Toasting Beem, a sportswriter's dream
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Like I have to actually say this ...

Rich Beem
Rich Beem rings up the PGA Championship after draining his final putt on the 18th hole.
Loyal Cooler Dwellers -- and, as always, thanks to both of you -- will know that carte blanche at the Sparkletts jug is always, always, always extended to a cat like Rich Beem.

Rich Beem!

The guy about whom we know the following:

A. He's a scream.

B. He has been known to have a beer.

C. He plays in a big money skins game every Friday at El Paso CC.

D. He wears white golf shoes, which ordinarily we would veto on the Principle of Gauche, but when you're a former cell phone-selling golf hustler, you need to wear white golf shoes.

E. He's got some serious stones.

F. He's your new PGA champion and, en route to the winner's circle of the tournament put on by the organization of teaching pros across this land, Beem said he hated being a teaching pro mostly because "I didn't like the people." This is the perfect quote.

Other reasons Rich Beem is an automatic entrant into the Cooler Hall of Fame:

Usually, when a player wins a golf major, we hear about his birdies and bogeys. With Beem, we hear about the party he's ready to throw down at El Paso CC.

Usually, when a player wins a golf major, we hear about his focus down the stretch. With Beem, we hear him make an open plea to get on the cover of a major golf magazine. ("Is there any way you guys could get me on the cover this time?" Beem said. "I mean, seriously.")

Usually, when a player wins a golf major, we get the party line fed to him by his handlers. With Beem, you hear that he thinks he's likely to vomit down the stretch; that he's afraid to take a drink of water down the stretch because he might miss his face; and that he will never -- ever! -- take his Magnolia Hi-Fi business card out of his wallet so he will never forget how far he's come from shilling 500-minute plans on mobile phones in Seattle.

This guy rules.

We need more like him.

Imagine Derek Jeter during a World Series, saying: "Man, no way do I want to face John Smoltz. I might soil my pants."

Imagine Kobe Bryant during an NBA Finals saying: "If we win this thing, party's at my place ... and you're all invited."

Imagine Kurt Warner after a Super Bowl saying: "Bible study? Are you nuts? I just won the Super Bowl -- tap the keg!"

Mostly, Beem rules because he let a sportswriter, Alan Shipnuck, follow his life for a year, and write a no-holds barred, raunchy tome ("Bud, Sweat and Tees") about a guy who screws up in life, tries to do right but sometimes doesn't, and keeps trying to make birdies -- and doesn't rip the sportswriter after the book comes out!

This is unheard of.

Beem's take: "Hey, that's who I was back then."

Did we mention this guy rules?

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

Tiger Woods
Sure, he fell a stroke short, but give Tiger Woods credit for making a charge. Unlike ...
1. Tiger
Bogey on 13? Bogey on 14?

Holy feet of clay, Batman!

Throw in the 81 at Muirfield last month and, what do we have?

A reeling Tiger? A bleeding Tiger? A fading Tiger?

Uh, a guy who made birdie on the final four holes.

Uh, a guy won two majors this year.

Uh, a guy who has won six of the last 11 majors.

Holy never mind, Batman!

2. As for Justin Leonard ...
Ouch, babe.

Three-shot lead, and he drops a 77 on the field.

Tiger throws a sweet little 67 up there; Beem tosses a 68 into the ring ... and all Leonard can offer up is a pair of hockey sticks.

Justin Leonard
... Justin Leonard, who shot a 77 when all he needed was a 70.
My theory: Byron Nelson, the gentleman of Texas golf, wrote Leonard an inspirational letter that contained the magic advice to turn his 3-shot third-round lead into victory.

He does that, you know. Lord Byron loves to send current players encouraging letters. It's his thing.

Problem: Nelson is 90.

He wrote it with a quill and ink.

He sent it snail mail.

It arrives at Hazeltine on Tuesday, only to be immediately hurled into the circular file by a cleanup crew as it tears down grandstands.

I can only imagine the conversation later this week.

"Justin, did you get my letter?"

"Uh, no, Mr. Nelson, I didn't check my e-mail."


Put it all together, and you've got a smooth 77 for the grim-faced Texan.

Tiger Woods
Where's Waldo? Better yet, see if you can spot the obnoxious turds following Woods at the 14th hole during the first round at Hazeltine.
3. Golf galleries
The cat, people, is out of the bag.

And it's drunk.

And it's loud.

I'm thinking Bethpage Black has changed all the rules.

At Long Island's U.S. Open, a golf course turned into Yankee Stadium. Chants, roll calls -- and tons of lager. It was on TV, most people thought it was happening and going on -- and now every golf crowd has turned into the frenetic bunch on the dance floor in the toga party scene in "Animal House." Or, in darker moments, the mob in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

Example of problem: Woods hits tee shot on par-4 No. 1. Clown in gallery shouts "Get in the hole!"

Solution: Clown should be dragged out to tee box, and stoned to death. (Hey, you introduce Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" as analogy, you might as well follow through.)

I can do with the "Fred-die" chants for Fred Funk. And "Beem-er!" for Rich Beem. Understood, if those chants broke out at a British Open, they'd shut down the tournament out of shame. But we're Americans. We're ebullient.

We could just do without the turds.

And you know who you are.

4. Aug. 30 -- strike date
The players set a strike date -- tell the kids!

Growing up, I remember only one significant work stoppage from childhood, in 1981. It sucked big-time. Or, in a more eloquent, reasoned image, offered in an essay by Roger Angell, the work stoppage called to mind a tribe in Africa that found rhythm and peace in the rushing of a nearby river. When the river went dry, psychological problems ensued, because the village people did not hear the constant, soothing rush of the river. Angell likened that to a summer without hearing baseball on the radio. It was a pretty freaking nice passage.

So what do I think about an Aug. 30 strike date?

I think the owners stink.

I think the owners created this so-called problem of outrageous salaries, and are now trying to make players look bad. I think owners need to own up, so to speak, to their own irresponsibility in creating the salary mess. I think owners need to understand that they are all competitive, that they'd do anything to win, and that those who don't want to win are cheap and in the business for the wrong reason.

As for competitive imbalance?

Setting aside the fact baseball has always featured haves and have-nots, with well-run teams and poorly run teams, I don't like the way the NFL -- the paragon of salary-cap and revenue-sharing -- looks now. I don't like socialism in sports.

Maybe I'm wrong.

But maybe I also like what the A's, Twins and Reds -- small-market clubs -- are doing.

Maybe I understand that the Cubs, Orioles and Rangers -- big-market clubs -- stink for a reason.

And I'll miss that river thing/baseball on the radio when Aug. 30 rolls around.

5. And then there's A-Rod
The poster child for salary insanity. The very embodiment of all that is wrong with the game. The man who is paid irresponsibly huge amounts of cash.

Two reactions:

1. You're worth what somebody is willing to pay you.

2. Alex Rodriguez hit what, six bombs over the weekend?

He's worth it.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

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