Coach's Corner

The prosperous local attorney and best man instructed me to be at a popular local eatery at eight. I consumed an old cheese-burger before I left home, figuring the bachelor party would form up and quickly move on to ... it never occurred to me that two hours later we'd still be sitting at the restaurant as some of the guys sipped decaf mochas. Ah well, I think, this is the Nineties, things are different now. This is likely for the best. I yawned and thought of going to bed.

XTC Cabaret, located on the proverbial edge of town, is a -- I don't know how to properly put this let's just say a "gentlemen's club" and leave it at that. It's to the great benefit of our party (now numbering 17) that one of the many attorneys who made up this venerable group had, to all outward appearances, patronized XTC sometime in the past. Initially I got this feeling when he graciously passed out $5-off coupons in the dark parking lot. This intuition was confirmed when the young manager greeted the lead attorney like a newly rich relative and quickly led us to a semi-private area with our own "dancing" stage.

I could not help but notice how much the gentlemen's club scene has changed since I was a lad: Guidelines of dress and whatnot for the ladies and other traditional club rules have been somewhat liberalized. With that, I think it's best to let discretion be my guide and comment only briefly on what turned out to be a fine farewell to my friend's lonely days of cold spaghetti, warm beer, and a big blinking zero on his answering machine. I feel compelled to note that the soon-to-be-groom at all times comported himself with the utmost dignity, as is his wont. This, I might add, was in stark contrast to the rest of the tawdry party. Spurred recklessly forward by the shameless behavior of the best man, the group spiraled down into drunkenness and a public debauchery which a wide-eyed observer was certain skirted many of the ordinances of even our open-minded municipality.

Amidst the hellish chaos, I observed the groom having a long and heated discussion with some of the club's impressionable young female employees over the Kosovo refugee situation. Some time later, I overheard the groom and the bartender exchanging frank views on the scandal over TAAS testing in AISD. This is a salt-of-the-earth man. A man a new wife can, indeed, be proud of.

Hours before the bachelor party commenced, I was lolling around the office watching the first round of the Masters and idly perusing a sports page with yet another NFL draft day preview. Let's give the NFL credit; they've turned the nuts and bolts business of restocking their teams into a national sports obsession. So anyway, a thought crosses my mind from out of nowhere: What has become of K-State QB Michael Bishop, a late season Heisman contender who'd produced 500 yards of total offense every game? He did end the season on a down note but still -- did he die? I've never seen or heard his name mentioned in any of the myriad mock drafts.

At this moment, who should appear on the leader board at Augusta? Speaking of lost souls, here's the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman. After his sickening collapse at Augusta in 1996, Norman, perhaps the most visible golf professional of our generation, had fallen off the radar screen of sport. I didn't know he was playing in the tournament until he appeared, looking 10 years older, strolling down the 10th fairway at Augusta, again atop the early leader board.

After watching Norman basically have a nervous breakdown in front of millions of people a few years ago, how could you not root for the old Aussie? Even I was rooting for Norman, though he seemed to have aged so much, I didn't think he'd be around on Sunday to root for. But he was, which made Sunday's final day unusually compelling. And the Shark provided wonderful theatre, like the 30-foot eagle putt on 13 which briefly gave him a one-stroke lead.

But let's be honest. There's a flaw in Greg Norman. He's capable of magic with the golf stick, but somewhere, someplace deep inside, he doesn't really believe. Okay, forget the psychobabble; just count on Norman to do something to stab himself in the spleen. Right on cue, at about 4:45 CST, it happened: a three-putt for a bogey on 14. On 15, the coup de grace: The Shark is 98 yards out, right in the center of the fairway. A 100-yard, no pressure sand wedge is a shot a professional golfer will put in the center of a green 100 times out of 100. But this is Greg Norman. This is Sunday. This is Augusta. He semi-shanked it into a trap, a hazard really not even in play. How 'bout a Foster's, mate? The tournament, for The Shark, had ended.

Athletes are, we forget too often, human also. After being hit by an onrushing tractor six times, most of us would be afraid to get out of bed. Give Norman credit for getting out of bed and jumping right into the intersection again. He's human. He flinched. The truck hit him again.


Write to Coach atCoach36@aol.com

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