Originally Published: May 2, 2010 3:27 PM CDT
Here in the land of the Tar Heels about an hour from Charlotte, home of the Quail Hollow Country Club, where Tiger missed the cut and the new king of the hill, Phil Mickelson, is in the chase for his second straight win of the season.
Also in the hunt is a pair of players with state ties, OU’s Anthony Kim and OSU’s Ricky Fowlerdressed in his orange on orange on orange on orange and perhaps one more layer of orange) hat, shirt, slacks, shoes and even money orange undies.
Looking forward to visiting with CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz tonight at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he will finish coverage just down the road and head over to a dinner-dance night of commiserating with lots of journalists from around the country.
I’ve enjoyed talking golf with Nantzas nice a guy in person as he sounds on TVfocusing most of the talk on Tiger and the Oklahomans. He’s always seen Tiger as what he has proven himself to bea once in a generation talent and someone who kids should copy on the golf course and maybe not away from the land of birdies and pars.
Nantz told me two years ago that he expects Kim to win majors if he can discipline himself away from the course and expects substantial success from OSU’s Hunter Mahan. Looking forward to hearing his thoughts on Fowler. I’m a big fan of Ricky, another high-profile gent who has been nothing but pleasant and relatively humble when I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with him in non-interview settings.
Last night I had the pleasure of once again talking sports with sportswriter-turned-sportscaster Bob Ryan (Boston Globe and ESPN, respectively). Bob is once again the National Sportswriter of the Year. Through the years, he’s never changed the same in our conversations as he is on TVpassionate and knowledgeable about sports.
For example, the man with the ruddy read face knows as much about the Thunder as anyone not on OKC’s payroll. Told me he rooted hard for OKC in their Game 6 loss to the Lakers. Said he didn’t realize Russell Westbrook had already become so good. I told him I believe the major reason for his growth was that GM Sam Presti and Coach Scott Brooks wisely hired former NBA star point guard Mo Cheeks to mentor him. He thought that was a brilliant move and began telling Mo Cheeks stories to my wife. Said he loved Mo as a player and as a “quiet, guy of total class.”
Seeing Nantz will be great but he’s playing a distant second fiddle to the man I traveled half way around the country to meet. The man most responsible for the game of golf as we know it rolls into Charlotte tonight and an awards ceremony tomorrow where he’ll introduce Nantz as the National Sportscaster of the Year. No, not Jack Nicklaus. He became the greatest player after this man set the course for the “future” of golf. No, not Bobby Joneswhich would be quite a story if he showed, and no, not Babe Zahariasas of last reports not a man. We’re talking..Arnie.
Yes, Arnold Palmer. Maybe no big deal to most of you. But to mea lad who grew up with Arnie’s Army charging on Sunday afternoons as my father had us three Blevins boys watching on black and white TV between his preaching Sunday mornings then Sunday nights at Park Place Baptist in Hot Springs, AR.
Dad didn’t like the cigarettes Arnie would pull on in between the two iron slashes and the hitches of the britches. And he didn’t know of the eye for the ladies in the galleries or he wouldn’t have liked that either. But he loved the charges from the woodspardon the hun, pun intended. If dad loved it we loved it. So boy did we love it. That’s where the golf bug struck the Blevins clan.
The affliction is still there today, thanks to dad and Arnie, not Fat Jackdisrespect unintended as friends who know him well tell me he’s the best of the best and most genuine man of class you could ever meet, but it was still Fat Jack to our household as he began routinely beating our man Arnie in the early sixties, ruining our Sundays, Mondays and the rest of the week till we could watch the two tee it up again the next weeknot Babe, not Mr. Jones and not Mr. Woods, pardon the hun, pun intended, again.
Tonight I will revert to that six year-old who fell in love with Army and would have died for a picture with The King. I’m sure he will graciously abide. Then when I get home I’ll rush to Moto-Photo to get a copy of Arnold and his one-man Army. I’ll make copies for my brothers and dad.
Then I’ll put one of the pics in my billfold, right there next to me and Pistol Pete. I loved Maravich more than any athlete ever, although Arnie, Ali and Joe Willie were close to my heart. But when I’d been in the presence of Pistol Pete, he was fighting demons. He’d pose for pictures every time I saw him. But he never smiled.
Here’s betting I could ask Arnie to take photos till the clock struck midnight and he’d have that one and only smile on his face. Arnie may have disappointed me a few thousand times standing pigeon toed and lipping out all those four-footers to lose to you-know-who.
But tonight he won’t disappoint. That’s a gimmie.