SI Vault
 
Road Swing
Steve Rushin
October 19, 1998
For a year the author cruised the highways and byways of America in search of the soul of sports, and he found it in shrines hallowed and profane, packed stadiums, retro bars and gloriously greasy food
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 19, 1998

Road Swing

For a year the author cruised the highways and byways of America in search of the soul of sports, and he found it in shrines hallowed and profane, packed stadiums, retro bars and gloriously greasy food

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

In this way golf is legalized vandalism for adults. "Serves 'em right for living on a golf course" said in Latin is a legal defense against breaking windows in 47 states. With a cymbal crash of glass, I once smother-hooked a tee shot through the window of a fairway condominium in Palm Springs. "What should I do?" I asked my partner, who happened to be my father.

"Take a drop," he said with a shrug.

But the best tiling by far about my round at Tarn O' Shanter was not having to wait for anybody. I failed to break Sam Snead's course record of 65, but I may have set a course speed record, clocking in at less than two hours.

A friend of mine has long insisted that Steve Scott, the great American miler, once played a full round of golf in 27 minutes-putting out on every green, lugging a variety of clubs, stopping (for all I know) for a cigar and a cold beer at the turn—a feat that supposedly put him in the Guinness Book of World Records. I have no idea if this is true—I've never read beyond those two fat twins on motorcycles—but Scott seems to me well worth emulating.

If America consolidated all of her courses into a single state called Golf, and those links were all linked in one epic layout, this supercourse would have 226,287 holes—the figure includes both 9-and 18-hole courses—and measure roughly 68 million yards. At a brisk 3½-hour pace per 18 holes, you could finish a round in five years. Steve Scott would require a mere 8½ months. Neither timetable is realistic, of course: You would need time to eat and sleep, and to phone the office every 50,000 holes. But a man's reach should exceed his grasp, right, or what's a heaven for?

Cooperstown, New York

Baseball was first described as the national pastime in 1857, but by 1881 The New York Times was reporting that the sport had been displaced as "the national game by, of all things, cricket. While I have an excellent true story about cricket involving a West Indian bowler named Michael Holding, an English batsman named Peter Willey and a BBC announcer who actually said, "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey," that is not the point I want to make here.

My point is that baseball may never have been the consensus American obsession that we think it used to be. But I must tell you: The game does exert a strange patriotic hold, especially if you happen to be driving in upstate New York in a Pathfinder, which is the name of the fourth installment of the Leatherstocking Tales, a series of American frontier novels by James Fenimore Cooper, whose father founded Cooperstown, which is 25 miles south of Dolgeville, where lumbermen harvested the Adirondack white ash that became the bat that hit the ball over the fence to win the pennant for the '51 New York Giants.

That bat is enshrined in Cooperstown—at the Baseball Hall of Fame—as the instrument that fired the Shot Heard Round the World. That phrase was penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson to commemorate the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord, but I daresay it's more often associated (by cretins like you and me, anyway) with Bobby Thomson's dinger at the Polo Grounds. There's nothing wrong with that; the U.S. has a long tradition of recalling its history in this backhanded way. De Soto discovered the Mississippi but is better remembered as a boxy automobile. Ethan Allen is no longer a soldier but rather a furniture store. If I said, "I just devoured an 0. Henry," you would think I had been eating, not reading. And you would be right.

The Baseball Hall of Fame had all the elbow room of the Tokyo subway, and the lines moved at the pace of plate tectonics, but so what? Save for a bulletproof display case, I could have touched Lou Gehrig's shabby address book, which was open to a casual notation, in Lou's hand, on the R page: "Babe Ruth, 345 W. 88th St." It was somehow humanizing and awesome at the same time, like a WHILE YOU WERE OUT message slip to Zeus reminding him to call Ares. And similar knee-buckling items were everywhere in the museum.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8