CHARLOTTE, N.C. - We are so lucky to have professional golf. We are so lucky we don't have to deal with deceptively evil terms like "contraction" and "relocation" when watching the game's best go at it each week.
On the PGA, LPGA and Senior Tours, the greatest controversies that ever arise are things like players dancing on a green after a match-winning putt at the Ryder Cup, or Tiger Woods having a boulder moved that was in his line of fire, or Annika Sorenstam wearing dark shoes when she should be wearing white ones.
Being a golf fan has become something akin to escapism in the world of professional sports. Sure, the guys and gals make obscene amounts of money for playing a game, and this rubs some people the wrong way.
But they earn their paychecks, and it's hard to stay mad at them for too long. And aside from the occasional misunderstanding here and there, the commissioners of the respective tours and the players seem to conduct their business in a civil, businesslike manner.
On the other hand, diametrically opposed from professional golf you have Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.
The MLB is coming off one of its most successful seasons in decades. Attendance was up everywhere (except Montreal of course), the World Series was captivating, and off the field incidents during the regular season were kept to a minimum.
So, in some sort of move from the "Bizzaro World" made famous by Superman and later spoofed by Seinfeld, MLB decides to alienate players and fans by contracting two teams. Making matters worse, one of the teams targeted for contraction is the storied Minnesota Twins.
That's right, professional baseball is thinking of shutting down a franchise in one of the greatest sports towns in the U.S. A team that can lay claim to players like Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killabrew as well as World Series Championships.
Would the PGA ever step in and shut down the careers of Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer? Okay, maybe the Twins aren't the Golden Bears or Palmers of baseball. Maybe they are more of the Lanny Wadkins or Raymond Floyds, but the point remains the same.
However, if Nicklaus or Palmer were offered $250 million to leave the game, things could be different. That hefty sum is exactly what the owners of the two teams to be contracted will net for their pain, suffering and eminent defeat.
Down south in the NBA, there is a travesty on a more local scale, but its ramifications are much larger than they appear on the surface. The Hornets may be playing their last season in Charlotte, N.C., as ownership has yet to reach a deal with the city for a new arena.
Over the summer, voters overwhelmingly defeated an arena package that would have been financed through hotel, motel and rental car taxes. But that's not entirely the point. The citizens of Charlotte despise the team's owners, both of whom reside in other towns and have nothing but their own financial interests in mind.
They are shopping the team to ridiculous markets like Louisville, Oklahoma City and Norfolk (Va.), just to see what kind of red carpet treatment they can get from these wannabe professional sports cities.
The Hornets led the NBA in attendance for eight, that's right, eight straight seasons. Now they are lucky to draw crickets. The fans love the players and the coaches, but they despise the owners so they are opting to stay home and watch Temptation Island II. The precedent being set is that owners, not players, fans or the league, are determining the future of relocation policy, and that is wrong.
Contraction, relocation . It's enough to make one want to pull up a chair and watch nothing but golf for 12 months of the year. And we can do that now, what with the silly season and all.
No relocation, except for a few of the minor, non-major tournaments, and the forgotten tournament sites usually pick up a stray LPGA or Senior Tour event at some point.
No contraction, except for a few of the regular tour player's bellies which seem to get smaller each year as fitness becomes more a part of the game.
For creatures of habit, professional golf is a saving grace.
The Masters will be played at Augusta National the first week of April. The greens will roll about a 13 on the stimpmeter, and Jim Nance and the player of the hour will get all cozy in the Butler cabin as they ponder the day's events.
Tiger Woods, David Duval and Phil Mickelson will battle it out again next year for the money title, and Woods will win again. Duval will wear his wrap around shades and Mickelson will skip some tournament at some point to be with his wife Amy as they have their next child.
Davis Love III will win a few non-majors, probably in the south somewhere, and Justin Leonard will go all year without a win until the late season Texas swing.
Jesper Parnevick will wear funky pants, David Toms will not, and Tom Lehman will still have the hottest wife on tour.
To heck with the MLB and the NBA. Who needs them? Now, pardon me but I have to run along and mark my calendar for the Shark Shootout and the Las Vegas Invitational.
December 13, 2000
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!