Scott Spiezio, stay out of my life!
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Was it the Bee Gees, or Harry Caray, who once asked: How can you mend a broken heart?

Dwellers, the emotions at The Cooler today are as mixed as a Tom Collins.

Scott Spiezio
That's Scott Spiezio celebrating his big home run in Game 6. Somewhere, The Cooler is still crying.
On the one hand, baseball appeared on our nation's horizon Sunday night. The perfect sound of bat on ball. The sweet look of infield grass. The promise of spending the next six months with the eternal game, nursing us through weekend afternoons and weekday nights, providing radio accounts in our kitchens and backyards, sounds as soothing as a babbling brook behind Thoreau's crib in New England.

That is, if we can ever repair the wound.

Understood ... not every dweller comprehends the dimensions of pain Giants fans experienced a scant five months ago. But every dweller surely has had his or her own brand of searing pain.

What was it for you, my friend?

If you're from the South, was it a particular Florida State football loss to Miami? Was it any of three Florida State losses to Miami? Do the words "wide" or "right" cause a seizure? In fact, perhaps it is so bad that you have extricated those words from your vocabulary. When you play touch football, you tell your QB that you were "wicked" open. And when you drive, you take a "Rico" at the corner.

If you're from the Midwest, it could simply be generations of shame as a Cubs fan. Or it could be Green Bay's stunning stumble to Denver in the Super Bowl. Or is it the time you swung by the market on your way to Lambeau one Sunday, only to hear the butcher tell you: "Sorry -- all out of brats."

If you're from the Northeast, is it Buckner? Is it Schiraldi? Is it Bob (The Steamer) Stanley?

What I'm saying is: We've all been there. We submerge ourselves into these sports operas, understanding fully that sometimes, nay, most times, the good guy dies in the end. Makes for a sadder and more memorable opera. And for the rest of your life, you hear that aria from that opera, and you stop, and you wipe away a tear.

Which brings us to Sunday night.

A network, whose name I shall not mention -- let's call it the Extra Special Pain Network -- shows the Angels' home opener.

The Angels' home opener involved the following: Edison Field. Scrappy David Eckstein. A flag-raising in center field. ThunderStixx. And replays.

Replays of the World Series. Specifically, replays of Scott Spiezio's at-bat against Felix Rodriguez in Game 6.

Me, I was at a Carrabba's in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. I had a bowl of pasta in front of me at the bar. I was enjoying my meal. Then I looked up only to see the sports equivalent of Khartoum's head in my bed: the Spiezio-Rodriguez replay.

I buried my head in a napkin. I asked my guy Chief if the replay was over yet. He said "No." I asked three seconds later. He still said "No." I asked three seconds later. Chief's answer: "Not yet."

Christ on a bike, that was a long at-bat.

Finally, I could raise my head.

The ballgame went on.

The pasta was decent.

The wine flowed.

And the heart of every Giants fan faces Opening Day today with a mixture of springtime hope, and autumnal scars.

You've been there, dweller. You know.

Let's go straight to the Weekend List of Five, before I jump off the fifth floor at the Comfort Inn in Jax Beach:

1. The Final Four: Remembering Al McGuire
Marquette, in the Final Four!

Al McGuire
In honor of Al McGuire, have a scotch and cheer for Marquette in the Final Four.
As cool as it gets.

Not only did my 10-year-old nephew call the Golden Eagles' bid in the Final Four two weeks ago -- and trust me, when you hear it from a 10-year-old, it's quite amusing -- but the very concept of Marquette in the Final Four is wholly welcome.

First of all, mid-major conferences always make better stories than major conferences. Kansas, Texas, Syracuse -- yeah, yeah, blah, blah, congratulations.

But Marquette! The very name of the school is poetic. In fact, I want to name my first son "Marquette." Marquette Murphy. Sounds like a future Senator, no? Or, at the least, a running back at the University of Miami.

But the real reason we love Marquette is for the ghost of Al McGuire.

Since the advent of man, they have tried to make a piece of work as thoroughly entertaining and engrossing, as charismatic and as contagious as Al McGuire.

They haven't come up with jack.

God bless Dick Vitale -- and trust me, The Cooler appreciates Vitale, if only because when we covered the Oakland A's, trips to Tampa were made memorable by Vitale's actual attendance at Devil Rays games -- but Vitale knows that his path to analyst greatness was paved by McGuire.

Humor, candor, and your own vocabulary -- McGuire had it.

To top it off, McGuire won a national title.

We haven't even mentioned the fact that he was straight-up Irish Catholic, from the streets of New York, a winning combo if The Cooler has ever heard one. He pooh-poohed Marquette's run to the Final Four in '77 as "coffee-break talk" in light of the world's problems. Al -- 26 years later, Page 2 has given space to that very "coffee-break talk," my man! Only now, we call it The Cooler, and it's not nearly as entertaining as you were.

McGuire once distilled the things he liked in life this way: "Seashells and balloons ... bare feet and wet grass." He said he'd never recruit a player who had grass in front of his house, because "that's not my world ... my world is a cracked sidewalk."

Man, did I love Al McGuire.

Once, in 1996, I was sent to cover Stanford in the East Regional at Providence. McGuire and Tim Brando were doing the games. At the Providence Westin, in the second-floor bar, after the games, McGuire came and got himself a Scotch, and retired to a table. He sat there with Brando, and I pondered going up to tell him how I remembered '77, and how he wept when his team beat North Carolina, and then how he retired, and how they never made another one like him. I never did. I just let him enjoy his Scotch.

Somewhere, up there, Al McGuire is ordering another Scotch, and enjoying Marquette's run.

So, anybody rooting against Marquette?

Didn't think so.

2. More Final Four: Carmelo
Every teenage prodigy should be like Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony.

Let's lay it out like this: You're a super-duper high school stud. You have two choices:

Carmelo Anthony
Life is good for Carmelo Anthony. Yes, we're jealous.
1) Go pro, and get paid ca$h money immediately.

2) Go to college for a year, maybe two, and then go pro, and get paid ca$h money immediately.

In option 1, you ride the pine. When you do play, you get cuffed around by cats like Karl Malone, who give you deep and lasting bruises. You spend most of your time in hotel rooms, playing video games and renting SpectraVision. You soon learn that while video games are endlessly cool, SpectraVision does not refresh its supply of adult films nearly as frequently as you'd like. And $14-per-pop is a bummer, even at your huge salary.

In option 2, you're a superstar on campus. You occasionally attend a cool class on psychology, where you learn that Freud was a four-star wack job. You go to college parties, and co-eds dig you. You dance to 50 Cent albums at chica-friendly fraternity houses. When you do play basketball games, you dominate. After a year or two of this, you go pro, and get paid ca$h money immediately.

Carmelo Anthony has chosen Option 2. Syracuse is going to the Final Four, and now everyone knows Carmelo Anthony is a serious basketball player. After he perhaps leads Syracuse to the championship, he returns to a campus packed with co-eds, parties and the occasionally cool psych class.

Ah, to be young and Carmelo Anthony.

3. Kareem: Mr. Personality
Caught Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's act as CBS analyst Friday night.

And my only question: How does this guy not have a job as a professional master of ceremonies, greeter or party host? A warmer man the world has not seen.

Dweller, I jest.

The talk among Dick Enberg, analyst Matt Goukas and Jabbar was that Kareem had interviewed for the Columbia coaching job. Enberg played it straight, congratulating Jabbar on the interview. Goukas tried to ham it up, teasing Jabbar about Columbia's record. "That's a tough road," Goukas said. "I don't think they won a game in the league last year."

At that point, the CBS cameras cut away from the game and showed Enberg, Jabbar and Goukas. Goukas was smiling at The Captain, clearly reveling in a little fun.

Kareem was not amused at Goukas' implication that it was a dead-end gig. Kareem was clearly not amused.

Jabbar responded with the death glare. He iced him as if Goukas were the little kid in "Airplane" who questioned Jabbar's regular-season intensity.

My hotel TV nearly fogged up from the Arctic wind blowing through that announcing crew.

Yo, Kareem! Lighten up, my man.

Now, go take that Columbia job. Anything to keep you out of UCLA's coaching seat.

4. Caddies: collective pieces of work
Spent the week down at The Players Championship. The golf was great, as usual.

But the real story of the week was in the caddyshack, where defending champion Craig Perks' caddie got tossed in the clink before the second round. The cat got caught speeding, and when they ran his license, he was found to have written a bad check in 1996. Tough state, Florida. They put him in the clink until he posted $513 bail.

This only served to highlight one of the great underrated angles of the sports world: the PGA Tour caddie.

I do not know what exactly it is that makes caddies so hilarious, but they are. It's not "These Guys Are Good." It's more like "These Guys Are a Scream." You hear stories of caddies missing tee times after benders, stories of caddies tearing it up in bars, and even a story of a caddie turning up for a tee time only in a towel -- his clothes mysteriously missing after a hotel party the night before.

They said Perks' caddie wrote a bad check, and I could only laugh, because, in the world of the caddie, passing bad paper usually means the guy can't roll a good joint.

All this got me thinking. Enough with baseball, basketball, football and PGA Tour media guides.

We need the Caddie Media Guide.

There, next to the mug shot of the caddie, we can run through the essentials. A sample entry.

    NAME: John Q. Caddie
    HOMETOWN: Houston, Texas
    BIRTHDATE: Aug. 27, 1967
    BAD HABITS: Drinking, gambling, whoring
    MISSED TEE TIMES: Two, but one was because I couldn't remember where I parked my car, and the other was because I lent my car keys to a buddy at around 2 a.m. and the dude never returned the car, like he said he would.
    FELONIES/MISDEMEANORS: Speeding (Cop was a jerk), possession of marijuana (I have asthma)
    ALIMONY PAYMENTS: I pay everything I need to, no matter what she says.
    EX-WIVES: Don't get me started.
    TIMES CAUGHT WITH 15 CLUBS IN THE BAG: Never. Dude, I take my job seriously. Except that once.

This, dwellers, is the next trend in sports media guides.

5. Kobe: He can drive 55
Kobe Bryant goes for 55 against Michael, but who cares? The real story came when Kobe was leaving the court, and the ESPN highlight showed him walking off the court to applause from Lakers fans.

There, in full color, in the front row was ... Larry David!

Or, as Krazee-Eyez Killah might say: "Larry F---ing David!"

How ESPN did not spot-shadow Larry David as Kobe headed to the bench, I'll never know. All I know is, he was looking so much like Larry David, you almost wanted to ask him to take a tour of the Staples Center.

Which, of course, he would decline.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" fans know. If you're not a fan? Well ... there's always the hope of being a caddie. Or an assistant on Kareem's staff at Columbia.

The world is full of possibilities.

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



Brian Murphy Archive

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Murphy: Spring is in the air

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Murphy: A barren wasteland

Murphy: Tiger gets his Phil

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