Monday, April 12, 2010

Answering the Challenge of Leo the Lip

Among the many expressions that have been passed from generation to generation of baseball fans is the one attributed to Leo Durocher and the inevitable finishing position of nice people. If outward appearances count for anything - and we have been reminded repeatedly by men in the public eye (Tiki and Tiger are riding hogs to Sturgis this summer with their favorite motorcycle man Jesse James) recently how little they may indeed mean - then yesterday a good guy defied the Oracle of Flatbush. Phil Mickelson finished as far from last as possible among the magnolias and the pines of Augusta Georgia. In doing so he won the Masters Golf Tournament for a 3rd time.

Mickelson is a man I have never met and given my general lack of interest in golf and his general lack of interest in me, I doubt we ever will. Yet he and I share a bond - a bond that we wish we did not share. A bond shared by too many families in this country and world-wide. His family - like mine - has been attacked by breast cancer. Last season, Mickelson made news when he stepped off of the PGA Tour for a while to be home with and tend to his wife Amy who was stricken by the disease. Shortly thereafter the news broke that Mickelson's mother was also battling breast cancer. As little as I know about golf, I know that Mickelson has a reputation for being the guy who not only does not shy away from the impossible, he embraces it. Truth be told, he probably hoped to confine his wizardry to his shot-making on the golf course. Suddenly last summer he was called upon to expand his repertoire.

On Sunday evening as he stepped off of the 18th green, having sunk the birdie putt that gave him his final 3 shot margin of victory he stepped into the embrace of Amy. The Mickelsons stood together, one hugging the other. Amy's over-sized sunglasses shielded her eyes and made it impossible to tell whether she was crying. Her husband - not wearing anything to cover his eyes - squeezed them tightly shut as the tears rolled down his cheeks.

For a moment on a Sunday in April, all seemed right at the point of intersection where sport meets real life. No perp walk, no spin control, no contrived apology necessary. Just a look, a hug and a kiss.

And somewhere in the skies over Brooklyn, Leo Durocher looked down from the heavens and smiled. Even Leo the Lip can bring himself to root for a nice guy's success every now and again.


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