THE OLD MAN AND THE C (ompetition)

The fires of a good competition never quite burn out. Not that I remember every win or loss— I don’t. What I do recall though…what still simmers, is the spirit of battles fought.

When Hal and I were young it was “sock basketball.” We’d play in his bedroom, (by today’s standards, the size of a closet). Two socks rolled in a ball—we’d hold it in one hand, feign dribbling, still guard each other…then shoot into a wastebasket. Sounds primitive, but at a time when few had hoops in their driveways, we were not only ahead of our time, but could compete through winter. Endlessly I’d beg him to play and he’d comply, until that is, in HIS fervor to win, airborne with a jumpshot, HIS skull met an overhead fixture.

It was no different in Wieder’s garage. On a half-court more often than not shortened by his dad’s van, we’d go head-to-head with fervor. Time and again Wied dribbled—butt to the hoop–pushing his way in. “Charging!” I’d call and he’d glare “No.” (All those games…I never got one call)! Alan’s passion, though, was exceeded perhaps by his knowledge of high school hoops. Doing the play-by-play of his own shots, he’d pretend to be Phil Argento or Billy Hahn, reigning prep stars. Me? Alan said I was Ledgemont, (a school that at the time had lost some thirty games in a row).

I don’t think I ever beat Wieder. So be it. As with my brother, we left nothing in the locker room.

Which leads to last weekend’s golf tourney in Chicago….

A family affair, the inaugural field (by agreement) was limited to Jason and me. (While Stacy, openly rooting the other way, made it three, her status was at best, vague. Let’s say it was somewhere between amateur status at the Masters or, even better, an unregistered student auditing a college class).

The stakes, be assured, were no lighter than the bragging rights of years ago. Indeed, in some ways they were greater. THIS competition, after all, was generational.

Did he really think loss of hair meant loss of fire? That gamesmanship has a shelf life?
Had he not seen, even once, “The Natural?”

This would be, I sensed, a classic duel between Thrower and Pitcher, an epic struggle between the strength of youth and the wisdom of experience. I was not disappointed.

Jason brought tuning and talent from weekly rounds on the golf course. (The last links I hit were bacon). It mattered not. Out then in, we were never more than two stokes apart. Indeed, eighteen holes of regulation left us knotted–a dead heat.

Sweat pouring from son-in-law’s brow, he recalled prior agreement:

“Three hole playoff!” Bohrer announced, heading to the first hole. A coin was flipped.

“Call it in the air,” I urged, and he did…getting it right.
“OK,” I continued, “You go first.”
“Wait a minute,” he said, “Why do I go first?”
“ ‘Cause you got it right.”
One pregnant pause later, I went to school on his shot.

We bogeyed the nineteenth hole—both of us. Retrieving my ball, it occurred to me: it was time.

“Draw?” I asked, arm outstretched.
“Draw,” he concluded, clasping.
“We’ll do it again next year,” said I.
“Every year,” he added.

We walked off the green just like they do on television—not as champ and caddy, but as two champions.

It’s a funny thing: competition. When you put it all out there, some times the results don’t matter. That’s how it was in Hal’s bedroom…how it was in Wieder’s garage…and clearly, how it was in Chicago last weekend.

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