The Bohrers were discussing how a friend tensed up golfing with family.

“Would you be that way in front of my dad? asked The Little One.
“Absolutely not…” said her hubby, “Your father’s the least competitive person I know.”

Ouch. (This, even coming from a Cub fan, is no compliment).

Does my son-in-law truly believe I was born bald, fat and 60? …that the competitive fires of his generation burn brighter than ours ever did….than mine ever did?

When Stacy told the story I chuckled. She tried to clean it up, saying Jason not only didn’t know I’d golfed, but actually never thought I’d been outdoors.

“We’d hitch down Green—me and Wieder—to putt on the practice green at Highland for free,” I told her. (She didn’t care). “I used to ride my bike to Lyndhurst Golf Course at Mayfield by Brainard.” (She wasn’t listening).

“It’s OK, Dad, he loves you.”

That’s not enough, I said. Let’s have, shall we say…a competition. Eye on my July visit, we agreed to an eighteen hole tournament…for dinner. Winner take all. “Check with Bones,” I insisted. “Don’t want to pressure him.” “Oh, I added, “And find out if he wants medal play or match play?”

It’s funny how kids view us. Like we never were young, never loved or lost, never jumped, fell…competed. Heck, like we never had lives. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that by the time Stace met Jace I’d toned down, but part of me wishes he’d seen the fire and ice I shared with compatriots on the fields of the past.

Wish he’d have been on campus when the guy broke his leg tagging from third and in a matter of seconds Wieder not only protected a big late-inning lead but also created a new anti-Semite. If only he’d heard Snyder taunt Johnny Palladino as the latter stepped in a Gordon Park batter’s box. Or seen the blood behind the skating rink when Robbie Epstein’s pivot and throw split the runner’s forehead. “You’re supposed to aim between his eyes,” he noted.

Golf competition? Give me a break. Aren’t you really “playing against the course?”

We grew up on the mean streets of South Euclid in world void of video games, replete with live contests and real people, some of whom were allowed to play just so they wouldn’t beat us up. (More about Bobby Stain later).

We learned, then, to compete at a young age. For example, our dad, whether it be baseball or cards (his two major sports), never lied down. He’d take us to Forest Hills Park back then. For softball. He’d be pitching to us, underhand—no arc. “Albert,” our mom would scream, “Ease up a bit; let them hit it!” “Why?” he would ask.

Little League was no different. He’d sit on the bench, scoring games. Every once in a while I’d ground a ball—a shot—. The fielder would touch it, (or maybe not), and it would get through. ERROR, my Dad would note. “If it was a clean hit you’d get it” he’d smile.

Cards were no different. We’d sit there, parents and kids pre-divorce, playing hearts. Teams. To this day Hal has nocturnal flashbacks of a small kitchen on Bayard, and the consequences of passing our Dad the Queen without protection.

“It’s only a game!” said our mother (played by Audrey Meadows). “Let him do it over, Al.” And Ralph Kramden glared back: “How’s he going to learn?”

It never changed. Not even in college. Our mom and Hal were gone, but Walt was there…and it was still hearts. In a game that had one winner and two losers, I’d pay a penny a point per loss, Marc two and my Dad three cents….winner take all. Each triumph you’d bump an extra cent per point going forward. And we always paid.

Those days, though, are gone. And Jason never saw them. Never viewed, even, the married years…when the wife and I would trek to Columbus and, as the ladies cleared dishes, the cards came out. Gin. And though the ladies might retire, the game went on. Can’t recall if it was one or two cents/point, but it was always ba#$s to the wall. Oh, he’d hold my check from time to time—wait ‘til I said to cash it—but it was always a competition. “It’s not the money,” my father’d say. “If I tear this up, you’ll never enjoy your victories.”

And no, Jason never saw my tennis with Herzog. For years Alan wondered why when at his first point I’d shout “Five-love,” but with mine it was always “FIFTEEN-love.” Competition, I knew even then, was subliminal

I could tell him how Fenton would give people the Hawaiian Witch Chant behind their backs at bowling. I could email about the time at Drackett when someone was picking on Stuart so I challenged the bully to a boxing match. We fought, gloves, referee and all, by the fourth floor elevators.

I could tell the story of the 1969 Boobus Bowl, where, risqué as it was for the time, we hoisted a full bed sheet banner reading “MUCK FANDEL” and strung it from the endzone fence at Rowland…but I won’t.

I could share how, as an obnoxious coach, I’d once called consecutive times out just to “ice” a sixth grader at the foul line at Hilltop. But I shan’t.

No, as much as I love the man, this is a message to be delivered in the ring…on the course…in person. If I text him anything at all, it will be the number to Carson’s Ribs. After all, we’re playing for dinner.

2 Responses to “THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL”

  1. alan says:

    You are a gentle father-in-law as the real story is the competitive Bruce Bogart catching for Sol’s Boys. Ray Fosse couldn’t have held your glove and Pete Rose would have never recovered to have gambling issues. Tell Jason to try that!

  2. stacy says:

    hahaha! I hope you tie.

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