Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Coach's Corner

By Andy "Coach" Cotton

JUNE 29, 1998:  The question is: Why would a normal, red-blooded American male get off the comfortable divan and set forth on these clearly unpleasant tasks? Mow the lawn, front and back, spray nasty bugs from prickly bushes, pull weeds from the shadow of a thorny cactus, go to the hardware store to buy a manual weed cutting thing (in the stupid, desperate hope, the swinging motion will help a golf swing and cut weeds) in order to attack a huge, wild, burr-infested thicket of weeds, fire ant mounds, piles of dog shit, stickers, and poison ivy. This lasts about 10 minutes. Then, he gets the mower. Long delayed relationship building activities commence. The dusty old bike, hanging from a hook in the garage for years, is liberated for morning bike rides. Evening movies and one-on-one dinners with no play-by-play men. The reason for this is, of course, what else do I - indeed it's me - have to do? The NBA playoffs are over. I'm adrift, where so recently I was solidly anchored. I'm not alone. Many a good sportsfan is now dumped, cold turkey, right into the middle of summer. The days drag aimlessly. The nights, only a few weeks ago (or was it years?) immersed in life or death playoff action, now loom formlessly ahead.

This sudden tumble into Home Improvement land is a form of tepid sports methadone. Filling gas cans, cleaning the garage, and bathing the dog helps the mind stray from illegal defenses, moving screens, Bob Seeger, the stupid frogs, David Robinson, Hubie Brown's complex, muddled analysis of the lay-up drill and Isiah Thomas forgetting what he was going to say.

This is a difficult time for the sports fan. Suicide caused by sports depravation is (statistics, I'm certain, will support this) commonplace. The television networks, understanding this, feed us entire afternoons of dull, mind-numbing sport. Take, for example, the World Cup. Some have hypothesized soccer is the dullest game on the planet. I did, in fact, fall asleep twice during the first half of the USA-Iran match, waiting for something to happen (and nothing did), but still, the dullest sport on the planet is going a little too far. A little. But at least it's there, in English or Spanish, at all hours of the day, if we just need to see a game.

NBC is considerate enough to schedule the U.S. Open a week after the last basketball telecast of the season. I once thought golf was the dullest game on the planet; watching it on television was worse. I play golf now, so I can take televised golf for short bursts, especially when stepping outdoors is risking heat stroke, but seven straight hours of golf? Seven hours! Johnny Miller, whose insights and voice are okay for a few hours or so, gets a tad tedious when you understand the leaders are just teeing off and he's already been on the air for three and a half hours. That's too much for me, worse than a five-set tennis match and six hours of Bud Collins, which we'll get next week. After hours of Johnny whispering about the Stimpmeter, spraying the lawn doesn't sound so bad. Still, it's comforting to understand I can cut my weeds, go to the mall, take a nap, read a little, yet know, for sure, that Payne Stewart hasn't made the turn yet. That said (speaking for fans everywhere), more is better than less.

So it is that this drifting sports fan is left with random, unconnected thoughts. You hear it from me first:

Mark McGwire - who looks like a sure thing to break Maris' home run record - ain't gonna make it to 61. He's 35, has a long history of debilitating injuries, is already showing signs of cracking under the relentless media glare, and will get nothing to hit if he's getting close in September. Besides, I don't want him to.

Soccer wackos, zealously claiming to be keeping the flame for the great American sport of the next century, remind me of any other loony, pushy special-interest group: Jesus freaks, pro-lifers, hockey fans, whatever. Soccer will never ever become a major U.S. sport. I don't care how many of your little kids play it. No letters on this subject please.

A hundred years from now people will wonder about this Michael Jordan guy. Was he really that good? Put the last 30 seconds of game six against Utah on a piece of tape. The steal. The shot. The championship. Everything Jordan was and is in a microcosm.

I'm going to miss the Cowboys not being here this August. The nearby stench of the Cowscum was always good for two columns in the dead of summer. My first football thought of the year, just to help us to September: The Cowboys are now just another team.

The USGA, golf's governing body, seriously discusses banning most of the equipment in your average duffer's bag, because they're afraid it's making the game too easy. That's smart. The thinking being, I guess, this golf boom shit is going too far. Let's get those damn people off the course. Guys, if you think swinging at the ball 105 times with my high-tech Cobras and Callaways is easy, please take my swing for a day. You'll quickly latch onto any bogus promise for more distance and better accuracy.

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