Friday, April 07, 2006

A Tradition Unlike Any Other


Of all the email subject lines in my inbox, this one was by far the most surprising. (Which was quite a feat, considering several items offered me the chance to watch naughty Asian school girls and a few promised me bigger, longer, and harder...uh...biceps. Yeah......biceps.) But there it was, a single phrase in an email from my cousin that presented a most intriguing, innovative, and dare i say genius, concept. The subject read "Fantasty Augusta?"
If I've learned anything about sports since I've turned 16, it's that there is absolutely no sport in the world that cannot be made interesting, even riveting, if you have a little money riding on it. Pool, bowling, even WNBA games go from unwatchable to unbeatable the second you put a little dough on the outcome. I'll be the first to admit that I might have taken this simple concept a little too far. In the past few years I'm ashamed (or proud, not really sure) to admit that I've gambled on cross-country skiiing, high school wrestling tournaments, and even the scrimmage played between two teams of 8-year olds during the halftime of a William & Mary basketball game. (Tip: Find the tallest player on the court and stick with him. Height is everything at that age.) And of course there are those that may say my gambling is a sick addiction and immoral and that offering tips on how to bet on games played between pre-pubescent players is flat-out wrong. ( And they'd be right.) But in each case the addition of a little green made the event more enjoyable for all.
And speaking of green, is there a place where a greater number of its brilliant shades are on display than the Masters? The granddaddy of all golf tournaments is four days of world class golf on one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and always one of my favorite athletic events of any calendar year. That's why those two simple words at the beginning of that email unlocked so many tantalizing possibilites. The proposed format was simple: Pick one player for each of the four rounds. Can't pick the same player twice. That player's score for that round is your score for that round. Lowest total score at the end of the tournament wins. Winner take all. And as an added wrinkle, if you pick a player for the 3rd or 4th round who doesn't make the cut, neither do you. I'll take a moment to allow you all to bask in either the pure brilliance or stupidity of the concept, your choice. The task at hand, therefore, was to try to pick players who started off fast for the first two rounds and players who closed well and would absolutely make the cut for the weekend. Aftera little research and even less thought, I settled on a lineup of Phil Mickelson, Chad Campbell, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. Needless to say, through two rounds I'm sitting pretty. Mickelson's two under on Thursday combined with Campbell's blistering 67 on Friday put me at seven under headed into the weekend. After astutely picking Vijay in the first round, my cousin is kicking himself for putting Chris Dimarco in his third round slot, who missed the cut by a mile on Friday. As long as Jim Furyk doesn't put together something in the mid-60's today, which he might given that's he's two under after four, I'm gonna be heading into the weekend with the league and the #1 and #2 players in the world going for me on Saturday and Sunday. Being a big Masters fan, there's no question I'd be watching this weekend regardless of my financial interest in the proceedings. But once again, I've come to the unmistakable conclusion that there is no sporting event in the world that can't be improved by the simple act of putting money on it. After my last trip to Atlantic City however, it's become even more clear that this principle should never, ever, be employed to blackjack or roulette. Just trust me on that one.

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