Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stina Sternberg sucks back (so to speak)

Erroneously thought Swedes were definitively in pancake family of high gluten preference, but there's one member of golfing community showing predilection, based on recent comments, towards waffling instead. Said Nord is none other than the Golf Channel’s Stina Sternberg [See cartoon right] and evidence is her partial plus nuanced semi-apology in the Jan. 2009 “Golf Digest” for some highly offensive cigar-lover comments in the Nov. issue.

Apparently poor S.S. got a bevy of angry responses to her previously penned (and unprovoked) attack against cigar smoking on the golf course, whether as participant or spectator. In a memorable riff from her Sly Stallone-esque machismo hall-o-fame piece, the Swede S2 claimed that she has been known to haul around, grab a lit cigar out of some puffer’s mouth and stomp it out right in front of his girly-self when walking in the gallery. Obviously blonde basher is unbeknownst white female Samuel L. Jackson because anyone doing that (and without a pack of menthols in their shirt pocket) is one Jack Shaft bad motherf$%^&+r!

Although suitably, albeit - I must confess - only momentarily, cowed by such a rhetorical display of ripe bravado, your humble scribe able still to summon sufficient courage to send following to Ms. Sternberg's “Golf Digest” e-mail address:

That you don't like cigars is your right, but the faux machismo of "In crowded places like that, I've been known to grab a cigar out of a guy's mouth & stomp it out" is flat-out wrong + impertinent.

Public smoking is allowed at many PGA venues per the local ordinances. Not only do you have no right to follow that course of action in said situation, but I'm sure my fellow stogie workers will be glad to have the relevant authorities - afterwards - apply whatever criminal code redress is most suitable/penal should you try to perpetuate your hostile behavior upon one of us. As another golf aficionado once said, "Go ahead, make our day".

More importantly than the quasi-battery you espouse without even Pearl Harbor-like warning, your comment flies in the face of our game's inherent spirit. Leave the silly rhetorical bravado & verbal showboating such as yours to all the other sports which exploit supposed students to line, instead, the coffers for the developmental programs of their professional ranks. In the only game still which prizes the competitor who calls a penalty on themselves and continues to embody the true ethos of the amateur, there's no room for smack talk by spokespeople based on silly personal peccadilloes. You set a poor example for us all with these type of Chuck Norris-wannabe remarks, besides personally embarrassing yourself.

If you're offended by the smoke, simply ask my fellow indulger to refrain in your proximity. Based on bellicosity exhibited, I'm sure the gentleman (or woman) would be more than happy to remove themselves from such a toxic presence in favor of mild leaf burning at considerable distance to a potentially hostile fellow patron.

Your new enemy for life and I'm beginning post haste, rest assured, to line-up fellow compatriots. Keep up the columns; doing wonders for your PR.

p.s. Can't wait to see the "Cigar Steel Cage" Pay-Per-View of yourself vs. Dana Quigley on the back nine of next year's Champions Tour opener. Vegas odds-makers, no doubt, will give you the edge based on attitude alone, but I'll put my money on the cagey Bay State veteran. Go DQ!!

Well I shan't cite exclusive credit for such, but fellow stogie-imbibers must have swelled with rancor similar to mine own, and Ms. S2 was compelled to try to put out the simmering fire of resentment with following, under title of ‘Readers Smokin’ Mad’, in her Jan. column:

“My strong stance against public cigar smoking resulted in a pile of reader hate mail so large that I could barely find my way to my desk (some of the e-mails … were downright scary). Most of the wrath was aimed at my statement that I’ve been known to snatch a cigar out of a guy’s mouth and stomp it out in a crowded gallery. Let me clarify: …”

Stina-la, at this point, then becomes the “Golf Digest” equivalent of Bill Clinton expounding upon the ontological definition of what “is” is [Still my favorite Bubba moment] by stating that it only happened once, the guy was drunk, she had asked him to put it out (which she implied the opposite of in the original piece) and, finally, that it is, in fact, okay in her estimable opinion for the rest of us to keep puffin’ with our buddies without raising the prospect of her potential smack-down retribution. Basically her ‘clarification’ has about the same veracity as the argument for WMD’s poppin’ up like fresh-made Bojangles biscuits all over the Iraqi desert, but did we really expect any better from an Annika Sorenstam bud?

My latent animosity stands & don’t buy Stina’s re-stance; she is now, officially, on Enemies List. [A future post, to be sure.] Although fetching in figure [Not S.S. to right though], her voice - which makes fingernails scratching a blackboard sound like Bruckner by comparison - target Ms. S. as ripe candidate for ongoing rhetorical animosity. Most importantly though, the sheer sucking-back feebleness of her subsequent reply, in reaction to the lightning rod of animosity her original blowhard comments, is proof positive that only media venue to which she should be allowed future contribution is the next “Playboy” ‘Girls Of Golf’ pictorial extravaganza! The prosecution rests.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All-time great cigar men

Of civilization’s many recent setbacks, the ever-widening loss of pipe-smokers is a prime milepost. “Did you ‘misnome’ this diatribe, Laddie Boy?”, one might be thinking after that lead. Nay, but I am at a loss to set a personal example – the optimal response always – to ameliorate above reasoned charge. Though my own father was a confirmed Dunhill private mix man, the lovely aroma of a lit pipe doesn’t suit me (though I do look quite fetching, still, in the requisite matching argyle cardigan with oversized ivory buttons).

No, I am brusque & biting not smooth & soothing. My personal Basie rhythm section modus operandi stands juxtaposed to this latter description of something more akin to a Bing Crosby, swingin' sweetly left, melody. [Preferably, one can only hope, sans a child wailing in the background from the incipient bubbling of their buttocks due to ‘Der Bingle’ recently exercising the family hair brush. Ahem.]

My persona is that of the cigar – burning brightly pungent & perniciously. Also, as occurred to me only recently (and as sworn to on whatever stack of books you consider holy) many of my favorite men were/are imbibers of hand-rolled delights too. So, in a most self-indulgent vein admittedly, let me expound briefly upon this pantheon of Cuban-derived greatness in character & taste by supplying some not so well known tidbits about these designated Connecticut wrapper gentlemen.

1.) H.L. Mencken

Many of you, I’m sure, have noticed a near felonious borrowing with pride on my part of the verbiage, flavor & tone in this ongoing internet funfest from Mr. Henry Louis Mencken of 1524 Hollins St. Guilty, as charged, is all I can answer. My only weak mea culpa is that even if I tried to exorcise such an influence, I would fail if only due to osmosis. Mine was a misspent youth, at least in part, and the Chrestomathy loomed large and often in my literary debauchery.

Mencken's latent anti-Semitism aside, there is much in the tragic figure of H.L.M. I have always regarded highly besides his obvious textual genius. In fact (and I do mist-up even at the thought of such), that which I loved more than anything else in this world was named in honor of the ‘Bard of Baltimore’. As alluded to in a previous post, FDR’s & William Jennings Bryan’s primary nemesis not only puffed copiously in his own private life, but, in fact, was the descendant of a family prominent in cigar-making and had, at one time, their own factory for manufacturing Indians right in the heart of the ‘Charm City’.

2.) Winston Churchill

Could I really need to write anything that would even approximate that which has been scribed (including most trenchantly - and voluminously - by the man himself) already? No, sir, certainly not. My only addition, albeit a small one, is to note that the Great Lion came to his habit early when, as a young man, he and a companion were literally stranded & near penniless in Habana. For a period of two weeks Winnie subsisted, by his admission, on nothing more than oranges and the peculiar size ‘stick’ that came to have his surname’s appellation. Surprisingly he doesn't add in this diet reference to a decent cup of Cuban coffee?

3.) Groucho Marx

Speaking of oranges, there's a nice biography of the comedic brothers which describes a '50's desert road trip they made. Strip malls then were still a concept rather than utterly ubiquitous. Groucho, as background, had lost a small fortune during 1929’s Great Crash. Since such time, he had never slept very well nor trusted practically anything. Paranoia, in this case, caused the prankster to bring on the trip a large brown bag of oranges & tomatoes just in case the car broke down somewhere near the future grave sites of various Teamster loan officers. His companions, much to their amusement, noted that he kept the bag in sight as if the Holy Grail, itself, were being protected. Another salient morsel: The funniest brother, in reality, was Zeppo and the top side-splitting prize in the family went to Gummo, a brother who dropped out of the act to become an agent when the troupe transitioned from Vaudeville to the silver screen.

4.) Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

‘Uncle Billy’ to his men, it is my regret that I will never attempt a historical work which examines the true lynchpin of the Civil War – Grant’s personal relationship with this quirky individual who – besides breaking the back of Confederate resistance – invented the modern theory of war. Possibly the only superior memoirs to U.S.G.’s are those of Sherman’s - “He (Grant) stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk.” Personally I’m completely biased on this matter because, despite no physical proximity, the figure in history I most approximate is W.T.S. – with regards to the good & (in particular) the bad.

From a ‘stick’ perspective, most reports are that it was rare for the General, especially in the field, not to be seen working an Indian (lit at times, no doubt, by the smoldering remains of that which his “Boys” had just marched through). A soldier is said to have remarked during Sherman’s infamous ‘March To The Sea’, that his army’s practice of living-off-the-land was so effective “A pig found would be tossed back through the marching ranks – gutted, cleaned & eaten - so that only the bones and a piece of the ear remained by the time it reached the rear. The ear kept so that Uncle Billy would have something on which to strike a match!”. A bit of hyperbole this is, certainly, but colorful nevertheless.

5.) ‘Joseph Petroni’

Who? This one is quite a stretch and not even remotely in the same weight class as any of the other gents listed above, but, please, indulge me. This is the George Kennedy character [Seen right explaining the meat grinder effect through cabin windows of decompression at thirty thousand feet] in that late ‘60’s movie epic - and spoof engine extraordinaire - “Airplane”. The fill-um is remembered most now, I admit, for the near-splatter level testosterone contest between the characters of Burt “I love my job more than my damn wife!” Lancaster and Dean “Damnit, Lincoln, I need runway 2-9-er!” Martin. My favorite part by far, however, involves ‘Petroni’.

Despite being from TWA [There’s a blast-from-the-past name] in the picture, George Kennedy’s guy is charged with trying to dislodge a fictitiously named airline’s 727 from the infield so that ole Dino’s prized runway can become available for a landing which will save the passengers and, in so doing, also not further endanger the love child he has conceived with Stewardess Jacqueline Bisset (beyond, to be certain, a genetic proclivity of the tot to double Martini milkshakes during most of his/her elementary school years). When our husky hero, 'Petroni', finally climbs into the cockpit to “give her (the plane, that is) all she’s going to get” and blow, quite literally, the 727 out of the ditch, he so overworks his Indian in the process that the spent carcass is simply tossed over his shoulder after the deed is most assuredly (and violently) done.

Obviously I could go on, but enough frivolity for now. To those of who indulge, more power to you! To those who don’t but know/like someone who does, we appreciate your indulgence of our enjoyment and can only say, “May a thousand camels ring your caravan and you always be upwind of them!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The positively insipid Hank Haney

Bile built for this screed based on prepping for an alternative piece, "The disappointing Tiger Woods". Researching that to-be-finished project however, the sight of Mr. Woods’ current momo-head teaching appendage, Hank Haney, on the Golf Channel demanded priority for this brief broadside before the extended Eldrick effort.

For those not familiar with such, double H runs a Juniors golf academy down Hilton Head way. As bubonic plague spread during the Dark Ages, the growth of reality-based TV has infected fully even a far-flung outpost like the Golf Channel. Mr. H-Squared has a show in which, laconically, he mouths platitudes with cliché chasers to panting pre-teens who, unfortunately, don’t actually genuflect reflexively [Maybe next season?] when a reference to El Tigre is worked-in for one time more per every 10 minutes than John Daly has had wives since winning the PGA. Nauseating as this is, the topper is Haney’s absolute blasé mien. The Parisian 1920’s ex-pat American literary crowd looks like friggin’ cheerleaders on double Espressos compared to the Hankster during most episodes. One only wonders when an EMT will appear from off-screen and whisper “Clear” while administering the paddles.

What spanked my wrath however was a 2005 "Golf Digest" ‘My Shot’ piece featuring a pair of truly vapid comments from H2. That they are inane isn't the point. Just because someone knows swing plane dynamics doesn’t mean, necessarily, they can expound upon failure of the Democratic Peace Thesis as the raison d’ etre for the Iraqi war. The disturbing thing is the mindset behind these comments, from someone so regrettably high-up in golfdom, vis-à-vis seemingly trivial concerns such as environmental sustainability, golf maintenance costs and – for good measure – the unimportance to keep historically-steeped courses viable for future major competition.

Bit hard on the lanky lad?” you think. Well, your kind Magistrate, let me enter into evidence following from said '05 magazine opus:

I can't believe all this talk about how we need to scale back the golf ball and how far it's going. Are you hitting the ball too far? Has the game gotten too easy for you? To 99.9 percent of us, the answer is no. Golf is too darn difficult. Courses have gotten longer and more challenging. Fairways are irrigated so the ball doesn't roll, but they're mowed so tight it's like hitting off this table.

The man is literally from sun-stricken Texas and Hanky's carping that fairways today get too much water so “the ball doesn’t roll” to justify the orbs' recent technological improvement? Then, to make matters worse, he adds that the short stuff is cut – surely by non-emission hand mowers – “so tight it’s like hitting off (a) table”. Hey, Einstein, here’s a radical notion: save some water and the extra fuel from bikini wax-like sod-trimming by dialing down the ball to something less than the current nuclear pellet. Not only would it be environmentally clever, but your maintenance budget would stop ballooning at same annual clip as health care and/or private university tuition increases.

This tasty nugget though is a mere appetizer. To show not only his eco-side, double H decides to take-on squarely this poppycock about history having anything significant to do with golf. Feast - albeit increduously, I admit - on below bon mot from same article:

The concern that courses like Merion are becoming obsolete for the U.S. Open because they're too short is a little nuts. It might be obsolete for the very best players in the world, but Merion is more than almost anyone can handle. So Hogan hit a 1-iron into the 18th hole and today they're hitting an 8-iron? I have a great solution to that: Just hold the U.S. Open somewhere else and stop lengthening all these courses. The game is hard enough for the rest of the golfers who play it.

Absolutely! Let us, in fact, create a whole new rota of courses each decade and obsolete the remaining catalog for merely play by the length-challenged lumpen proletariat who might remember the links’ faded glory days. Maybe – like an Appalachian coal family – we could set up a hand-me-down schedule of tournament course distance deprecation that went something like PGA-to-Nationwide-to-Champions Tour–to-LPGA-to anybody not wearing a wife-beater shirt on the 1st tee? What a dipsh$%! Forget, also, the whole notion that golf’s oldest championship, played across the pond, has only a prescribed family of tracks on which it has been contested since just after that wee skirmish of ours stateside concerning the keeping of those with dark complexion in perpetual bondage.

That somebody could be this daft is frightening (and not just "a little nuts" as Hank is quoted as labelling his critics above) for our hallowed game considering this man's position plus present prominence. People actually probably listen to what he says, is the unfortunate truth.

That he has, as well, the ear of Tiger Woods no less, speaks to the considerably less than stellar decisions and examples set off the course by the greatest golfer of all-time. Discussion of such will be made at length in a subsequent post.