Monday August 10th, 2009

1. Play in the Crosby Clambake

I grew up in the area and have attended the tournament since I was a kid, spellbound by the beauty of Pebble Beach and intoxicated by the commingling of golf and entertainment royalty. A 49ers fan is never going to get inside the huddle but every year 150 or so regular guys -- albeit well-connected and usually filthy rich -- get to tee it up alongside various PGA Tour stars in front of big crowds and a national TV audience. Someday I hope to be one the lucky few, with two simple goals: make the Sunday pro-am cut and not humiliate myself in front of the world.

2. Duke-North Carolina at Cameron

Yes, those Dukies are bit smug, but there's no arguing with their spunk. I attended a great basketball school, UCLA, but the atmosphere at Pauley Pavilion was staid and stale, owing to all of the middle-aged boosters and alums who are given priority seating. Duke-UNC is the very distillation of the passion and energy that makes college basketball so much fun, and the students rule Cameron. Also, in any given year there's likely to be a half dozen future pros on the floor.

3. The Super Bowl

I've covered a good number of NFL games but never the game. Recent Bowls have been instant classics, and getting to be there would mean not having to host the neighbors for yet another party. But there's more to the Super Bowl than just the game -- the entire week is full of parties so decadent Nero would blush. Come to think of it, one Super Bowl will probably be enough.

4. Wimbledon

The whole thing seems a tad too stuffy and British, but I guess that's the appeal. As sporting events have become increasingly crass and commercial the dignity and elegance of Wimbledon looks all the more appealing. And Federer-Nadal has merely become the best rivalry in sports.

5. Tour de France

In 1996 I covered the Tour de Pont, a 12-day, 1,225-mile race through the American South won by a young upstart named Lance Armstrong. It was exhilarating to ride in the support cars, hugging the back tires of the cyclists, and I enjoyed the moveable feast aspect of being in a different town (or state) every night. Having watched innumerable hours of the TV coverage, I'm quite sure the Tour de France would be this experience, squared.

My favorite: The Open Championship at St. Andrews

The Masters offers numerous simple pleasures and the back nine of Augusta National regularly produces unforgettable theater but the whole experience is so perfectly managed it can feel a tad synthetic. The British Open is a different kind of fun, exotic and a little rough around the edges, like the courses themselves. What makes golf unique is the variety of its playing surfaces and the vagaries that go along with being an outdoor sport, best played near the sea. The Old Course is the apotheosis of this, a quirky, maddening, utterly unique piece of ancient earth. It is where the game began hundreds of years ago and where it is renewed every five years with a new Open. The Old Course also has the good fortune to be set down in the middle of a beautiful and historic little town that is brimming with pubs. During Open week all of St. Andrews is alive with talk of the tournament. For one week at least, golf is not a diversion but a way of life.

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