Monday, April 09, 2012

Indelible Sports Memories


On January 16, 1972, the Super Bowl was about to kickoff. They played the games earlier in the day back then. I was five years old. My grandfather came over to our house to watch with my dad. I had never paid much attention to pro football but I was already a born and bred lifelong Dawg. My grandfather asked me who I was rooting for. I had to ask which teams were playing. When informed that it was the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins I asked him who he was rooting for and he said the Cowboys. Naturally, I pulled for the Cowboys too and when they won 24-3 I became a diehard Cowboys fan for the next couple of decades. That was my first indelible memory of a pro football game.

Later in the summer of 1972, during the Olympics, my parents made a point of calling me (and my brother) into the den to see Mark Spitz swim for his record-setting 7th gold medal. A record that stood until 2008 when Michael Phelps won 8 in Beijing. I will never forget the mustachioed swimmer in the stars and stripes speedo dominating the pool. That was my first indelible memory of the Olympic games.

I mention these two events to explain what I mean by indelible memories... particularly of momentous sporting events. On Sunday, Bubba Watson treated me, my parents, my wife, and most importantly my kids and nephew to one of these indelible memory events when he hunkered down again and again to win the Masters Championship in dramatic fashion.

For the first time in a long, long time I had a clear rooting interest from day one, who went the distance to earn the green jacket. Bubba Watson is a Damn Good Dawg and his wife Angie is also a Damn Good Dawg. There was never any doubt about whom Dawgnation was pulling for in this tournament. And Bubba played solid on all four days, made some amazing shots, showed nerves of steel and refused to lose on this Easter Sunday.

The beautiful thing for me was that for the first time in their lives, my daughter Annie (11), son Hampton (9) and nephew Hollis (10) sat down and paid attention to a professional golf tournament. When I told them that Bubba was a Georgia Bulldog, Annie asked if he played football at Georgia. We laughed and explained that he had played golf at UGA and reminded her that her Great-grandfather's brother, Howell Hollis, had coached the UGA golf team for 25 years (winning 13 SEC Championships). From that moment on, these three kids were glued to the TV cheering for Bubba with us. On more than one occasion, the chant "Bubba... Bubba... Bubba" was resounding throughout the house.

When Bubba's tee shot on the second playoff hole went well into the pine trees, my dad broke into his worst bluegrass voice and started singing "In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines...".(To be fair, my dad probably sounded better than Bill Monroe)

I quickly became annoyed because he insisted on singing every damn verse while I was trying to hear what the commentators had to say about Bubba's chances to get out of those tall Georgia pines, 160 yards from the pin. Meanwhile, the kids thought it was hilarious and joined him on the chorus. Perhaps my nerves were a little thin after living and dying with every shot Bubba made on Sunday. But finally, when they stopped singing and Bubba lined up his best Bubba-golf deep woods high hook save shot and delivered an improbable miraculous shot onto the green ten feet from the cup, it was my turn to sing... "On the green... on the green... where the ball is sitting clean..."

A few moments later when Bubba sank the winning putt and the tears began to flow, we jumped around celebrating, high-fiving and chanting "Bubba...Bubba...Bubba." Watching the emotion bubble out of Bubba as he hugged his caddy, his mother, his friends and knowing he was thinking about Angie, his new son Caleb, and his recently departed Vietnam War hero father were sufficient reasons to bring a tear to the eye of any Damn Good Dawg. But it was my immediate recognition that Bubba Watson had just created my childrens' first indelible golf memory on this gorgeous Easter Sunday that had me all choked up and all I could get out of my throat was a weak "that was special."

The kids resumed the singing of "In the Pines" and that is, unfortunately, a song that will get stuck in your head. Don't believe me? Watch the video above. So my dad's singing that annoyed me so much a few minutes earlier ended up becoming an indispensable part of this indelible memory as well.

Sharing this special, sweet, Bubba Watson Masters victory with my parents, wife and children was a blessing. That it will be an indelible memory for us all, particularly my kids, is extraordinary. For that reason, Bubba Watson, you are my favorite Masters Champion of all time! Bubba made all of Dawgnation proud. Without a doubt, none prouder than his wife Angie, at home with baby Caleb, the newest DGD.

Go Dawgs! GATA!