It’s good to be back. Our trip covered 69 days, 21 countries and 37,000 miles. Tom Callahan of Golf Digest and I hit golf balls into the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. We played through monkeys and madmen, crocodiles and leeches. Though the peace was disturbed at times, neither of us was arrested, detained or deported.
Among the discoveries we made was this: It’s hard to run away from home when you can be in Moscow and turn on CNN. So we knew Atlanta stole Fred McGriff and Toronto stole Rickey Henderson. We figured: Those smarties just stole themselves another World Series.
We saw the fight for the heavyweight championship. Not the Tommy Morrison blubberthon, but the heavyweight championship of Texas: Nolan Ryan making like a hockey goon, wrapping Robin Ventura in a headlock before delivering a load of knuckle sandwiches. Heavy stuff from a guy soon eligible for an AARP discount at interstate highway motels. We figured: Nolan and George Foreman, coming soon on HBO.
We watched Greg Norman win the British Open and lose the PGA to Paul Azinger. Wait a second. That’s only half right. Norman didn’t lose the PGA; Azinger won it. We may have thought of Norman as more entertainer than competitor. No more. Norman’s new move through the ball is all the evidence we need that the flaw all those years was not in his character but in his swing. We figured: Greg Norman wins the Masters next spring.
Then one night, somewhere in Europe, the CNN folks let us know about the scandal with the senators and we figured: So what’s new?
If it’s not Teddy Kennedy in trouble again, it’s some fool from Oregon playing footsie with women who’ll tell him where to put his footsie. But wait another second. It wasn’t a Washington senator or even a Washington Senator. It was the Ottawa Senators. To which one, either Mr. Callahan or the Other Guy, said, “Ottawa Senators? Who are they” One of us replied, “An NHL expansion team.”
“Nooooo.” A cry of anguish from the other tourist. “Halfway around the world and I find out the NHL has expanded again. First the Mighty Ducks and now the Ottawa Senators. Is there no end to this madness?”
“Steady, big fella,” one of us said. “The Senators joined the league a year ago. Now they’re in this scandal.”
“How can the Ottawa Senators be in a scandal? To have a scandal, somebody has to care.”
“They were thought to be losing games to get the No. 1 pick in the draft. Trouble is, the Senators are so bad no one could figure out if they lost on purpose or on merit.”
Another night, we heard on CNN that baseball had set an all-time attendance record. This in August, with almost 40 games to play, even without Denver’s astonishing numbers. We figured: All those critics who said baseball is a fuddy-duddy, baseball needs a big dose of the MTV culture--those critics who said baseball is in a crisis, what say they now?
The only thing wrong with baseball is there isn’t enough of it. Which means the proposed playoff system that is so offensive to protectors of tradition will help baseball. Adding the second-place team to the playoffs could take heat out of division championship races. But that heat is more than replaced by the chase for second place and the extended conversation about playoff possibilities.
Besides, we haven’t had a traditional pennant race since 1969, when league divisions were created. So let’s not be purists about a process already impure.
We heard, on CNN, that Michael Jordan’s father, James, was found shot to death. We wondered: Did any of Michael’s gambling partners--one a convicted cocaine dealer, one a bail bondsman who turned up shot dead--have any dealings with James Jordan? A month later, we haven’t heard the last of it. Now the two men accused of Jordan’s murder say they didn’t do it. They say they found the man dead in his car.
One night in Japan, we took a train 50 miles to the TokyoDome for a baseball game. Train tickets cost $100 each and game tickets $38 each (for average seats). Beer cost $8; hot dogs, $4. Japanese boxed dinners with chopsticks went for $15. Vendors cruised the stadium renting cellular phones and carried credit-card machines. For $20 outside the TokyoDome, you could buy a T-shirt bearing words we’d never seen at an American ballpark: “My Team Never Wins. But I Don’t Care. I Love Baseball!”
The Nippon Ham Fighters won by a run over their cursed rivals, the Seibu Lions, and we left there thinking it was almost Triple-A baseball. The players are smaller than ours and not as strong. So the ball moves slower out of their hands and off their bats.
Good to be back? It’s great. We missed home. Here’s a Top 10 list, in fact, of American Things Dave Missed the Most While Going Around the World:
10. Demi Moore calling at all hours. 9. Late-night gunplay by NFL wide receivers. 8. The wind direction in USA Today box scores. 7. John Madden for Ace is the Place. 6. Those Olympic Gold updates on synchronized swimmers. 5. Workouts and vitamin supplements necessary to maintain Mr. Universe potential. 4. Untangling the Weedeater line. 3. Every full moon, we have a seance with founder, J.G. Taylor Spink. 2. Richard Esquinas begging, “Please, Dave, double or nothing for the million.”
And the No. 1 American Thing Dave Missed the Most While Going Around the World:
1. Bill Parcells in bright blue coaching shorts.