The Austin Chronicle

Coach's Corner

By Andy "Coach" Cotton, June 23, 1995, Columns

"I'm not wrong enough to be right for you."

- my song... got any words??

The basketball season is over. For the past several months, many, many nights of my life, as it were, are lost to the sound of screaming announcers, bouncing balls, and topless bar advertisements. Now, adrift in a void, I'm bored. In lieu of anything useful to do - mow the lawn, read a book, or figure how to get on the Internet - I decide, under the dark shadow of the bloody, tattered banner of love, what the hell, to humiliate myself.

A friendly telephone call, a coincidental crossing of messages on my machine, a reassuring long-range horoscope promising I'd "get what I really wanted," a new friend's "go and get her" advice, the Friday horoscope promising "letters would bear fruit," a chance meeting with an old acquaintance, and what I took for the startling portent of the old girlfriend calling at the precise moment I entered the house late one night - geez, I miss the playoffs already. Yes, sportsfans, all this and more convinced me the time was perfect to write a short letter to the ex-flame proposing a rekindling, a "re-beginning" as I so eloquently phrased it, of a romance whose spark, I deduced from these harbingers, was still smoldering.

Have you noticed how fucked up communications become after you've broken up? You once knew exactly how to finish the other person's sentences, knew exactly the right thing to say when she was cranky. How you always called at precisely the right moment and how you knew just what her giggle would sound like before you even knew you were being funny. Have you noticed how now those sentences no longer end the way they should? How the things you say - in my case, I want to stun her with the gracefulness of my prose, but you get the point - just make her more cranky? How once endearingly perfect, sexy words now feel like hot lava poured into her ear canals? Have you noticed yourself saying, "It's just a fucking joke," as your once oh-so-clever bon mots fall onto a suddenly humorless, albeit once tasty, ear?

How does this happen? When we were a couple, communications were, oddly, not one of our many problems. Now, any sort of message, look, or seance thought is open to the grossest, most gargantuan sort of misinterpretation. I guess you could say the letter did not go over so well. Thank god the Stanley Cup finals start tonight.

While I'm on the subject of abject degradation, it did my never-broken-100 duffer's heart good to watch the world's best professional and amateur golfers hack and scorf their way through 72 torturous holes at the U.S. Open in Southhampton, Long Island, this weekend. Even though I've somehow become - much to my dismay and surprise - a devoted golfer, I don't watch it on TV. It's because a pro's idea of a "bad" shot - a ball hit onto a verdant green from 185 yards out with an eight iron on the uphill side of the pin five feet away - is the kind of "bad shot" hackers such as myself will never hit in our entire golf careers. In other words, the professional golfer's excellence is flat out boring.

So, I'm sitting at my desk during the first round on Thursday. I'm watching the Open, because I'm curious what this much-ballyhooed "links style" course at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club looks like. Overhead views do, indeed, reveal a very different course than the picture-perfect postcards these tournaments are usually held at. Verily, with dirt roads crisscrossing the fairways and real roads bordering greens, it brought to mind our own Mo Williams Municipal Course. Every time I looked there was a frustrated pro swinging from the high weeds or tossing his pitching wedge in disgust into a sand trap that has just cost him two strokes, or gazing, in bovine-like disbelief, as a short putt - many short putts - ran far past the hole, off the fringe, through the small rough and, ultimately, back into the sand. I knew then I was watching something most extraordinary: Professional golfers doing what I do.

The ultimate moment came when Austinite and Masters champ Ben Crenshaw chipped, with absolutely no confidence, a seven iron up a hill to the green. The filthy, treacherous ball, as it always does with me, reached the apogee of the hill and then slowly, one rotten inch at a time, rolled its way leisurely right back, like a lonely puppy, to Gentle Ben's shoe. Outwardly undeterred, he hit it again. I'd have changed clubs and whipped the uncooperative orb over the green out onto the road. Crenshaw knew he had the correct club. Once again, to the utter disbelief of the Masters champion, it did the same thing. This time, coming to rest, placidly, by the other foot.

If professional golf was always played in these challenging conditions, I'd watch. It gives a viewer an appreciation for just how difficult this stupid game is. After watching the embarrassment on Crenshaw's face, it made me feel a little better about my own game and a tiny bit better about my own personal fiasco.

At least we didn't play it out on national TV. n

Go ahead, ask me:

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