Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 30th

When the Green Bay Packers of the NFL beat the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL 35-10 in Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967, Ted Bishop was five days shy of his 13th birthday. He was a diehard Packer fan.  It is doubtful that the young lad really understood the magnitude of this first interleague game because in 1967, the NFL was considered to be far superior to the AFL.
That first Super Bowl was the classic beat down by an older brother of sorts. After all, the NFL had been around forever and it featured the best players in professional football. Back in those days, CBS televised the NFL and the AFL could be seen on NBC. Growing up in northern Indiana, Bishop was forced to watch the Chicago Bears each and every Sunday because it was the only NFL game televised.
Consequently, Ted Bishop’s best friend on many Sunday afternoons was a 9-volt transistor radio. He could go to a spot in the Bishop’s Logansport basement and listen to the Green Bay game on WTMJ radio out of Milwaukee. Bishop would send handwritten letters to Ted Moore, the radio voice of the Packers. Moore would religiously send a type written reply to the young Packer fan answering questions about players, coaches and Green Bay games.
The dynamics in the Bishop household were interesting. His father, Jim, was a diehard Baltimore Colts fan. In 1967, Jim Bishop was 40 years old. His football hero was Johnny Unitas. This made for some interesting Sunday afternoons especially when the father and son sat in the same living room and watched the Bart Starr led Packers face the Colts and Johnny U.
Still, the elder Bishop would cheer for Green Bay in that first Super Bowl because the Packers were the NFL representative- not just because they were his son’s favorite team. You see, back then the hard core football fans viewed the AFL as an inferior league with renegade players who were not good enough, or too greedy, to play in the NFL.
In 1968, Green Bay knocked off the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II by a score of 33-14. Jim Bishop was forced to cheer for Green Bay again. He was still stinging from the fact that his Colts went 11-1-2 in the regular season and didn’t make it to the world championship game. Many experts around the country were saying that the Super Bowl would soon flame out because the first two games had been non-competitive. After all, the Packers had outscored their first two opponents by a combined score of 68-24.
The Baltimore Colts posted a 13-1 record the following regular season and earned the NFL’s spot in the 1969 Super Bowl. Jim finally had his chance. The rhetoric before the game became historic. The Colts’ opponents were the New York Jets. Baltimore was a 17-point favorite in some circles. The Jets were led by a loud mouthed, long haired quarterback named Joe Namath who guaranteed that his team would knock off the vaunted Colts.
Namath’s verbal exploits made Jim Bishop’s hatred for the Jets increase. He became consumed with not just the outcome, but this game had to be a Colts’ blowout to put Namath to shame. Early on, in that January 12 contest of 1969, it became apparent that the Colts were tense, over hyped and outmatched by the Jets. New York won the game 16-7.
Jim Bishop was a barber. He despised the Beatles for what their long hair had done to his business. As he sat and watched another “long hair” in Namath dismantle his beloved Colts, Jim became irate and nearly out of control. His face became beet red and the only thing that kept him from tearing up the living room was the presence of his wife Marge throughout the game.
Following the game, he instructed his son Ted to get in the family car. Father and son drove to 17th and Smead streets, the site of Bishop’s Barber Shop. Jim ordered his son into the barber’s chair and proceeded to perform the most intense crew cut ever performed by a semi-civilized barber in the long history of hair cutting. All the while, ranting and raving about that &^%$ Namath.
Ted Bishop never knew of any relationship between his father and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, but one had to exist. In 1969 the Baltimore Colts joined the Cleveland Browns and were moved to the AFL. Rozelle’s plan was designed to help merge the two leagues into conferences under the NFL umbrella.   
Lo and behold, thanks to Rozelle the Colts were able to win the AFC that season. They went 11-2-1 beating Cincinnati and Oakland to earn a spot in Super Bowl V against the Dallas Cowboys in Miami. The game produced one of my all-time great Super Bowl memories.
The game was close throughout and the Colts eventually won 16-13 when Jim O’Brien kicked a game winning field goal as time ran out. At one point, Baltimore was near the goal line and it called a gizmo play featuring an end around with wide receiver Eddie Hinton who fumbled the ball out of the end zone. The play cost the Colts crucial points and a possible victory.
Jim Bishop sat in the same chair that he did when the Jets dethroned his Colts in Super Bowl III. As Hinton’s fumble trickled out of the end zone robbing the Colts of points, Jim kicked his foot stool through the living room into the kitchen. Marge jumped out of her chair, scolded her husband for his behavior and stormed out of the room.
Now alone together, it produced an awkward moment for father and son. Ted was now a sophomore in high school and he began to laugh. Jim glared at his son as only a father could. Laughter was reduced to silence.  Fortunately for the younger Bishop, O’Brien’s kick saved him from a fate similar to the crew cut of a couple years back.
The Colts’ first Super Bowl win came on January 17, 1970. Three days later, Ted Bishop would turn 16 years old. He would be able to drive and finally be allowed to date girls. In many ways life would be changing forever.
But, neither Jim nor Ted could imagine the changes that were ahead with the NFL. The Colts would move to Indianapolis. Ted would abandon the Packers. The Indianapolis Colts would win their own Super Bowl. In fact, the Super Bowl would even be played in the State of Indiana.  Who could have imagined?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jan. 2012- Orlando

I am writing this week from the PGA Annual Meeting and PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. This is a huge week for the golf industry and the PGA of America. Rarely, does our Association hold its Annual Meeting in conjunction with the PGA Show. As the leader in the golf industry, the PGA is embarking on a massive player development campaign geared towards introducing new players to our sport.
Thousands of golf professionals are in town for the official start of the 2012 golf season. I have spent the past couple of days in meetings and it has been an intense environment as we look for ways to grow rounds and drive revenues to our facilities. Golf courses have been hit by the economic downturn over the past several years. Consumers have had less discretionary income to spend on recreational activities such as golf.
The PGA is fortunate to have Jack Nicklaus as its spokesman this year to help launch many of our new programs. I have been lucky to get to know Jack over the past year as we have worked together on the renovation of Valhalla GC in Louisville, a PGA owned facility. This golf icon has a great perspective of the game and is really focused on doing some unconventioanl things to help make golf more consumer-friendly.
Last summer, Nicklaus launched a 12-hole concept at two of his facilities, Muirfield Village in Ohio and The Bear’s Club in Florida, The idea was to help shorten the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf by playing fewer holes. He even threw in a concept of cutting 8 inch cups in the greens, instead of the normal 4 ¼ inch holes making it easier to hole putts. It’s been great to see one of the all-time golf traditionalists embrace innovative concepts to make golf more fun.
Nicklaus has watched his own family migrate away from the game due to family obligations and other competing interests. He feels compelled to help the PGA try and change the way people view the sport. We can use his help and Jack will kick off our PGA Show on Thursday morning.
Jack will be joined in that role by Ken Griffey, Jr, the future baseball Hall of Famer. Griffey will be here as a representative of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which will partner with the PGA and the United States Golf Association. The purpose of this alliance is to bring the PGA Sports Academy, a program that combines fitness with golf skills, to Boys and Girls Clubs all over America.
The Golf Channel will be providing live coverage all week from the PGA Show. It will give you an up close view of what is happening here in Orlando.
I am looking forward to a meeting with the PGA Tour Wives Association this week. We will be planning the introduction of their book telling about life on the Tour as well as favorite recipes and some other cool things. The book will be introduced at the 2013 PGA Show while I am President of the PGA.
Many of you will remember the column I did on the PGA Tour Wives last month. One of my primary subjects was Amy Wilson. Her husband, Mark, won the Humana Challenge last weekend at PGA West in LaQuinta, CA. The event was hosted by former President Bill Clinton and it gets Mark and Amy off to a fast start in 2012. Wilson was 24-under par over four rounds as he recorded a 2 shot win and pocketed $1 million with the win.
Earlier in the month, Steve Stricker won the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Stricker was also a subject of a column I did after Thanksgiving. His win came as he continues to battle a cervical disc problem similar to Peyton Manning’s. Stricker’s victory was just another example of good things happening to good people.
The golf season is off to a great start and I look forward to sharing my journey with you.
There are a few odds and ends I would like to kick around. Joe Paterno sadly passed away last weekend. One of my first columns in this “One Shot at a Time” series called for the removal of Paterno from college football’s Hall of Fame.
Paterno’s fall from grace is the most tragic in the sporting world during my lifetime. His life and career ended so suddenly. This is shocking and distressing. The man will never have a chance to resurrect his legacy or his reputation. His death puts a bizzare closing to this sad tale.
Paterno paid the price for his decisions, which effected many innocent people. Give the guy his due. He was a helluva football coach did many philanthropic things during his coaching career. It is truly a time to let the man rest in peace.
Last week, I wrote about Myra Kraft and the destiny that seemed to be following the New England Patriots. Watching Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff hook the game tying field goal left of the uprights on Sunday leaves little doubt that the karma is with the Pats. The game seemed to be slipping away from New England when Lee Evans, Ravens wide receiver, had the winning TD stripped from his hands in the end zone. Seconds later, Cundiff’s kick failed.
To further spice up the scenario, New England comes to Indianapolis and still faces a Manning, even in a year when the Colts went 2-14. Eli has now won five straight road playoff games and he has a much better playoff record than Peyton. That being said, I still like the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. This is definitely Myra Kraft’s year.
Finally, who cannot have serious doubts about the future of the Colts. This is Jim Irsay’s team. I am beginning to wonder if that’s a good thing or not. Time will tell.                   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Loss of a Great Talent and Friend

The world of sports lost one of its best last week when Jim Huber, Emmy award winning essayist, suddenly succumbed to acute leukemia on January 2. Many of you have seen Huber during the past three decades. He served as host of CNN's "The Sporting Life", where Huber's goal was "to relate stories of grand inspiration, tales of people who challenge life's odds."
He also served as co-host of CNN's "Sports Tonight" and in in recent years, he covered golf and the NBA for the TBS cable station and the TNT network. He received an Emmy for "Olympic Park Bombing," his essay on the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
I had gotten to know Jim very well through our mutual association with the PGA of America. His was a big part of the PGA introducing more than 100 PGA members over the years as National award winners. For the past 13 Autumns Jim was the face of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf when he conducted a fireside chat with the four major championship winners. His flair and dignity were never more evident than when hosted the outgoing PGA President's dinner on eight occasions.
Huber was like that really cool uncle you see four or five times a year. He was wise and courteous. His features included a bald head, a mustache and a very warm smile. Meet Jim once, and he would remember your name forever. Huber was a guy that it was easy to gravitate towards. He is known in journalistic and broadcasting circles as one of the greatest story tellers of all-time.
His memoir, "A Thousand Goodbyes: A Son's Reflection on Living, Dying and the Things That Matter Most" (2001) is a great read about the facts of life. Not the sexual facts, but the things that matter most. Huber tackles life in a manner that is motivating, captivating and genuine. Read this book and you will be a better person.
His most recent book, "Four Days in July" (2011) recounted Tom Watson's failed run at winning the 2009 British Open at age 59. I was at Turnberry that year. It was my first Open Championship. I had the good fortune to experience what Huber wrote about, up close and personal. This book is a great story about Watson and his career. "Four Days in July" is an example Huber's ability to tell a story. You will feel like you were there with Watson on every step along Scotland's coast during that infamous week.
Huber was the kind of guy who could pull a player aside as he walked off of the 18th green at the PGA Championship and immediately get the player engaged in the interview, no matter how the round went. The players trusted Jim. They knew he would be respectful, but Huber was never afraid to ask the tough questions either.
When Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Atlanta Athletic Club in last year's PGA, Huber got the task of interviewing him immediately after he signed his scorecard. I happened to be in the scoring area and was chatting with Jim while Tiger was in the scoring trailer. I offered some condolences for the task that lie ahead. Huber simply grinned and said, "This will be okay. Tiger and I will both survive it."
On another day at the PGA last year, Huber did a commentary on TNT regarding a spat that Phil Mickelson was having with course architect Reese Jones. The Mickelson-Jones feud had been brewing for several months and stemmed from a previous PGA Tour venue, but the Atlanta Athletic Club was also a Jones' design and Huber's home club. I watched the piece that Huber did while having lunch at the AAC. He took on Mickelson pretty good, but with typical Huber style and grace. A few minutes later I walked past Jim in the interview area and said, "Nice piece on Mickelson."
He smiled with a wink and said, "Did you enjoy that? I did."
Despite being 67 years old, Huber was a fanatical user of the social media. He had 689 friends on Facebook. That is often how we communicated. Jim posted an aggravated response on FB shortly after Sports Illustrated initially limited its coverage to the Penn State debacle with a one page, back page article. A few weeks later, he chided Mitt Romney for his remarks on President Obama's golf.
On each occasion, I had ironically just finished columns on the same two subjects. I emailed my stories on Paterno and Romney to Huber. I am pleased to say the response was the same on both occasions. It was a simple, "Well done." I write a little bit and consider myself no more than a half-assed journalist compared to Jim. But, that is a high standard of comparison.
Huber and his wife Carol, herself suffering from health issues, celebrated 45 years of marriage on December 19. Here was Huber's FB post that day. "Elderly couple sitting across from each other at a table. She says, 'Oh my, how long has it been?' He says, '45 years my love, but it only seems like 45 hours.' She says, 'Oh, Henry… underwater."
On Christmas Day, Huber posted, "Tis early, way too for a house without chillens, but my persistant cough has demanded I rise and wish each of you the greatest of holidays."
At 10:13 a.m. on December 28, Huber posted, "Anybody's SS check late in direct deposit?"
A few hours later at 2:10 p.m. Huber's final FB post said, "Okay, now they are talking about taking me to the ER, etc. Seems like we've built up enough FF (frequent flyer) points over the last couple of years." Unbeknown to Huber, he would be diagnosed with acute leukemia and it seemed God had a need for an essayist's position right after the first of the year.
So, 2012 started out on a real downer for the friends of Jim Huber. Last week, CNN senior executive producer Michael Schulder said, "Jim Huber wrote lullabies that could open your eyes. His essays on sports and life were short. But never rushed."
After last summer's U.S. Open, Huber wrote, "There comes a moment- and you'll remember where you were forever- when the golf world shifts just a bit, and a new order steps up. It came when Tiger Woods won the '97 Masters, by a dozen shots. It came at Congressional Country Club, this Father's Day when Rory McIlroy charged through the golfing world and made U.S. Open history."
The life of Jim Huber can be summed up in his own words. Well done, my friend. You will be missed.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hogan and Woods- December 2011

On Christmas Day, I made two round trips from Franklin to Logansport picking up my 85-year old mother. That is eight hours and over 400 miles in the car while never leaving Indiana. During the morning drive I listened to a compelling interview on the PGA Tour Radio Network with Ben Wright, legendary British golf sportscaster and journalist.
Wright recounted a story about being in the English military in 1953 and how he stole a car from the army base where he was stationed. He subsequently went AWOL for four days and drove to Carnoustie in Scotland to the British Open to watch Ben Hogan make his only appearance in golf’s oldest major championship.
Wright rented a room in a farmhouse owned by a widow near the course. He went to Carnoustie all four days of that ’53 Open Championship and watched Hogan hit every shot on his way to rounds of 73-71-70-68= 282 and a four stroke win. This would be the last of Hogan’s nine major championship victories. Those nine majors tie Hogan with Gary Player for fourth all-time, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (14) and Walter Hagen (11)
Wright went on to point out that these four days at the Open Championship were the inspiration for his post-military golf career which spanned decades working for CBS, the BBC and Golf Digest just to name a few.   
Ben Hogan is one of five golfers in the history of the game to win all four majors. He joins Gene Sarazen, Player, Nicklaus and Woods. What many people in the modern generation will not know about Hogan is that his career was threatened with a near-fatal automobile accident.
Hogan and his wife, Valerie, survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-shrouded bridge, early in the morning, east of Van Horn, Texas on February 2, 1949. Hogan threw himself across his wife to protect her, and would have been killed had he not done so, as the steering column punctured the driver’s seat.
The accident left Hogan, age 36, with a double fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near fatal blood clots. He would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations. His doctors said that he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. While in the hospital, Hogan’s life was endangered by a blood clot problem leaving doctors to tie off the main artery to his heart. He finally left the hospital on April 1, 59 days after the accident.
After regaining his strength by extensive walking, he resumed golf activities in November 1949. He returned to the PGA Tour at the start of the 1950 season, at the Los Angeles Open, where he tied with Sam Snead over 72 holes, losing the 18-hole playoff when his legs simply gave out.
However, Hogan miraculously won the U.S. Open that year in a playoff. He went onto to win six major championships after his accident. In 1953, Hogan won The Masters, U.S. Open and that Open Championship at Carnoustie when he was 40 years old.
I bring this up because not only is it noteworthy in the annals of golf, but during that Christmas Day interview, Ben Wright was asked if he thought Tiger Woods would ever win a major championship again.  He was quick to point out that Hogan won six of his major championships after the accident and did so after the age of 36..
Woods will turn 36 years of age on December 30. While the physical injuries that he suffered in 2009 when his SUV hit that fire hydrant were minor in comparison to Hogan’s. The mental anguish that Woods endured due to the well-documented exploits in his personal life, at least temporarily seemed to destroy his confidence and self-esteem. It has affected his golf.
Hogan and Woods share several things. Both could be labeled as mysterious in many ways as they are very private and guarded individuals. To say that Woods and Hogan each have “a mystique” would be an understatement. Hogan was widely considered the best ball striker ever, until Woods emerged and dominated major championship golf.
“I wish that I owned my swing the way that Hogan did,” Woods recently said.
Hogan was known later in his career as a poor putter, particularly on slower greens. The majority of his putting problems came after his car accident in 1949. It is no secret that Woods has had the same problem with his putter since 2009. Hogan was known as an effective putter from mid to short range on quick surfaces even late in his career. The same can be said for Woods today.
It has been said that you cannot compare athletes of different eras. Some say that today’s talent pool on the PGA Tour is deeper than it was when Hogan played, making Woods’ past accomplishments even greater. Let me remind you that Hogan, Snead and Byron Nelson were born six months apart and they formed a golf triumphant that may never be matched in any era.
Will Tiger Woods regain his form and win a major championship in 2012? Several years ago it seemed that it was only a matter of when, not if, Woods would surpass Nicklaus’ mark of 18 majors. As I listened to Wright recap Hogan’s career after his accident, including the six majors he won after the age of 36, I thought it really put Woods’ status in better perspective.
While you can’t underestimate the mental part of golf and what impact that might have had on Tiger, he certainly doesn’t face the physical obstacles that Hogan did. Woods will win a major championship in 2012 and he will eventually pass Nicklaus. The similarities between Woods and Hogan are eerie.  Thanks to Ben Wright for pointing them out.