Let there be peace on Earth
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

I've seen it all now, dwellers.

With the message sent over this Labor Day weekend, the situation calls for nothing less than Total World Peace.

Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland? Join hands.

Jews and Palestinians in Israel? Break bread together.

Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens got a standing ovation at Fenway on Sunday.
Al Franken and Fox News? Sit down and have a beer.

Because, dwellers, the city of Boston and Roger Clemens have, at last, achieved détente.

Could you believe the sight in Fenway Park? Hardened Bostonians, standing and cheering for Public Enemy No. 1 and 1a!

Clemens going to the Yankees made him Public Enemy No. 1; his desire to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee made him No. 1a.

Humanity achieved new highs when Beantown stood and roared for the Rocket.

Look, I was at the 1999 ALCS Game 3 when Pedro and the Sox crushed Roger and the Yanks. The place was a couple of Roman Candles shy of a mob scene. The taunting chants, the singsong mockery, the rhythmic heckles -- and that was just for Clemens' wife and kids in the stands.

To think that four years later, Fenway Park turned into that old Coke ad where they sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" -- almost too much to bear.

Here at The Cooler, we never stop learning. People change. Hairstyles change. Bell bottoms come back into fashion.

And Roger Clemens rides off on a white horse at Fenway.

Damndest thing.

On, then, to the Labor Day Weekend List of Five:

1. Barry Bonds: Superhero for Hire.
Tough enough as a fan to do the whole I'm-not-misty-eyed-those-are-just-my-allergies act after Barry Bonds pointed extra-long at the sky when he homered off Randy Johnson on Saturday in his first game back after his father's death. At that moment, for one human minute, he stopped being a player the rest of America hated, and became a guy who'd lost his Dad, and who missed his Dad. It was powerful stuff.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds salutes the sky after his homer off of Randy Johnson.
(Why Arizona fans booed him is beyond comprehension. Yo, Circle K-breath: If your hatred runs that deep, consider the situation and ponder silence as one option. If you see the light for one day and understand a fellow homo sapiens hurting, applause is a more realistic and understandable option. But then, we've long since stopped trying to understand purple and snakes and a World Series championship in the desert. So, we move on.)

But when Bonds, overcome by exhaustion, had to spend Sunday night in the hospital -- only to check out in the morning and then rap the game-winning hit in the 9th on Monday?

Dwellers, we are stripped bare of reactions.

Consider two things:

Hospitals are not ideal places to sleep, especially so soon after your late father had spent so much time in one before his untimely death just nine days earlier. And breakfasts in hospitals aren't exactly the Breakfasts of Champions.

To think, Bonds came through in the clutch -- again -- with a stomach likely operating on lime Jell-O and a cup of tea weaker than Howard Dean's foreign policy.

Next up for Barry Bonds: He rescues a feral cat from behind the left field bleachers at Pac Bell, nurses it back to health and drives it in on a sacrifice fly to clinch the NL West title.

Remember these times, dweller. You may hate him -- but you'll go a long time before you see the likes of him again.

2. College Football: Awesome
The bands, the uniforms, the sight of co-eds in cheerleading skirts ... oh, sorry. Didn't mean to go Kevin Spacey in "American Beauty" on you there.

Nothing like a Labor Day weekend and college football on the TV.

I love the sound of Keith Jackson on a Saturday. It sounds like ... America.

Keith Jackson
The sweet sound of Keith Jackson returned to the airwaves this weekend.
And by the way, can we add Keith Jackson to our Charles Barkley/Roberto Duran Bogus Retirement Hall of Fame? This cat was supposed to hang it up about five years ago. We got all misty-eyed and remembered how he used to do pre-game chalk talks with Amos Alonzo Stagg, and did retrospectives on how he convinced Walter Camp to found the first All-American team.

Now, it's 2003 and the guy is kicking it off with Dan Fouts in Columbus, Ohio.

K.J. -- how can we miss you if you won't go away?

Anyway, it's the most wonderful time of the year -- excepting, of course, Cooler Day, when the NCAA Final Four and baseball's Opening Day mesh on that Most Perfect Monday in April.

Already at places like Auburn, bitterness reigns. (We won't mention the fact that it was 'SC, college football's Darth Vader, who did the trick there.) Alums are canceling checks made out to the A.D. and they're threatening to burn down the local Arby's after their season went from National Championship Contender to Can-We-Get-A-First-Down-by-October?

I love the sound of furious fatcat alums in the SEC. It sounds like ... America.

3. U.S. Open Tennis: Grab a Bucket
I want to love the U.S. Open. I want to see this year's Jimmy Connors giving the fist pump at 2 a.m. EST in front of thousands of inebriated New Yorkers. I want to see Andy Rooney get a beer spilled on him by some trucker from Queens. (Those CBS muckety-mucks always get the best seats.) I want to see Andy Roddick win his first Grand Slam in an insane Gotham scene.

Jennifer Capriati
Jennifer Capriati shielded herself from the rain at Flushing Meadows.
The U.S. Open: It's a Labor Day staple on par with the Jerry Lewis telethon, and a re-reading of "Das Kapital" at your local coffeehouse.

If Wimbledon is a string quartet in the afternoon, the U.S. Open is a KISS concert, blasting well past curfew.

Problem is, we can't see the damn tennis. Rain, rain, rain. It's getting a tad irksome to tune in and know you have a better chance of seeing a 1996 quarterfinal between Mike Chang and Pete Sampras -- both of whom are retired -- than seeing Roddick or Agassi live in '03.

I know they can't control the weather, but can't John McEnroe and Tracy Austin do a rain dance at Arthur Ashe? That's right, Tracy. We're watching. We saw McEnroe pumping up your black knee-high boots, lending that slight spice of sexual tension to the booth.

Dweller, forgive. In a rain delay, you're scraping to keep the interest up.

4. Lefty's Circus
Where do we even start on Phil Mickelson's Don-Quixote-in-stirrups bit? We start positive. The world is too bitter already, so we'll say this: Lefty, your bid to play ball is, um, sort of inspiring. After all, in an American culture too drawn to the NFL, which is TV friendly but ultimately vapid, your reminder that baseball still lures the daydreamer inside every American soul is heartwarming.

Now, we go negative.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson throws some "heat" for the Toledo Mud Hens.
Dude, what are you thinking?

You hit 68 on the radar gun with your fastball. You have the body of a Tommy Lasorda-in-waiting. You have a golf career on the way down and a tendency to miss fairways off the tee that is in dire need of your attention.

Put it all together and I can hear the Detroit Tiger braintrust now: "Let's see. A 33-year-old with breasts who can't hit 70 on the gun? Clubbie, get this guy a uniform, pronto."

I had to cover an A's-Devil Rays game this weekend and one player mused aloud, as regards Mickelson, "Dude, do you think he'd even look worse than Wellsy in a uni?"

When David Wells is the aesthetic measuring stick, it's time for Lefty to head back to the range.

God bless Lefty's resolve. His statement after the tryout ("If I can get my velocity up, we may revisit this ... if I can get my speed up to 85 mph consistently, I wouldn't rule this out in the future.") was part steadfast self-belief, part peyote-laced rantings of a delusional man.

Listen closely to the similarities, dweller. If you translate that sentence into golfspeak, it reads:

"Yeah, the ball is so buried I can't see it, but I think I can get it to the green from here, and the water shouldn't be a factor ... Bones, give me a 3-iron and let me take a rip at this."

Sigh.

5. Final Thought, Then.
Wait. I've seen Roger Clemens try to play golf at Pebble Beach.

Now, we've seen Mickelson try to hump it up and break the magic "70" barrier on the radar gun.

Dweller, do you not see the potential for an uber-sports marriage?

Lefty and the Rocket move in together! Lefty coaches the Rocket and transforms him into a major championship golfer, while the Rocket coaches Lefty and turns him into Walter Johnson with a short game!

Can two men live together in sports fantasy camp without driving each other crazy?

Cue "Odd Couple" theme and fade out ...

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





THE WATER COOLER

ALSO SEE:


Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Power outage

Murphy: Muscles to the Statehouse

Murphy: Study hall open

Murphy: I love Wimbledon

Murphy: TigerSpeak 101

Murphy: On a hot streak

Murphy: Anti-rocket fuel

Murphy: Going, going ... boring

Murphy: Raising a Tiger

Murphy: Giant Trinity

Murphy: Fandemonium

Murphy: Life imitating art

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew





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