Friday, June 19, 2009

From Bethpage: Rain Delays, The Little Red Book and ESPN's Valdemort

In case you’ve been locked in a cave for the last 24 hours here’s a news flash from the U.S. Open: It rained Thursday. I think ESPN first reported this on their new 24 hour, “Brett Favre may or may not play football this season,” network yesterday morning. The crawl said, “ESPN’s Chris Berman has learned that it is raining at Bethpage.”

It didn’t just rain yesterday, it poured. Shortly after the horn sounded I ran into someone from the USGA and said, “there is no way you guys are playing again today.”

“Oh no,” he said, “we’ve got a window in a couple hours.”

He was right about the window: It opened and it started raining HARDER. I had talked to Craig Currier, the course superintendent late Wednesday afternoon and he said the course was STILL saturated after two dry days. “If the weather’s as bad tomorrow as they say, the golf course is going to be soaked all week.”

The weather turned out to be worse than they were saying. It’s going to be a long week for everyone involved.

Someone sent me a note this morning asking what the players do during an extended rain delay like yesterday. The answer’s fairly simple: they leave. Most are staying in houses or hotels close to the golf course and they know that once the rain stops—if ever—it will take at least an hour to get the golf course ready for play. On Thursday a lot of guys never even made it to the golf course because they knew the USGA’s “window,” wasn’t going to happen.

In other rain delay situations, where play is stopped by a passing thunderstorm for an hour or so, players do what you would expect: they play cards; sit around and tell stories; call people on the phone, grab something to eat. The media isn’t supposed to be in the locker room during a rain delay—which makes sense since if you have all the players in there AND the media there’s really no room for players to spread out and just relax—but I’ve managed to slip in a few times un-noticed or with a player waving me past the security guards.

My most vivid memory of a rain delay was in 1995 at The Buick Open. I was sitting at a table with Ben Crenshaw, Billy Andrade and Jeff Sluman. This was shortly after Crenshaw’s remarkable win at The Masters the same week his long-time teacher Harvey Penick died. Ben was telling stories about Mr. Penick and the three of us were all in tears—some of it from laughing, some of it from crying.

I never met Mr. Penick but I do have a story about him. When he and Bud Shrake came up with the idea for “The Little Red Book,” Bud took it to Esther Newberg, who was his agent and is Dan Jenkins’ agent and also my agent. Esther, “shopped,” the idea and finally got an offer from Doubleday. Elated, she called Mr. Penick and said, “Doubleday will do the book for $35,000.”

There was a pause on the end of the phone and then Mr. Penick said, “Well, I guess we can come up with that much.”

Of course Doubleday paid the $35,000 and millions more when the book became a runaway bestseller.

With no golf going on and most of the players long gone by mid-afternoon, I spent most of the day doing book promotion interviews for, “Are You Kidding Me.” There is a whole separate blog—or six—to be done on book promotion stories. My most amusing moment yesterday came when Rocco reported to me about his appearance on, “Mike and Mike.”

“They talked about the book,” Rocco said. “But they kept acting as if I’d written it.”

I explained to Rocco that I am the Voldemort of ESPN, “He who must not be named,” because of my various and sundry battles with their top executives through the years. One ESPN executive once sent me an e-mail saying I had, “blown up my whole career,” by refusing to be blackmailed into doing things for the network I had no interest in doing. (The company he’s now running is in bankruptcy but I’d never bring that up).

Clearly my career is on the rise, right? I may be Voldemort at ESPN but I’m a star at Off to watch some golf—at least until the USGA’s next “window,” opens up the sky again.


Ryan said...

I would love to read your book, but I travel at minimum an hour for work. Do you plan to offer Are You Kidding Me? as an audio book?

Fanofsports said...

Wouldn't it be awesome if the golfers had a rain delay dance off like those college baseball teams did? I'm willing to bet Rocco's got some moves.

49ersofCharlotte said...

Screw ESPN. Mike and Mike is a decent show, but it's rare that both of them are actually there. BTW, I once had the great pleasure of meeting Voldemort and you, sir, are no Voldemort!

Bill Works said...

Bill Works
I have heard you many times on Bob and Tom. Because of that, I started reading your books which I have thoroughly enjoyed. The blog is a great idea. Keep up the great work.

Sammy said...

I just found your blog this morning and am going thru it. I asked in an earlier one why you aren't on ESPN anymore. After reading this one I think I know..
I am going to make this a part of my daily reading and am headed to the bookstore to buy your book for my Dad..