Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2004

Opinion: Mickelson’s reminder

April 15, 2004

The smile on his face said it all. The look in his eyes said more.

As he walked up the fairway to the green that would change his life forever, golfer Phil Mickelson made sure to enjoy every step.

Several years back, legendary sports writer John Feinstein published a book about the perils of golf called "A good walk spoiled."

Sunday afternoon, Mickelson contradicted that title with every step.

As he walked to each tee, he did so with a brisk pace and a peaceful stride. As he walked to his ball and handed his clubs back to his caddie, he did so with a confident march and happiness on his face.

And when Phil Mickelson watched that little round ball slide its way into the cup on the 18th green at Augusta National last weekend, his feet finally left the ground.

It was truly a magical moment, one of those that will never be forgotten.

It instantly reminded me of the feeling I had when I watched Cal Ripken Jr. take a lap around Camden Yards after breaking Lou Gehrig's streak for consecutive games played.

It took me back to the night I sat on my couch and watched Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, breaking Roger Maris' 37-year-old single-season home run record.

And it nearly drove me to tears the way I cried like a baby when my favorite quarterback of all time finally broke through and won his first Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

I'm of course talking about John Elway here -- the best quarterback to ever play the game, who not only won one Super Bowl but repeated the feat a year later.

My friends and I often sit and marvel at the fact that so many of the greatest athletes of all time have played during our lifetime. We've seen Jordan and Gretzky, Tiger and Bonds. And that's just naming a few.

I'm not sure Mickelson's first major championship victory puts him in that same category, but it will definitely go down as one of the most memorable moments in sports for me.

As that dramatic putt on the final hole of this year's Masters gave the man called Lefty his first major championship in 43 attempts, I watched in awe.

As he lined up the putt, my heart raced. As he addressed the ball, my palms began to sweat. And when the ball was rolling toward the hole, time stood still.

That putt, that one moment, the outcome of a single golf tournament, reminded me of why I love sports so much.

When I was a child, I loved them because I dreamed of playing them someday. I dreamed of one day emulating my heroes on the field or the court. But as I grew older, and my athletic ability chose not to follow along with my plans, the reason I loved sports changed.

Since I spend so much time around sports, I sometimes take them for granted.

Each pitch or putt, handoff or huddle seems to be just like all the others.

But then that one moment comes along and reminds me of why I love these games so much. The joy of celebrating a triumph is unlike anything in the world.

And whether that triumph is yours or is shared by your favorite player, it still gives you chills and makes everything in the world seem right.

Sunday, I shared a moment like that with Phil Mickelson. I'm still on Cloud 9.

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