Still, sports were represented, as usual. "Million Dollar Baby" somehow turned the freak show of women's boxing into a poignant tale of lost souls connecting. In "Sideways," Miles and Jack performed an American bachelor party ritual and played golf, minus the stogies and gratuitous leering at the cart girl. Leo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett played some serious stick as Howard Hughes and Kate Hepburn strolling the links in "The Aviator" -- likely turning what you and I would call a $2 Nassau into what Howard Hughes would call a $2 million Nassau. "What do you say we make this interesting, Kate," Hughes might have said at the turn, "and play for the rights to own TWA?"

2. Speaking of golf ...
The Cooler, of course, is a PGA Tour-friendly place -- but the Accenture Match Play Championship isn't exactly a Nielsen-friendly place. The deal is, match play is a bizarre, sometimes beautiful, sometimes unfair, thing. The cheap, quick thrill of watching Tiger Woods get taken down by a guy named Nick O'Hern -- whose mailman probably doesn't even know O'Hern is a professional golfer -- soon gets replaced by the dull ache that we now have a Match Play event without Tiger Woods, and with Nick O'Hern. All of which is a long way of saying: David Toms vs. Chris DiMarco in the Final.

Three years ago, it was Kevin Sutherland vs. Scott McCarron. Before that, Andrew Magee vs. Jeff Maggert. Good guys? Tax-paying citizens? Men who obey the speed limit, wait for elevators to clear of passengers before boarding, and never carry more than 15 items into the 15-items-and-fewer line? Sure. Just ... not ... exactly ... Arnie vs. Jack in the 1962 U.S. Open, you know what I mean?

3. Did Leo Mazzone Ever Climb a Tree for Bobby Cox?
Staying on the Match Play Championship, I hope you all got the chance to see Retief Goosen send his caddie, Colin Byrne, to climb a tree in search of his errant tee shot in the semifinal. If we're supposed to enjoy sports because it reminds us of our innocent youth, it may not get any more innocent or youthful than the alpha male in a situation sending the beta male to search for a lost ball.

This was the script of my childhood, at least. Tennis ball lost in the bushes during a pickup ballgame on the street? Send the youngest kid in to look, then make him feel important by playing the "See It?/Got It?" call-and-response as the little kid wanders through the weeds.

Older kid, waiting outside the weeds: See it?

Younger kid, face-to-face with bugs, snakes and thorny bushes in the weeds: No!

Older kid, bored already: Got it?

I'd like to think soft-spoken Retief tossed out a few "See It/Got It?" lines to Byrne, who was up in the branches, risking getting his eye poked out, before shaking loose a ball that, alas, was not Goosen's. Goosen probably made Byrne fetch him a ham sandwich at the turn as penance.

4. Spring Chatter
I trust all of you, like me, are hugely enjoying perusing the morning sports pages, reading the sweet buzzwords of spring training ... Opening Day starters ... batting practice ... promises of pennants ... angry denials of steroid accusations ... ponderings of libel lawsuits ... mmm. Just sounds like ball, doesn't it? Nothing, to me, screams spring ball like a color photo of The Boss himself, forever dressing the part of Outrageously Rich Guy Out Of Touch With Modern Fashion. I enjoyed a portrait of George Steinbrenner with his arm around Jason Giambi in Sunday's New York Times, his accoutrements in full bloom: Quasi-Members Only jacket, silver wrist bracelet, coiffed gray mane, and the coup de grace, the dark shades that are part-FBI agent, part-Guy Heading Into An Adult Theatre In The Mid-Afternoon.


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