Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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I'm guessing that P.J. Gallagher's is hopping

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 15, 2013 - 8:06 AM

Tomorrow would have been a great day to hang out at P.J. Gallagher's Irish Pub in Parramatta, near Sydney, Australia. That's where several Yankee sportswriters wound up watching the Opening Ceremonies for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

That's also where I started to gain my admiration for Awe-zees as both extreme patriots and cynics. If you think we're a bunch of smart alecks, you should spend three weeks hanging out Down Under.

Which, by the way, was the highlight of the few hours we spent on Friday, Sept. 17, 2000 in P.J. Gallagher's: The prideful tears that were shed by the several dozen patrons when Men At Work came on the TV screen to sing "Down Under'' inside Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

Three women in the pub -- Connie Vassiloulos, Christina Koromilas and Irene Iurato -- served as our source of information for all things Aussie, including celebrities that were being interviewed as they entered the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies.

A man named John Farnham was interviewed and expressed concern over the cold, saying, "We aren't allowed to wear a neckerchief.'' The ladies told us Farnham was a pop singer who made it big in Australia in the 1970s, then had a comeback a couple of decades later.

I looked it up on Sunday night: Not only is Mr. Farnham still with us, he recently was voted as Australia's best singer of all-time.

The Aussie ladies were all sports nuts. They did have a disagreement on cricket, Vassiloulus saying that she hated it, and Koromilas being so into it that she had traveled to England a year earlier for the World Championships.

"We won,'' she said proudly.

Asked to rate the greatest events in Australian sports history, they put hosting these Olympics as No. 1 (as opposed to the 1956 Olympics held in rival metropolis Melbourne).

Second? "Any time we've beaten Britain in anything important is second,'' Vassiloulos said.

Third was the America's Cup sailing races in 1983, when Alan Bond and John Bertrand led the effort that made Australia the first ever country to take the Cup away from the United States.

I was in Newport, R.I. for a couple of days of that competition. I spent time in a bar the Australians had taken over. I had quit drinking by then. This led to much scorn from the Aussies when I would not join them for a Foster's after Australia had sailed to a victory in that day's race.

The reaction of Australia to capturing the America's Cup remained legendary, even to these women in Gallagher's who were teenagers at the time.

"The prime minister came on television that night and said, 'Any boss who fires an employee for coming in late tomorrow is a mug,' '' Vassiloulos said.

The nation-wide celebration had to be similar late Monday morning, when Adam Scott knocked in that putt on the second hole of his playoff with a valiant Angel Cabrera -- making an Awe-zee a Masters champ for the first time.

This is a country with a grand golf heritage. Australians had titles in the British Open, the U.S. Open and the PGA. The Masters was elusive. It also had been a Aussie crusade since 1996, when Greg Norman took a six-stroke lead into Sunday, shot a 78 and lost by five strokes to Nick Faldo.

That was not the first or last time that an Aussie had finished second: Jim Ferrier lost to Jimmy Demaret in 1950, Bruce Crampton to Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Jack Newton to Seve Ballesteros in 1980, Norman to Nicklaus' miracle back nine in 1986, Norman to Larry Mize's miracle, 140-foot chip in a playoff in 1987, and Jason Day and Scott in a tie behind Charl Schwartzel in 2011.

That hex ended on Monday morning in Australia. And if the prime minister had gumption, he went on television and said, "Any boss who fires an employee for ditching work this afternoon is a mug.''

 

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