Sunday, June 15, 2014

Today's High Five: U.S. Open and other endings

5. Martin Kaymer reminds me a lot of myself.

No, I'm not talking about his wire-to-wire victory in the U.S. Open, his incredible putting, his bunker play, his 310-yard drives, his good looks, his physique or his overflowing bank account.

I'm talking about his apparent disdain for using wedges around the greens. Like me (and many other high-handicappers), the man putts everything he possibly can.

On one hole, Kaymer could have tried a tricky chip from a tight lie over a bunker into a pin near the edge of the green. Instead, he actually putted backward through the fringe, leaving himself with a long par putt from off the green. He two-putted from there for a bogey, and seemed quite happy to get it.

With a huge lead over the field, he knew that the only way he could lose the tournament was by experiencing a few horrific holes. He knew that the best way to avoid that was to stick with the club he trusted most. I loved it because I do the exact same thing. (And not only when I am leading the U.S. Open.)

What I didn't love was Kaymer lapping the field. I dig fantastic finishes, and watching dramatic U.S. Open battles has become a Father's Day ritual. So Tiger being hurt, Phil stinking up Pinehurst, Rory failing to find any magic, Bubba missing the cut and everybody else being unwilling or unable to challenge Kaymer turned the tournament into the Who S. Open and ruined my Father's Day.

Ruined it, I say!

Actually, that's not close to being true. I had a lovely, relaxing day. Roberta, Simmie and I took a long walk and visited with some goats and a donkey at a nearby hobby farm. I saved nearly $40 on a $12 grocery store bill - I am not making this up! - and even received a $10 instant rebate for buying a $5 pie. That's right: They paid me 5 bucks for taking a key lime pie off their hands! Later, I thoroughly enjoyed the Copper River salmon I grilled on a cedar plank for dinner. (And pie for dessert!) Of course, I also took several moments to fondly recall my many happy times with my father, truly a great man.

Kaymer even saved an otherwise anticlimactic U.S. Open for me by putting from off the green - well off the green - on at least a dozen occasions.

The next time I'm playing with my buddies and they scoff at me for putting from 15 feet off the green, I'll just smile and say, "It worked for the Who S. Open champion!"

4. And speaking of anticlimactic, it sure would have been nice if the Heat had bothered showing up for the last three games of the NBA Finals.

You know what? Instead of totally ragging on the losing team, let's give a big thumbs-up to the winners.

The Spurs were the NBA's best all season and they underscored their dominance in the Finals. They are talented and savvy and well-coached and deeper than the Grand Canyon. They wore out LeBron & Co., outplayed them, outclassed them and outscored them by 20 points per game after the series was tied 1-1.

There was a lot of talk about players' legacies going into this series, specifically revolving around LeBron James and Tim Duncan.

Despite all the haters' blah-blah-blahing, LeBron's legacy is fine. He has won two titles, has carried two organizations to a total of five Finals appearances and already is one of the top 10 basketball players ever.

Duncan? You know, he's pretty good, too!

3. The U.S. Open and NBA Finals weren't the only things to end Sunday. I already miss Game of Thrones.

It might be time to put my HBO subscription on hiatus for a little while.

2. And while we're on the subject of endings, this weekend marked the end of my Little League umpiring season. 

Here in Charlotte, it is too hot and humid to make the kiddies play all summer, so they have spring and fall seasons.

I had a lot of fun in my first full season behind the plate and in the field. And hey, I only ejected one coach all year - and I let him hang around for at least three innings of whining longer than I should have.

My highlight: During a brief time-out while one of his teammates was tying a shoe, a 10-year-old catcher turned around and asked me: "Do you umpire MLB, too?"

I was so stunned, I didn't even have a clever retort. I probably even blushed. Umps don't get compliments very often, especially one quite like that!

1. The weekend's first ending, the L.A. Kings' clutch performance against the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, served as a happy reminder of something that happened to me 20 years earlier.

That memory actually started 21 years ago, when Wayne Gretzky and the Kings lost in the 1993 Final to the Canadiens. I was the lead hockey writer for AP back then, and my coverage earned the Will Grimsley Award for best body of work.

Flash forward to '94. This time, the Rangers were in the Final, and prevailed over the Canucks in a thrilling seven-game series to break their 54-year championship drought.

About two weeks after covering that series, Roberta and I were flown to a resort in southern California, where I received my '93 award at the Associated Press Sports Editors conference. Because I happened to be the first AP writer called to the podium, I had the stage to myself for about a minute while my peers applauded.

Twenty years later, I still consider that minute to be the pinnacle of my AP career ... and one of the great things to happen to me in what I acknowledge has been a very lucky life.

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