Last Sunday, America watched the Masters and found its new golf hero, Bubba Watson. His left-handed swing looks like he's right-handed but nobody's had the heart to tell him. He possesses a body so strangely proportioned he appears to be a caricature of himself. He swings a pink driver and when he wins a major he goes out for ice cream with his buddies and he talks like a Dukes of Hazzard character and he seems to be genetically incapable of playing safely.
Christopher Mann writes that his everyman appeal allows us to project ourselves upon him, and that's what makes him popular - that "the light of exceptional ordinariness" shines in him. But I'm not sure that's right; not one of us would have tried to put fifty yards of hook into a wedge shot on a playoff hole in the Masters. We are, after all, not crazy. I was pleading through the television for Bubba to do the sensible thing and wedge out into the fairway and try to make an up-and-down par, the play that I think 98% of pro golfers would have made.
It's hard not to compare Watson to the tour's current scrambling lefty maestro, Phil Mickelson. Phil has long seemed like the id of the golf world, all flop shots and inappropriate club choices. But if Phil is the tour's id, then Watson is Phil's id - the shaggy-haired, long-hitting fearless banana nut fudge that Phil manages to keep locked up inside. Every so often, the demon flares inside Mickelson, and he ends up trying to play a shot right-handed out of a lake with one foot on a pontoon. But Bubba is all demon - swing hard and hope, and forget about what might go wrong.
I hope someday, we get a back-nine duel with Bubba and Phil in the same group. I hope Phil comes down to the last hole with a two-shot lead. I hope Phil's caddy is there, telling him to just play safe down the middle and win the tournament. And I hope we see Phil glance at Bubba. I hope Phil sees the glint of a luridly pink driver, and faces personification of the crazy voice in his head, all wild hair and absurdly long arms and southern accent, the manifestation of the voice that's telling him, forget playing safe, let's swing hard and see if we can't drive this green.
Forget projecting myself onto Bubba. I just like the crazy golf he plays. On with the links:
*I loved Spencer Hall's embedded report from inside the Mississippi State football program. It's a reminder that being a college football coach is exactly like your job, except a coach works twice as many hours and have no hobbies or life, and really is only interested in being a coach 24 hours per day and is not interested in anything else whatsoever.
*The Classical is following along as a few folks in Baltimore start their own minor league soccer team. It's a nice look at sports in the minors, where it's less about money and more about running your own team so you have someone to cheer for.
*The Toronto Maple Leafs missed the playoffs again this year, thus extending their streak of futility. There are many reasons the Leafs are terrible, but The Economist has a novel explanation: global warming is ruining winter in Ontario.
*I enjoyed Eric Nusbaum's negative look at the MLB Fan Cave. Key quote: " The... myth is that individual fandom is measurable in the volume of cheers, the number of caps owned, the amount of trivia spouted off, or the total hours spent at the ballpark."
*I don't remember a lot about the mid-90s Twins - it's all a blur of Scott Stahoviak and Pat Mahomes and Rich Becker - but I do remember the night they introduced their hideous red alternate jerseys.
And finally: Man, look at what playing for the Orioles does to a guy.