all those legends were made, was as memorable as any of the golf I watched that week. It finally occurred to me after the tournament was over on Sunday, and the crowds began to leave, that Augusta National is the star of her own show each year, and unlike some of the Hollywood stars, her radiance never fades. She draws the crowds, just as much as the golfers themselves.

That’s why Masters week is my favorite week in golf.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Online Shopping for Golf Equipment Part II

One other great thing about online shopping for golf equipment is that you can quickly compare golf equipment prices from various online stores, all over the world including the United Kingdom. If you’re doing a golf equipment comparison UK, there is even an emerging online service that helps you do side-by-side comparisons from various online merchants, called HaabaaPrice ( At the present time, this service allows merchants to list their products or services for free. You can compare golf equipment prices quite easily.

Planet Golf UK is one of the first golf equipment merchants utilizing this service. A comparison shopping site like this makes it easier to save money and find exactly what you’re looking for, almost as though you are visiting several online stores at once. For the merchant, the comparison shopping site gives them another method of reaching potential customers.

You may be reluctant to buy golf equipment online because at a brick-and-mortar golf equipment store you get to pick up the clubs, and get a “feel” for them. Some stores even have a net you can hit practice balls into with the clubs you are considering. I’ve bought clubs online and at the golf equipment stores, and haven’t really noticed any difference in which clubs work out best for me. In either case, it takes several rounds of golf to really get used to the clubs.

With online shopping, then, you can find the best deals on your favorite brands. I have found that there are several brands of clubs that I have had better success with over the years. My dad was the same way. He always played “Walter Hagen” brand clubs because he admired Hagen’s style and his pure enjoyment of life. He thought playing those clubs might help him find more easygoing enjoyment and less frustration in the typical round of golf. When I was in college and playing a lot of golf, I liked “Ben Hogan” brand clubs because I hoped some of Mr. Hogan’s precision and accuracy was manufactured into the clubs. But of course, it’s difficult for even the best manufacturers to incorporate “athletic ability” in their products.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

‘Netting Bargains on Golf Equipment

When I lived in the Midwest, this was the time of year we started to yearn for the golf season to begin, but many times the weather didn’t cooperate. If we couldn’t get out there and play for a few more weeks, the next best thing was to shop for the newest and best golf clubs, because all golfers know the only thing preventing them from consistently scoring in the low ‘70’s is that we are laboring with inferior golf clubs. It can’t possibly have anything to do with us.

These days we are blessed to have access to literally every type of golf equipment manufactured around the world, through online golf equipment stores.

If you’ve never shopped for golf equipment online, you should consider giving it a try. The bargains on brand name golf clubs, balls, gloves, shoes, and accessories are incredible. Online golf equipment store Planet Golf UK ( carries the very popular Callaway golf equipment, as well as other large brands such as Taylor Made, Cobra, Nike, Mizuno, Odyssey, Titleist, Ping and FootJoy. Many of the items are discount 20-30% or more from what they term “market price”.

Golf equipment is discounted on the Internet for a number of reasons. On-line golf equipment dealers are essentially eliminating the retailer’s portion of the profit—there is no physical store with lease cost, utilities, sales staff, etc. Part two of the saving comes from efficiency: inventory that is overstocked can be moved quickly by advertising sales on the Internet.

But the biggest reason for all these savings being available is the Internet itself. It has brought about greater competition in the golf industry, and this has led to widespread price discounting in order to attract customers.

Besides the equipment you need to shore up your game, many Internet stores offer unusual items as well. At Planet Golf UK I noticed they sell “Butthead” head covers, including “Hamlet the Hacker”, a colorful pink rear end of a pig that fits snugly over your driver or fairway woods.

It’s good to not take the game too seriously.

Monday, March 03, 2008

In Praise of Spring Training

Each sport has its own individualistic appeal. There’s something unique to enjoy about each one. There’s one thing, though, that professional baseball does much better than any of the other leagues: the practice games, a.k.a. Spring Training. I live near Phoenix, which is one of the major centers of Spring Training. The closest games to me are held at Scottsdale Stadium, which is the winter “home” of the San Francisco Giants. For years I have always tried to attend at least one Spring Training game. In years where because of my work schedule I don’t make it out there, I always feel as though springtime wasn’t quite complete.

Scottsdale has been a spring training venue since the mid-1950’s. Winter visitors started to vacation there partially to see their favorite teams play. This exposure helped put the town on the map as a great place to live, and contributed to its phenomenal growth.

Spring Training games are great fun for a variety of reasons. The spring training stadiums are often smaller, more intimate venues than the major league ballparks. You get the feeling you are closer to the players; it gives you a chance to observe them interacting with one another. The relaxed atmosphere of these games lends themselves to getting a group of friends together and enjoying an afternoon of good conversation and sunshine. If you happen to discuss business for a couple of minutes, you can even avoid the guilty feeling of having skipped work.

Though ticket prices for spring training games have escalated in recent years, they are still a bargain compared to another sport’s practice games, The NFL. Good baseball seats can be had for $20-$25, whereas I have attended NFL preseason games where similar seats cost more than $75—this to see players many of whom most likely won’t even be on the roster in September. Also, the games are held at the NFL teams’ stadiums, and they often attract large crowds, so you have the usual, regular season, hassles with parking, standing in line for food, etc.

For my money, and time, spring training baseball games are much more enjoyable. So I’m looking forward to March 22, when the Giants play the Milwaukee Brewers at Scottsdale Stadium. There will be lots of winter visitors from Wisconsin there, which means an opportunity to make new friends and talk about…

Baseball, sure, but also about the Green Bay Packers’ prospects for 2008.

Because for football fans, there really is no offseason, and that’s what the National Football League does better than any of the other major sports—make sure they’re always on our minds.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Golf in Costa Del Sol

One of the great things about the game of golf is you can combine a world-class golf experience with an equally exciting travel experience. Fine resorts and interesting golf courses seem to go hand in hand. There has been such a boom in golf resort construction in the last 20 years, worldwide, the choices of golf destinations are virtually endless. In the case of a golf trip outside the United States, it is an opportunity to experience a different culture, scenery, cuisine—even style of golf course. And there’s an added bonus—if your golf game turns sour during your trip, and you break out with a tragic case of the shanks, duffs, or foozles, at least you can enjoy the sightseeing portion of your trip.

Spain is a country I’ve always wanted to visit, and I’ve learned that the southern part Spain, the “costa del sol” region, has a lot to offer the golf enthusiast, including 50 great golf courses, more than 100 kilometers of beautiful beaches, and accommodations for every taste and budget, all the way up to 5-star resorts. The climate is mild year-round. Imagine playing a Robert Trent Jones design course and then relaxing at a bar/restaurant with a view of the gorgeous blue Mediterranean in the background. That’s exactly what’s available to you at the Marbella Golf & Country Club in costa del sol. The #1 ranked course in continental Europe, Valderrama, which has hosted many major tournaments including the 1997 Ryder Cup, is in this region as well.

Planning an international golf vacation can be daunting, even with the Internet to guide you. A good place to start are the experts on golf courses: costa del sol region. They’ve even played the golf courses. This company takes care of all the details including arranging ground transportation. They know which accommodations are best, and can advise you about the most interesting courses to play. In addition, they are able to secure better prices for rooms and green fees than you could do on your own.

All you have to do is remember to pack your golf clubs.

A “golf Spain” vacation could be one of your memorable golf experiences ever. I know I’m looking forward to visiting there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wurst Case Scenarios

Recently, at my annual check-up, the doctor discovered my blood pressure was higher than it should be. The doctor prescribed some medication for me to try, which worked very well, but I also found out that it may be possible to lower your blood pressure by making some better lifestyle choices—more exercise, losing weight, and reducing the amount of salt in your diet.

I started checking the labels of the foods I buy and was shocked to learn how much sodium (salt) is in many of my favorite things. This is expressed on the labels as “% Daily Value” meaning what percent of your daily recommended “allowance” of salt is in that food. For most foods, the percentages are in the 5-15% range, but when you add up all the different things we eat each day, and all the ingredients we might use to make the dishes we cook, it’s easy to end up consuming 200% or more of the salt we should.

Luckily, there are low sodium alternatives to many brands of foods, even things like bread, bacon and cheese. And, you can of course completely eliminate some of the major sodium-laden culprits like soy sauce from your cooking. Or simply not eat as much of certain items. Have just a little sprinkling of cheese on your chili instead of the usual cheddar blizzard. Fast food is another good thing to eliminate from your diet in order to lower salt intake. Many restaurants make up for lack of food quality and culinary skill by liberally applying salt to everything.

So far, so good. But then I discovered something that came as a major shock: MY FAVORITE BRAND OF BRATWURST had a sodium value of 30%--much more than I should consume. Imagine a Green Bay Packer fan who is not allowed to eat brats. This is bad, bad news, truly a wurst case scenario. I can’t imagine watching Packer football without eating brats. It’s almost unthinkable. Some foods naturally go with football, some don’t. Think about during the game broadcasts when they take you into the luxury boxes at the stadiums and show you all the gourmet food the rich folk are eating like filet mignon in bĂ©arnaise sauce or duck confit. It doesn’t seem right somehow. Brats seem right.

But then I thought, next football season is months and months away: it’s no time to panic or feel sorry for myself. I enjoy experimenting with recipes, so I’m going to attempt to create the next generation of wurst:


Wish me luck.

Enjoy the Journey

The week after the Super Bowl, I happened to be corresponding via e-mail with some friends back East—New England Patriots fans—and naturally their mood was gloomy. Actually, dark depression describes it best. Here they went from being so close to being on top of the world—AN UNDEFEATED SEASON—and instead they were just the last victim of the incredible late season run the New York Giants put on.

Green Bay Packer fans happened to feel the same sting just two weeks earlier. After one of the most memorable playoff games in Packer history, complete with a stirring comeback from two touchdowns behind and a lovely snowstorm that made the whole atmosphere seem like a winter dreamscape, there was nothing but bitterness and an empty feeling at the end of the game, combined with the sobering realization that opportunities to go to the Super Bowl don’t come around that often. Who knows when Green Bay will make it to the NFC Championship again? Next year? Ten years from now?

It got me to thinking about this whole notion of whether winning really is “the only thing.” If that’s true, in professional sports the only way to feel satisfied at the end of a season is to win the Championship, or to not make the playoffs at all but win your final game. In the latter case, at least you get to experience that “we’ll get ‘em next year” solace, that hopeful anticipation of the upcoming season.

Perhaps sports fans should enjoy the journey instead; we should try to remember the thrill of each and every victory during the season, each amazing play we witnessed. After all, even losing teams have highlight reels.

I learned this lesson when I was a kid and went to PGA Golf Tournaments on a regular basis. I had several favorite players I rooted for, and I was always disappointed when the tournament was over and my players didn’t win. Then it dawned on me: the chances of any single player winning a given tournament, especially one I happened to attend, are extremely slim. It’s possible I would never see one of my favorite players win in person. With that in mind, I learned how to enjoy the event for the event itself, not the outcome.

As it turned out, I never did see one of my favorite players hoist the trophy at the end, but now, twenty years or more later, I still remember the thrill of having them in contention on Sunday afternoon at Augusta or Pebble Beach. I remember the excitement of being in the middle of the cheering crowds.

The journey. That’s the important thing.

(But, I have to admit I didn’t watch the Super Bowl because I was still angry the Packers didn’t make it).

This “enjoy the journey” concept will require a little more practice on my part.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If I Could Do My Business Career Over…

When I was a youngster one of my dreams was to be a professional golfer, to play on the PGA Tour. The life of the tour pro seemed so glamorous—playing all the great courses, working outside rather than in a dreary office building, hearing the cheers of the crowd, and of course there was all that prize money they played for. As time went on, I gradually let go of that dream, and replaced it with a dream (that eventually came true) of making a living as a writer. But my passion for golf remained; in fact the first time I earned money from writing was for an article I submitted to Golf Magazine.

Recently I discovered something that I wish I had heard about when I was planning my career: golf schools, for example the San Diego Golf Academy. This is a two-year golf college that trains people for jobs in the golf industry. They offer a curriculum of both golf instruction and golf business management. Imagine taking classes in the morning to learn how to manage a posh golf resort and then playing golf or practicing in the afternoon. It sure sounds a lot more interesting than the MBA school I attended!

San Diego Golf Academy has four campuses, in Phoenix, San Diego, Orlando, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They assist their graduates with finding just the right position at one of the more than 18,000 golf courses in the United States, or golf affiliated companies such as equipment manufacturers. Golf jobs are plentiful; this is an industry that has experienced tremendous growth in recent years; you can learn more at:

What really impressed me about the San Diego Golf Academy were the credentials of the instructors. They are accomplished in golf instruction, some have had their own golf instruction TV shows and contributed articles to major golf magazines, and have managed some of the largest and most prestigious golf facilities in the world. A golf pro today is really a skilled business person who happens to love golf. If you’ve ever considered a career in the golf industry, this web site is a great place to start.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Book Review: "Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham

Mega-bestselling author John Grisham is known primarily for his legal thrillers, some of which have been turned into motion pictures. He is an avid football fan, too, and occasionally takes a break from writing about the courtroom and heads for the gridiron. His first effort in that regard was titled Bleachers. Now he returns with another football novel, Playing for Pizza. It’s always a risk for a bestselling author to venture out of his readers’ comfort zone. They have certain expectations when they see “John Grisham” on the cover, and authors run the risk of alienating their loyal fans if they don’t meet those expectations. I can’t imagine being disappointed in this football novel, however.

I’d describe Playing for Pizza as Breezy and Thoroughly Enjoyable.

Playing for Pizza is one of those novels you can enjoy on several levels. Grisham gives us an intriguing, offbeat football story, a series of lovely postcard-like images of traveling through Italy, a good deal of humor--even a warm and hopeful ending in which the main character, quarterback Rick Dockery, achieves redemption not just on the football field, but through the possibility of finding love as well. He realistically portrays the downside of NFL gridiron fame and contrasts it with an Italian football league where the players are not in the game for money, but for the sheer joy of competition.

Rick is likable though flawed and Grisham’s supporting cast is full of quirky, interesting individuals. I really enjoyed the maniacal sportswriter character who comes all the way from Cleveland to Italy to carry on an in-print vendetta against Rick for ineptly ruining the Browns’ chances of winning a championship (by throwing three consecutive interceptions!). I wondered if that character might represent some of the rather nasty book critics in the media who take pot shots at Grisham’s novels from time to time, mostly out of envy because Grisham has sold so many millions of books.

All in all, Playing for Pizza is an amusing, fast-paced story that can be enjoyed whether you are a football fan or not. Check it out at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bargains Galore on Golf Equipment

The Internet has created opportunities for golfers to save money on equipment in many different ways. Would you like to check out “clones” of famous (and expensive) brand names, which can be purchased for a fraction of the price? You can even order a set of custom made golf clubs that have been fitted specifically for you. How about sell your old clubs online and put the cash toward a new, updated set? Maybe you want demo clubs shipped to you so you can try them without ever leaving home. All this is possible. There are more choices, and better prices, available to golfers than ever before. And dozens of online retailers are fighting for your business, creating even more opportunities for you to save.

You can find golf equipment on ebay of course, but there are lots of other alternatives. You can try on golf shoes at your favorite sports store and then order the brand and model online. If your heart is set on a specific make of golf clubs you can easily find a number of sites that offer exactly what you want for less money than you might have thought.

Need motivational tapes to improve your golf game? You can find them. Or what about instructional videos from some of the top pros in the game? Use search engines to find what you need when you need it. Sometimes shipping is even free. The Internet means you don't have to pay retail ever again if you don't want to.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

First playoff for the Packers!

The bye week is over. It's been a long drought without a win in the playoffs. As luck would have it 2007's first playoff game for the Packers was against the Seahawks. Remember the last time? Game went into overtime and we barely squeaked through. Not this year. I honestly thought Holmgren was going to have a heart attack. Rumor has it that if he didn't get the Seahawks into the Super Bowl it looked like he would be facing retirement.

And Brett, I can't imagine he's thinking retirement after this season. He is playing in top form.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Consistency is important in your golf fitness program

Consistency in Your Golf Fitness Program Counts

Your goal should be consistency. An intermittent exercise program won't work as well as one that is maintained throughout the year. When you find yourself lacking motivation to start your daily exercise routine, visualize impressing your buddies with the 30 yards you have added to your drives. If you live in a cold climate and enjoy watching televised golf in the winter, why not schedule your golf exercise time during the tournament. Focusing on the tournament drama might keep you exercising longer than you normally might. Just don't imagine that you will get in as good shape as Tiger Woods. That's not called visualizing, it's called dreaming. For those just starting an exercise program, John Daly might be a better role model.

And of course, before beginning any exercise program, consult with your physician to find out how much physical activity you can safely tolerate.

Walking can improve your golf game. Start off with walking for about 10 minutes, turn around and walk the 10 minutes back. Add a few minutes each day and before you know it you'll be walking and enjoying 45 minutes of exercise. You can carry small weights in your hands and pump your arms as you go for additional arm strengthening.

Don't let the weather stop you, if it's rainy or just too cold, exercise by jogging in place, going up and down stairs or joining a gym. Consistency is important. 15 minutes of exercise every day is much better for you then an hour and 45 minutes of exercise once a week.

But the first step is, get up off the couch!