Friday, July 20, 2012

What We Have Sown

It happened again. This time it was a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The toll this time – 12 dead, 59 wounded.

Was the shooter disturbed, possibly deranged? Probably.

Was it tragic? Absolutely.

Was it shocking?


If this shocks you, then my only question is, how many more incidents will it take for you to get over your shock? This is just the latest on a sad series of incidents, a series that is not going to stop, not any time soon.

This country is armed to the teeth. Many consider the Second Amendment sacrosanct. Any politician that even hints at proposing to limit access to guns is a targeted (pun intended) person. The NRA has a stranglehold-lock on our political process. Guns are as American as mom and apple pie.

Well, this is the result.

I know. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people…if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns…the vast majority of gun owners are responsible…

And on and on the excuses and rationalizations go. Do me a favor. Save them. I don’t need to hear them. I’ve heard them.

This is a lost cause. As much as I abhor guns, and, just for clarification, I have lived 53 years in this country, in large cities like Miami, Houston and Orlando without ever having to fire a gun, I can’t do anything about it. Except to express how much this sickens me. It sickens me that this is our value system – being armed to the teeth is an American value.

And I know this paints me as some kind of tree-hugging Liberal. What-fucking-ever. Label me however you want. I don’t care anymore.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. George Zimmerman. Aurora. And those are just the more notable incidents. People have been shot down in churches, on playgrounds, in malls, in schools…and in movie theaters.

The defense is, these people are unstable!

Gee, you think?

But you have to understand something. In this country, unstable people have easy access to guns. That is the price we pay to pack heat. Now, I’m sure you, reading this, are a very responsible gun owner. Just understand something – this gives me no solace whatsoever. It is not you I am worried about.

It’s the next person who will spray bullets into a crowd that I may be a part of.

It will happen again.

And again. And do not tell me you’re shocked when this happens. That’s bullshit.

It’s inevitable.

My hope is one day enough people will have had enough of the slaughter in the name of ‘Rights.’ Remember, you have no rights. You have privileges granted to you by the people in power.

I only pray the privilege of owning a gun one day is relegated to the history books.

This latest incident in Aurora is not shocking. It’s collateral damage.

Get used to it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jack and Me

In my opinion, the fortunate people in this world are those who, a) have a hero, and b) have had the chance to meet them.
Consider me very fortunate.
I grew up in Ohio and at a very young age got addicted to golf. My first round was when I was ten years old, and my last round was, uh, two days ago. In between have been thousands of rounds, hundreds of golf books read, scores of golf vacations, three holes in ones, and one hero.
Jack Nicklaus.
When I was growing up, Jack was the king of the golf world, and he still holds the record for most major championships won – 18. Tiger was making a nice run at that record until he backed into a fire hydrant in 2009 and got a bit sidetracked. He may yet break Jack’s record, but as of right now, it’s Jack 18, Tiger 14. And should Tiger one day pass Jack’s record, sorry Eldrick, but Jack will still be the man, at least to me.
I have had three separate occasions to actually meet and converse with Jack, and not surprisingly, two of them were on the golf course -
1983 Ryder Cup, PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL – This was a watershed Ryder Cup; as the U.S. squad barely hung on to defeat the upstart European team, 14.5 points to 13.5 points. The outcome was not settled until Lanny Wadkins hit a pitching wedge to three feet from the hole on the eighteenth hole in his match. That shot halved the match and gave the Cup to the U.S. Jack was the captain of the U.S. team.
I was in the gallery along the eighteenth fairway when Lanny hit his shot. There was jubilation in the gallery as we knew his shot clinched the Cup. I then looked out in the fairway, and there was Jack in his Captain-mode, walkie-talkie in hand, shaking hands with well wishers offering their congratulations. The gallery ropes were down, so I took advantage of the opportunity and ran out to congratulate Jack. This was our exchange –
Me: “Jack, we sure could have used you out there today.”
Jack, in his too-high squeaky voice – “Oh I don’t know about that. I don’t think my nerves could have handled it.”
Me: “Yeah RIGHT!”
Jack: “Ha!”

Three years later those nerves were good enough for him to win his sixth Masters. 
1994 World Golf Championship, Doral Country Club, Miami – Greg Norman won this tournament in a runaway, but at one point in the third round, Jack was tied for the lead. I was, of course, in his gallery. Jack got to the tenth hole, a dogleg-left par 5 around a lake. The long hitters would try to cut the corner, but Jack was too tactical (and also 54 years old) to try that. I was standing right behind him and his caddy as they discussed the shot.
Jack, to his Caddy: “How far to the bunker on the right?”
Caddy: “258.”
Jack: Two fifty eight? You sure?”
Caddy, double-checking his notes: “Yep. 258.”
Jack: “Gimme the one-iron.”
Jack then proceeded to hit his one-iron directly at that bunker, purposely away from the water. The ball landed about ten yards short of the bunker, took a hop forward towards it, and then stopped on a dime, two yards short of it. Jack gave the club back to his caddy, and walked over to where I was standing.
Me: “One-iron, Jack?”
Jack: “Yeah, one-iron.”
Me: “Can’t hit it 258 anymore?”
He turned around and shot me a look, as if to say ‘I’d like to see you try, asshole,’ but then smiled at me. I just said “You’re the man, Jack.”
The final time I talked to him was by far the most rewarding. My good friend Chuck got me an invitation to the Boy Scouts annual banquet at the PGA National Resort (same location as the 1983 Ryder Cup). It was a suit-and-tie affair. I showed up, found Chuck, and said okay where is he? Chuck pointed over to Jack, and I shot over to just be near him. I asked someone if he could ask Jack if it would be okay to have a picture of the two of us. The man walked over to Jack, Jack looked at me and said, sure, c’mon over!
I turned into a star-struck goober.
As I walked up to him, all I could say was, “I named my son after you!”
Jack: “You named him Jack?”
Me: “No, Nicklaus!” (His name is actually Nicholas, but pronounced the same)
Jack: “How old is he?”
Me: “He’s 13 years old Mister Nicklaus sir…he’s in seventh grade and on the honor roll.”
Jack patted me on the back, said “Good job,” and shook my hand.
And that’s when the picture on this story was taken.
Jack’s the man. Always was, always will be.