Paul Daugherty
Enquirer columnist files news and observations

Paul Daugherty
Paul Daugherty has been an Enquirer sports columnist since 1994 and has been chronicling Cincinnati sports since 1988. He has covered almost every major sporting event in America, as well as five Summer Olympics. Along the way, he has been named one of the country's top-5 sports columnists four times, and Ohio columnist of the year on seven different occasions. Last year, he was voted 2nd-best sports columnist in the country, by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

It wasn't me

I did not have s--, no, wait. I did not drink too much and run over a woman (allegedly) in Clermont County early this AM... I don't even drink (in that bar), I don't own a truck (at present), I don't live in Hamersville (for sure). I don't even know where it is. Thanks to the thousands who have e-mailed, blog-posted and called, expressing their fervent hope, er, concern that I was in deep spit.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Narron Haters, Read On

We ran this in the Sunday Enquirer, but here it is again. Misery loves company. Who'd have ever thought middle relief would ever be important?


Friday, April 27, 2007

Marty's candor

It's pretty simple: Do you want an announcer who patronizes you, or respects your intelligence?

Someone who treats you like a Knotholer or an astute fan?

Someone who speaks phony optimism, or says all the things on 50,000 watts you wish you could say?

A sidelight to this is credit due the Reds. Not many teams, regardless of the sport, would allow an announcer they pay to be as candidly critical as Marty is. The Reds don't like it; but they realize Marty's importance. They realize it so much, they've all but encouraged it, by adding Thom and Jeff Brantley.

I get that passionate fans can be irritated by Marty's straight shooting. But he's not creating the reality. He's merely reflecting it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sopranos or Shield?

TV's two best are back with a passion. Which do you prefer?
Tortured Tony? Or shell-shocked Shane?
Paulie or Mackey?
It says a lot about who you are.
Tony Soprano is obsessed with his own mortality. Vic Mackey seems not to give a damn about his. Or anyone else's.
T's wife Carmela is a pseudo-religious hypocrite and enabler, bashing her husband's nefarious "career'' while partaking heavily in its fruits. Vic's ex has no interest in his ill-gotten swag.

The Sopranos is subtle and layered, even when guys get whacked. Notice all the Godfather references. The Shield is a ballpeen to the temple. One's got brains, the other's sheer testosterone.

Right now, I'm liking The Shield more, because I prefer my TV violence simple and to the point. That doesn't lessen my awe of the writing and acting in The Sopranos, though. It's the best thing I've ever seen on TV, narrowly edging out the epic miniseries Lonesome Dove. But all of us have a little Vic in us. Don't we?

KRAP in Cincinnati

Why do we celebrate a 29-year-old sitcom?

The first season of WKRP is released on DVD and we here in Rubetown act as if Broadway just moved to Fountain Square. Does Dallas celebrate "Dallas''? Nope. Dallas has better things to do. Does New York break out in spontaneous revelry on the anniversary of NYPD Blue? Honey, I Love Lucy just came out in boxed set!

Does Milwaukee fete LaVerne and Shirley? Yeah, probably. Do we want to be Milwaukee?

This is so Cincinnati. We have nothing going on, so we spend time honoring a TV show that lasted 4 years and was filmed on a sound stage in California. We'd rather look back than ahead.

This is why the Reds ballpark is on the river instead of at Broadway, why Main Street is withering, why Jefferson Hall is in Newport, why The Banks remains more of a punchline than a reality and why the '90 wire-to-wire Reds are a footnote in the book of Big Red Machine.

Bootsy Collins might be a heck of a fella. But the guy is so yesterday, he needs a time machine to get to 1985. We love him.

And so on. Look, I like living here. Been here 19 years. Had chances to leave. Great place to raise kids, easy place to live. But until we start trusting the future instead of worshipping the past, we'll lag. Celebrate a DVD release of a 29-year-old has-been sitcom? Cut the KRAP.

I'm going to talk about this tonight, on 700 WLW SportsTalk, 6-7:40 before the Reds game. Light 'em up.

I Got Friends in Low Places

John Daly drinks beer. Who knew?
Also, Imus' replacement next week? Norman Julius Esiason. All the great ones do radio.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Everything but the game

Reds stink, but the giveaways were nice and the weather was great... they draw 102,000 for 3 against the bad Phils on the weekend, bolstering the notion that baseball is no longer about the game. It's about the event. That's why the team's marketing generals have (wisely) begun to emphasize peripherals, i.e. "the ballpark experience'' -- fake-dirt T-shirts, blankets, the ubiquitous bobbers, happy hour etc. -- rather than the game itself. Not sure when the game became secondary -- probably after the '94 strike -- but it's firmly in 2nd place around here now...

Friday, April 20, 2007

what might have been

happy for Greg Oden, sad for college basketball... to those of us who love the college game and snooze through the NBA season -- playoffs start yet? -- Oden's decision to leave Ohio State leaves us wanting more... He was a good, not great, college player. Probably, he'll be a good, not great, pro. The comparisons to Bill Russell are greatly exaggerated.

Oden's father suggested his son could always come back to school. True enough. But if Oden enjoyed the campus life as much as he claimed, any return to school won't come close to the experience he's having now as a true college kid. It's easy for me to say -- if someone offered me the sort of jack Oden will be getting in a couple months, I'd likely take it, too -- but some things really are priceless... such as all that lazy, carefree time Oden said he looked forward to this spring, checking out girls on campus in the warm spring sun. He's trading that for room service and gold-diggers in hotel lobbies.

Good luck to him. He seemed almost normal for a guy exposed to so much hype, so soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I need a few NFL draftniks

... for something I want to write next week... anybody interested? Maybe you'll actually convert me to The Cult of Mel...

why do we watch?

To this day, whenever images of 911 appear on the screen, I look away. I havent seen any of the post-911 movies, and won't. When the Bengals played in New York the following September, I wanted to go the site of the Towers, just to honor the dead. I couldnt bring myself to do it. The last thing I watched about that day was the service at the National Cathedral in Washington, the morning after. I don't think I've cried since.

Which prompts the question: Why do we watch?

The lunatic who murdered 32 students sent, among other things, a videotape to NBC. Anyone who wanted to see the ravings of a madchild has seen them by now. I will never watch it. Did you? Were you spellbound? We handle tragedy and grief in our own ways. Maybe watching it helps you understand it. More likely, a morbid curiosity holds you. It's like rubbernecking at a wreck on the highway, writ large.

I can't do it. Too sad. Just like 911.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The NFL Daft

No typo. Daft it is. Could be the dumbest day in sports. Tell me again which can't miss lineman has the best 40 time, which wide receiver has the greatest sleeve length and how so-and-so's stock dropped because he doesnt throw a tight enough spiral. No "event'' has more "experts'' spouting so much junk as if it's gospel. They tell you everything about a player except if he can play football.

The charter members of the Get A Life movement are seated in Radio City in New York on Daft Day. I mean, don't you have some weeds to pull or garbage to take out?

I must be missing something vital in my DNA, but I truly don't get the fascination with who the Bills will pick in the 4th round or if the Rams will trade up in Round 1. "War'' rooms, "on the clock'', M. Kiper's steel-belted radial hair. Why?

Give the NFL this: It understands perfectly its audience, which continues to grow. The league moves seamlessly from reg. season to postseason, to Super Bowl to Combine (don't get me started on that silliness) to Daft to mini-camp to preseason... the circle is unbroken. Just wake me in September.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Josh Hamilton, again

Those in a rush to see him in the lineup every day forget we're dealing with a different case here. It's great that he's living a fairy tale these first few weeks, and is taking us along with him. But Hamilton's dealing with more than just getting in his work and studying pitchers. Too much success now could be as harmful to him as too much failure. I like the way J. Narron is handling him, and I think it should be that way for another month or two. Plus, Narron and his brother Johnny grew up with him. Hamilton was good friends with Johnny's son. The manager knows best in this case.

The kid's getting the world thrown at him now. Please let him get settled.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

a warm 3-dot welcome back to T. Soprano

I'm guessing this isn't news to most of you, but because I'm not exactly Techno Man, it blows me away... watching the Heritage yesterday on the new Hi-definition TV machine. Amazing overhead shots of the harbor at Hilton Head, bald eagles, individual blades of grass on the course... then I go to Red Sox-Angels on Fox, also in hi-def... high panorama shot of Fenway, clear enough to see individual numbers on the scoreboard... anyone with a few (thousand) extra nickels, run don't walk to the store...

Anyone else enjoy the 1st of the Final 8 Sopranos episodes as much as I did? I thought it was among the best ever, and I've seen them all... brooding, tense, darkly funny, plenty of foreshadowing... still, I'm a Shield guy above all... Vic is the best bad good guy in the history of TV... and maybe Forest Whitaker will get the Emmy this season he deserved last season...

Good luck to Imus landing a satellite radio deal...Sirius and XM are merging, money won't flow so freely, plus the union needs fed approval... might be hard to get w/Imus aboard...

and count me among the many who believes the pendulum has swung too far the other way... we will never have free and open communication between the races as long as Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are OK and Don Imus is not... we were better off 35 years ago, when we could all laugh at Archie Bunker...

Reds need Ross to hit, because the Valentin alternative is no alternative... Cubs stole four bases in four tries off him the othert day, in 4 innings. Yikes...

Friday, April 13, 2007

On Jackie Robinson

Props to Junior... and by the way, you have to think Jackie would be more than a little disgusted with what has happened with Imus and the Duke lacrosse case in the last few days.

Who's got Narron's back?

It's essential now that someone Important in the clubhouse come out publicly in defense of J. Narron's benching of Encarnacion, and the manager's tough words explaining it afterwards. Narron has put himself out there with this. It was the gutsy and correct thing to do, but it'll blow up on him without the complete backing of the right people. How great would it be if J. Griffey declared publicly he backs his manager 100 percent? Say something like, "We have the talent to have a chance to compete for a division title here, but only if everyone busts it every day, physically and mentally. I support the manager and will do all I can to set the best example." Or something like that.

Am I dreaming? Maybe. But if Junior, Dunn, Arroyo, Hatteberg would come out in public support of what Narron is trying to do here, the whole effort would go a lot more smoothly. We'll talk about this tonight on SportsTalk.

Live big, R. Seligmann, C. Finnerty and D. Evans

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Radio

Thanks for all who listened and called last night. Thanks to all who wrote nice things this morning. Keep calling and listening. It's about you. I'm just the facilitator. Tonight: New UK coach Billy Gillispie at 6:30... Reds opener in Sarasota? And, if time, your reaction to the candor on the airwaves...

NOTE: Listen to an excerpt of Paul's radio debut here (audio courtesy of 700WLW, Cincinnati).

We might have Henry, but we don't have snow

Indians play their home opener in Milwaukee, 7 hours away... nice. Reds fans sit in 35-degree weather. Players hamstrings freeze up like Popsicles. The best thing about the Reds first homestand was that Junior Griffey's legs made it through without exploding. Here's a thought:

Why wouldn't MLB consider allowing/mandating that cold weather clubs play their first homestands at their spring training sites?

How cool would it be to see the Reds open at 7,500-seat Ed Smith Stadium? You could plan a vacation around it. Think of the closeness to the players. Think of the old-time feel. People who don't necessarily like MLB any more do go to minor league games, for the ambience. Think of the ambience. Think of the weather. Shorts. Sunscreen. Golf. Crazy?

Maybe. The Reds could double their ticket prices, and get it. They could have an airline sponsor the games. Or a resort. True, five games at Ed Smith would just about equal one opener at GABP. But that's what marketing departments are for. Maybe creative selling of this idea could bring in enough cash to justify it. I don't know. That's not my area.

You could still have all the bells, whistles and parade on the first game in Cincinnati. And maybe, instead of 15,000 for the second game at home, at night in polar conditions, you'd have 25,000. Maybe on the first Sunday day game, you'd have 30,000 instead of 20,000. Maybe that way, you make up for all the tickets you didn't sell at Ed Smith. Just a thought.

The Reds are on the TV

Anyone else a little taken aback by the, um, tartness of Thom and Chris Welsh the last few nights? I realize that, after George Grande, a loud sneeze would seem candid. But man... Thom took off on Mark Berry and Adam Dunn for chatting at third base... last night, he and Welsh both ripped into Kyle Lohse for grooving a 3-2 fastball with a base open, that Chad Tracy hit for a 3-run homer. And I'm not even talking about Jeff Brantley or Marty. The former is already very comfortable opining from the booth, especially about pitching. The latter has never been shy, as we know.

Personally, I think it's great. But I'm not a Reds fan, at least not in the traditional sense. I appreciate smart candor, and these 2 guys -- and Brantley and Marty -- provide it consistently. I just wonder (1) if ownership understood what it was getting into when it brought Thom in and (2) what you, as a fan, think of such frank talk. Do you want pointed commentary? Or would you prefer platitudes and oh-wells? Lemme know.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Melancholy Masters

Everything changes, no escaping that. Except the Masters. At least until the last few years. I've loved lots of things about this event. Many of them have nothing to do with golf: The first sight, every year, of the course from the second-floor veranda of the clubhouse, sprawling down the hill to Amen Corner, a perfect portrait of the endless possibilities of spring. The flowers, seemingly by the millions, crowding my gaze. The frat-house ambience of the house I shared for years, until this year, with fellow writers I like very much. Masters Week is Spring Break for Adults. You can never fully appreciate that unless you spend a week here. I've spent 20 weeks here. It never gets old.

I love the tradition. More, I love the respect for tradition. I love that traditional doesnt have to mean staid. I love the love people here have for this place and this event. When you pass through the gates here, your demeanor changes. You're suddenly more gracious, more polite. It's the only sporting event I've attended where I feel less on edge than when I arrived.

It's the practiced charm, the easy gentility, the grace of the place. Attribute it to Bobby Jones, a gentleman's gentleman who insisted his legacy be as much about that as about golf. I know I get sappy talking about this place, but anyone who loves golf and has been here knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I wrote for tomorrow a slam-job of the way the course has started to play in the Tiger Age. Much of the go-for-it sex appeal of the Masters has come from the back-9 on sundays, and it has come because the course always welcomed players willing to take a risk to gain an advantage. That's not true anymore. Augusta has started to play like a U.S. Open. I like the Open, but we don't need another.

Regardless, this was my 20th Masters. It is the only event I'll miss covering when I stop doing this. It's the only event I'm a little sad to leave, every year. I'm seriously grateful I made it again this year. (Thanks very much, B. Wetterich). I hope I'm back for 21. Thanks for indulging this sappy nonsense. Live big, B. Jones

Wetterich finishes with 77

Brett Wetterich birdied the 18th hole Sunday to finish his first Masters with a 77, and 4-day total of 302, 14-over par. In a brief interview after the round, Wetterich said it was too early to assess his performance, other than to say the cold and windy conditions on the weekend, especially Saturday, affected his play. Wetterich was tied for the lead after two rounds. But after shooting 3-under par the first 36 holes, he went plummeted to 16-over in the last 36. No rookie has won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Wetterich on Sunday

Because he's not on TV... just made a birdie at the par-5 13th, with an approach to 4 feet... he started the day plus-9... he's plus-11 now... bogeyed No. 1, birdied 2, bogeyed the par-3 4th after leaving his tee ball in the front bunker... 2-over for today is a decent score... conditions much better today than yesterday, but wind still can cause problems...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Calling all Tigers

Absolutely no offense to Brett Wetterich, who has played 2 wonderfully smart and skilled rounds here, but... could whoever stole the Masters please bring it back?

This has been coming for years, ever since T. Woods went 18-under in '97... rather than see their toonamint become a shooting gallery, the lords of Augusta grew rough, magically installed tall trees where none existed the prior year (how do they do that?) and lengthened the course by more than 500 yards. The 1st, 2nd and 11th tees are now in South Carolina.

Combine that with four dry days in a row (a first since The Changes) and you have what you have now: The US Open in April. What is lost is the sort of go-for-it sex appeal that made the Masters, well, the Masters. "You just plod along'' is how T. Woods describes it. "Just don't have any wrecks.''

Wow, that's exciting.

The possibility exists that above-par could win here for the first time in 41 years. One possibility that doesn't exist: Someone shooting a back-9 30 on Sunday, capping a win with a finishing 65. That's what happened in '86, when Nicklaus won. The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention that day. It's doing it now.

Too bad it'll never happen again. Unless...

The greencoats water the greens and trim the rough and, in the future, consider a "Masters ball'' that doesnt orbit the earth the way current golf balls do. Until then, watch Tiger play the course like a kitten.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Phil Mickelson

...just watched him hit a flop shot... from the 7th green...75 feet away, to 6 feet..made the par... then, hit a driver off the deck on the fairway at the par-5 8th... put it on the green...2-putt birdie from 50 feet... then bombed a tee ball at 9, position be damned... after he 3-putt from 15 feet at No. 6, I think Phil just said Ph--it, er, heck with it, and started having fun... he's still plus-6...cut projected at plus-7

Wetterich bogeys No. 15

...still up a shot... 3-putt from 30 feet below the hole... Tiger out in 39, plus-4 for the tmt... Mickelson, also plus-4, tees off at 2:03 p.m.

Wetterich leads Masters

...by himself. Just walked the front 9 with him... again, impressed with how he's in total control of his emotions and his game. The danger with first-timers here, as Brett is, is that they will either become timid or fearless... either is trouble. Wetterich parred the first 8 holes, most routinely, with 3-4-5 foot putts. He faded his tee ball on 7, into the pine straw... then left the chip out short of the fairway...bogey seemed likely, approaching the 2nd-smallest green on the course... but wetterich's approach landed 5 feet from the cup... he dunked the 5-foot sidehill snake for a great save... finally made a bird at 9, from 30 feet below the hole... way too early to say he can win... not too early to suggest he'll finish Top 16, earning a trip back next year...

Loyalty is a 1-way street

The charlatans who coach college basketball have outdone themselves this year. Anytime any coach preaches loyalty, reach for your coat. Except, perhaps, Billy Donovan, who will stay at Florida even as most of his team leaves.

How 'bout Huggs? K-State offers him resurrection, he thanks them by bolting at 1st light. Yeah, I know, he turned around the program, 23-12, NIT etc., but please. Wouldn't you think he owed them more than a year? But forget the school. Huggs hosed Bill Walker and Michael Beasley. Walker didnt go to Manhattan, KS, because he likes corn. Now, after missing nearly all of last year, he'll have to miss all of another, if he follows his loyal leader to WVU. Which he probably won't, because he doesnt want to be in college in the first place, so he'll serve his penance at K-State next winter, then declare for the draft. Meanwhile, Beasley has already signed with the Wildcats, who have indicated they'll hold him to that. So, he's stuck.

It would be revolutionary, nice even, if successful coaches actually honored a contract. Failing that, the rule should be changed, allowing the Walkers and Beasleys of the world to express the same "loyalty'' as the coach they agreed to play for.

And, oh yeah, does UK have a coach yet? Tell me again how it's one of the best jobs in college basketball, and how great coaches would love to work there. Wright, Barnes, Donovan... step right up.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wetterich drops a shot

He has played an unbelievably poised 1st round, his first ever at the Masters, laying up when need be (No. 13), landing approaches in putt-able areas of the greens, cashing in on the few birdie chances he has had, at 7, 9, 10... he just overshot the green at the par-5 15th and missed a 5-footer for par, then followed that up with a solid par on 16... at the moment is in sole possession of second place, a shot behind Justin Rose (and 3 ahead of Tiger Woods and 6 up on Phil Mickelson)... the course is playing hard and fast... certain holes, most notably 16, are almost impossible to birdie...will check back in a bit... they're having wireless problems here...

Thursday at Augusta

Welcome to the first day of the 2007 Masters, where before you enter the course, you can buy a green leather duffel bag at the pro shop, if you have an extra $550 amid the pocket lint…

Even people who watch lots of golf don’t always understand why flying balls at flagsticks isn’t always a great idea. At Augusta National, knowledge isn’t power. It’s more important than that.

Take the 170-yard, par-3 16th. The pin today is back left. You have about 6 feet of green in front of you, before you find the slope and the pond. No one who hits the slope escapes the pond. If you’re 10 feet long shooting at the flag, you’re in the rough, chipping downhill. It’d be easier to stop a bug flying at your windshield on I-75 than stopping that chip close to the hole.

The pros that aren’t insane don’t aim at that flag. They aim at least 20 yards to the right and hope the ball catches the downhill slope toward the hole. The uninitiated might think that’s a stupid or gutless shot. It’s the best shot.

Same at the par-3 6th, where the Thursday pin is traditionally tucked way back and right. There’s about 40 square feet of flat ground around the pin. The smart play is center of the green and two-putt par. And so on. Almost every hole here demands some sort of pinpoint approach. It’s usually not firing right at the stick.

Number Five is the Forgotten Hole here. Really: How many times have you seen it televised? How much history has been made here? Nobody goes to 5, because it’s so easy to walk across the 4th and 7th fairways to get to behind the No. 6 green…5 is loud (it abuts busy Berckmans Road), boring (easy tee shot, big green) and out of the way.

By the way: The Masters “badge’’ this year is $175, if you can get one, which you can’t. The badge (not a ticket, just like patrons aren’t “fans’’) gets you in all week, beginning Monday. Best deal in sports. But as the Augusta Chronicle puts it, “The patron list is fully subscribed.’’ I think that means the toonamint is sold out.

Is the TV looping the bird noises yet? I cover this almost every year, so I’m not watching TV, but I’ve heard from people who’ve been here and leave early, to watch the coverage in the later afternoon, report hearing the same chirps from a certain hole at least five hours after they heard them in person. Maybe they just have social birds at Augusta National…

Personal observation: The Masters doesn’t release attendance figures, but I’m guessing the number of “patrons’’ at the practice rounds has doubled at least in the last 20 years. They say the number of “badges’’ has not changed, but the naked eye disputes that. Maybe the “patrons’’ are just larger than they used to be, from scarfing all those pimiento cheese sandwiches…

The pollen here hits you in waves. I brushed yellow off my car this morning…

Best Place to See Azaleas… the path down from the elevated 6th tee to the crosswalk on the 6th fairway. You slice down the middle of a grove of them so thick, they look steroid-ed. From a distance, “patrons’’ passing through the mass of pink, red, white and purple look like a knife, slicing a psychedelic cake…

Another Masters pleasantry: No hordes of people walking the middle of the fairways, carrying signs. The permanence of the toonamint allows for permanent leaderboards. More than half the holes have one.

Only the players use port-a-potties. The “patrons’’ enjoy permanent loos. They’re green. You might have guessed. By the way, it’s one of the few public places where the men’s line is wa-a-a-y longer than the women’s.
The Masters has rows of pay phones, each with its own local phone book. The phone areas are always jammed, given that cells aren’t allowed.

See you tomorrow, when it starts getting serious.

Wetterich one shot off lead

Oak Hills graduate Brett Wetterich is in second place, one shot behind leader Justin Rose, who is through 14 holes in the opening round of the Masters. Wetterich is at 2 under through 10 holes.

Wetterich, playing in his first Masters, birdied Nos. 7, 9 and 10, playing solidly yet conservatively through the first six holes. At No. 7 he hit an approach to 15 feet and nailed the putt. At No. 9 he hit an approach to 18 feet and hit a right-to-left breaker for birdie.

A day not known for high scores, there are only eight players under par so far. Phil Mickelson is +5 through 15. Tiger Woods is even through five holes.

Billy Donovan

He sounds like he has seven toes out of Gainesville, doesn't he? Count me as one who doesn't get it. If Donovan leaves Florida for UK, it's strictly an ego move. He didnt go to school at Kentucky; he was an assistant. He didnt grow up there. Florida will match the money. Even with consecutive titles, Florida won't have the unrealistic expectations and its attendant pressure. Florida is warm. Donovan has shown he can recruit basketball players to a football school. The UK Mystique is a memory. The only reason to switch jobs is to hear the Big Blue faithful tell Donovan how great he is. Is it worth it? We'll see. If I were Donovan, you couldnt get me out of Gainesville with a stable of thoroughbreds and a lifetime supply of Jack D--, er, Maker's.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

OK, I admit it. When it comes to the Masters, I'm a little sloppy in love. Twenty times I've been to this event, and I still commit bad poetry in its name. I like golf, I admire tradition, I'm a big fan of a turkey on wheat and a Coke for $2.25. I saw Nicklaus win here in '86 (the chill on the neck lingers), I saw Tiger dominate in '97, Crenshaw cry in '95, the Hoch choke, the Norman implosion etc. The Masters succeeds as great sport and better theatre. Plus it has Woods -- the best, most important athlete of this generation -- at his grinding, supremely gifted best. But you knew all that. On the Blog this week, I'll tell you some things maybe you didnt know, and won't see on TV.

You will never drive down Magnolia Lane unless you're playing or a member. And it's Gate 2, not Gate 1.

Once you're in, the first thing you see is the massive gift shop to your right. Buy a shirt for $46 or $115, a bag towel for $9. Buy a shot glass for $8. You'll need it when the credit card bill comes.
Practice round tickets are granted by region of the country from year to year, so as to assure maximum spending in the gift shop. That's the rumor, anyway.

From the gift shop, walk maybe 100 yards, peer out between the 15-foot high hedges and see the first fairway, and the whole of the course opening up in front of you, as if someone dumped a gallon of green paint down a sliding board. Take a free copy of the day's pairing and tee times from a green-painted, stand alone box that resembles a cabin. Read and heed the words of club co-founder and "president in perpetuity'' Bobby Jones: "In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play... distressing to those who love golf is the applauding or cheering of misplays of a player... at the Masters, we must eliminate them entirely if our patrons are continue to merit their reputation as the most knowledgeable and considerate in the world.''

Fans aren't fans here. Or crowds or galleries or, heaven help us, mobs. They are "patrons.''

If your cell phone rings on the course, you can be the "Patron'' saint, and they will show you the gate.

Walk up the hill to the No. 1 green. And we do mean uphill. TV does no justice to the elevation changes here. From the highest point on the course (back right, 1st green) to the lowest (Rae's Creek in front of the 12th green) is 175 feet, according to Golf magazine. The height of Niagara Falls is 176 feet. If you come to the Masters and you walk the course, you will need a nap.

If you don't have HDTV, get it today, install it tonight and watch the "toonamint'' as the locals call it, tomorrow. Nothing on hi-def looks better. Nothing. And it still won't show you how the greens roll like The Beast at Kings Island. Masters rookie and Cincy native Brett Wetterich spent much of two practice days doing little but pitching and putting. "TV flattens everything,'' he said.

Is there rough at the Masters? Yep. Sort of. Go to Glenview or Miami Whitewater or California. Hit your tee ball into the fairway. Look down at it. See that grass? That's what Masters rough looks like. The "second cut'' they call it. Right.

See if you can locate the only palm tree on the course. (It's right of the fairway on No. 4.)

Most of the big loblolly pines that fill the course have lightning rods winding up their trunks.

The best place to be on the practice days is alongside the pond that runs between tee and green at the par-3 16th. "Patrons'' there chant Skip-Skip-Skip to the players, who oblige by moving in front of the tee box and hitting wedges or short irons that skip two or three times on the pond before landing on the green.

Eat a $1.50 sandwich in a green wrapper. Drink a $1 soda from a green cup. If you drop the green trash, a guy in a green jumpsuit will stab it and put it in a green plastic trash bag bearing the word PLEASE in bold black letters.

John Daly's RV won't be at Hooters this week. He didnt qualify. Best Daly Moment Witnessed By Me: A few years ago, Long John's tee ball at the par-4 10th faded right, into the pines. The smart play was to wedge it out to the fairway and try to get up and down from maybe 140 yards. Daly addressed his ball intending to do just that, until the "patrons'' gathered around him started urging him to go for the green. Daly said, "F--- it''. He exchanged the wedge for an iron and announced, "Fore right, fore left, fore everywhere!'' His approach found the front edge of the green.

There wasnt a net at the end of the driving range here until the year after Daly's first Masters. Balls no longer fly off the property and onto busy Washington Road.

Caddies arent allowed in the clubhouse, but media are.

Volunteers at the Masters are not allowed to speak to the media. For any reason.

The 13th green is 8,177 square feet, about the same as between the bases of a baseball diamond. They use eight or nine different pin positions there.

Tomorrow: Thinking your way around the golf course.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Paying college athletes

Had a Xavier senior interview me for a senior project the other day. The question was,"Should college athletes be paid?'' It's been a debate for 20 years, at least. I'm surprised nobody at the Final 4 has written about it. I refuse anymore to do columns on it, mainly because it's too easy a topic. Regardless, this is what I told the X student:

(1) No.

(2) It's like the talk about a college football playoff. Everybody wants one; nobody tells me how it would work.

(3) They're already being paid. If you don't buy that, talk to a kid who works 20-30 hours a week waiting tables or stocking groceries, then takes a full load. Talk to another kid who graduates thousands of dollars in debt.

(4) Who gets paid? How much? Where does the money come from? Is the swimmer who's up at 5 for practice worth any less than the basketball player who flies to games and stays in hotels?

(5) Big-time athletes use the school for the exposure, often with no intention of getting a degree. Where else could Greg Oden get a national forum for his skills? The exploitation cuts both ways.

(6) Suggesting athletes should be paid also suggests a free education is worthless.

And so on. College jocks are doing just fine. Live big, Augusta National.

Jim Borgman
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