Editor’s Note: I love major championship golf as much as anything in sports. And I especially love the British Open.
And for 71 1/2 holes last year, all I could think about was the Open Championship. But in the days, weeks and months following the last half of the 72nd hole and the subsequent playoff, it was all I could do to keep from thinking about it.
Because of my schedule, I’m not able to write my typical “Who Can Win, Who Won’t Win and Who Will Win” column this week for the Open. No big loss for you, especially afterI picked Greg Norman and Tom Watson to win the last two years, respectively.
In its place, though, I wanted to re-run a column I wrote about my experience during and after last year’s Open. It’s one of a series of “Visits with psychologist Dr. Kendall” columns I’ve written in an effort at cheap humor and intense sports psyche-dwelling.
Here’s my column that appeared last August, about a month after the 2009 Open Championship, with a few revisions:
Why I keep doing this I have no idea. It didn’t seem to resolve the Cubs’ infatuation two years ago. I still haven’t figured out exactly how I feel about steroids in baseball. And yet I’m still going back for more, ahem, treatment.
Deep breath. OK, let’s get the dog-and-pony show on the road. Open the door, sign in, flip through old magazines, wait an hour after the scheduled appointment time…
“Mr. Podlogar, so good to see you again. Dr. Kendall is waiting for you.”
Whoa, wait a minute. Last name pronounced correctly. Receptionist welcomes me at the door. Immediately sends me back. What is this?
He’s waiting for me? Seated comfortably in his chair, legs crossed, legal pad on his lap, pen in hand? Huh?
“Alex, Alex, come on in. Have a seat.”
“Um, gotta say, Doc, the service has been exemplary today. I’m a little flustered, I have to admit.”
“Well, you’re something of a rock star around here.”
“Rock star? You know, Doc, it’s kind of unsettling knowing the shrink is waiting with baited breath to see you.”
“Oh, don’t be silly. You’re one of our most fascinating subjects, err, patients, um, people. Yeah, people.”
“So what’s on your mind today, Alex? The Cubs’ exasperating season? The ridiculous freefall of Aramis Ramirez? Carlos Zambrano’s inability to do anything remotely sane, let alone get outs? Or is it Baseball’s glacier-like progress on instant replay? Maybe it’s LeBron’s decision. Is that it? Huh? Tell me. Tell me! I’m dying to know!”
“Well, those are all good points. Especially the Zambrano thing. But that’s not it.”
“Oh boy — it’s something new?”
“Gosh, Doc, can you back away from the edge of your seat there? A little close, don’t you think?”
“I think I need to give up sports.”
“I take them too seriously, Doc. You should’ve seen me last year. I was a total wreck. I could barely watch the final round of the British Open, settling instead for text message updates from a friend, some of them during church. And then when I did watch, as Tom Watson, my main man when I was growing up, was about to win at age 59, accomplishing something never before seen in sports, it all fell apart.”
“I see, Alex. It’s a classic case of jinxotic paranoia. You think that because you started watching, a bad thing happened to the person you were rooting for.”
“Well, not exactly — although I totally have that. Carlos Marmol walks the leadoff guy, I turn the TV. But it wasn’t that so much.”
“It’s how I felt after the carnage of the playoff. I was heartbroken, crushed, devastated. Nothing could cheer me up. It happened halfway around the world, to a man I’ve never met, and I was destroyed. Even when it looked like he would win, I could barely watch. I was a nervous wreck. My wife thought it was the dumbest thing ever.”
“Wait a second. You’re married? Boy, would I love to talk to her.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Anyway, I felt horrible, and for days afterward. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t bring myself to watch SportsCenter because I didn’t want to hear about it, see the highlights or even read the results over and over again on the scroll at the bottom of the screen. No sports talk radio. I removed myself from sports for, like, three days.”
“I know. My wife loved it.”
“Have you felt like this before?”
“Oh sure. When Steve Bartman happened.”
“The 2003 NLCS, right? The guy who got in the way of the foul ball in Game 6 against the Marlins. The bobbled double-play ball right after it. The eight-run inning and the collapse in Game 7 a day later.”
“OK, OK. Enough.”
“He was my guy when I was a kid. My first on-TV golf memory is of the ’82 Open, when he chipped in on 17 at Pebble. My dad hated Watson ’cause he loved Nicklaus. So naturally, I dug Watson.”
“Ohhhhhhh. So you and your dad have issues, too, huh?”
“Nah. It was just one of those things. We get along great. Geez, Doc, I got enough going on without you trying to make stuff up.”
“Yeah, make stuff up. That’s what we do. That’s why you keep coming to me.”
“All right, so you feel like you take sports too seriously, that the outcomes of the teams or people you root for affect you too personally.”
“Precisely. So what do I do about it?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. You’re a sports writer, right? How do you put those feelings away when you’re covering a game?”
“That’s different. That’s work. You just dive into your job and be a professional.”
“Can’t you do that with this?”
“What, make sports work all the time? Where’s the fun in that?”
“Where’s the fun in how you’re watching sports now?”
“Look, aren’t sports about the great unknown? That anything can happen in a single moment, something that maybe you’ve never seen before? Like those perfect games this year.”
“Yeah, those have been pretty fantastic.”
“Think about what Watson accomplished last week. Does the fact he wasn’t able to win make it any less amazing that he was able to contend to the very last moment in a major championship at 59? How about the grace with which he handled his defeat? Sports are what they are, Alex. A series of highs and lows, and the lower the lows, the higher and more satisfying the highs.”
“That’s what we Cubs fans keep telling ourselves, Doc.”
“Just enjoy the moments for what they are, or turn out to be. At the end of the day, who wins and loses doesn’t make that much of a difference.”
“C’mon, you really believe that?”
“Geez, I see we still have a lot of work to do. See you in October, then?”
“Not this year, Doc.”