Sunday, November 20, 2011

The cup runneth over...

Mackenzie and I went to Melbourne this weekend to see the President's Cup. We were pretty excited to see Tiger Woods and the gang. Friday night's flight to Melbourne was a debacle. We boarded the plane late, flew to Melbourne, circled the city for 45 minutes hoping to land, couldn't get clearance due to storms in the area so turned around and flew back to Canberra. Then waited for an hour on the tarmac in Canberra before taking off again and heading to Melbourne. We ended up getting to our hotel after midnight and scarfing down McDonald's before lights out. 6:00 a.m. came early but we were psyched despite the constant drizzle that descended upon the city. We were at the course by 7:00 a.m. and watched 11 consecutive hours of golf. We got extremely wet but it couldn't dampen our spirits.

On Tiger: We couldn't get over how little he is - Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Ernie Els, Adam Scott all tower over him. If he's 6'2" then I'm the jolly green giant. He is extremely fit, I admit, and his tight red shirts provide the illusion of bulk on television, but he's no more than 180 lbs. If I were to compare him to another athlete up close in terms of size, it might be Wayne Gretzky. And that would be a good comparison because as a player he is beyond superb, he plays with an understanding of the game that is unparalleled. Even in a collection of the best players in the world it takes about 10 minutes to realize he's in a class by himself. Socially he seems a bit awkward but as a player he did not disappoint.

On Royal Melbourne: The course gave the pros fits. There were so many short Par 4's which meant that the players had to really think about position rather than just "bombing it". The greens would have eaten me up and spit me out. Not exactly a downtown course, a bit off the beaten track, but a great test of golf. You can't really imagine how difficult they make the greens for a professional event, just nasty. Jason Day shot 45 on the front 9 on Sunday! That's a few more than Mackenzie and I usually take to get around on a social Saturday afternoon, wow poor Jason. The crowd at Royal Melbourne was super quiet. There were a great group of Aussie supporters that tried to get in the spirit but the rest of the gallery seemed in awe of the event. Overly polite I'd say, it was nice to see though.

On Lemon, Lime and Bitters: No idea what actually makes up this drink but I'm hooked.

On Fatherhood: My daughter is awesome. She is game for everything. Rain, cold, greasy food, 5 hour plane rides that should have been an hour...just deal with it. When we arrived, we walked through the gates and I said, there he was Phil Mickelson on the practice green, and Mackenzie's eyes got as big as saucers. The look on her face was priceless.

On Bubba Watson: He is easily 6' 3" - but his wife is taller. Yowza! She was walking around for the entire event in the rain on Saturday, what a trooper. Bubba is a weird kid, but pretty likable I must say. Webb Simpson's wife wore rubber boots on Saturday and somehow pulled it off as a fashion statement...some women can wear anything. Overall the Americans had cuter WAGs, which is really the true competition isn't it? WAG = Wives and Girlfriends, and yes that is an official President's Cup moniker.

Best chant of the day: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie...Choi, Choi, Choi!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Policy Ball

The United States was founded by a group of tax cheats. Tea was thrown overboard and the shackles from their founding empire were thrown off. Hell hath no fury like an American burdened by an arbitrary pull on his taxable income. Live free or die! From 1776 the American juggernaut has been based on an increasingly complex series of accounting tricks and when President Reagan finally made deregulation the official law of the land in the 1980's it was a slide that ultimately led to a puddle called the Global Financial Crisis. But, oh what a ride. I love America and I have all the faith in the world that their cunning will lead the world out of its present economic conundrum, and in doing so, will set the scene for an even bigger crash in the future.

Canada was a compromise. The French took the upper territory; called it the lower territory and ceded the lower territory to the English who dutifully called the bottom half "Upper Canada" thus confusing generations of Canadian High School history students. We all good? The nation building "rebellions" were equally farcical, one scheduled for 1837 involved 3 drunken Scotsmen and a few distracted French politicians which ended in a settlement whereby 4 daffodils and 3 daisy's were replanted. Cool. The spirit of compromise is alive and well today in the land of the Maple Leaf, God bless us. Just count the number of times a Canadian uses the word sorry in an average week. At least 20 times, no sorry, I lied, 19.

Which brings me to my present home. A land where thriving, innocent and peaceful nations of aboriginal people were forced to share their space with a lawless group of immigrants. The newcomers got right to work; took on an oppressive climate and built a nation of their own. Australia is huge. Twenty Five million people spread around the coast like a handful of pennies thrown in an apple orchard. You want room, you got room. But to their credit Australian's soon realized that anarchy just wasn't the way to run a country and they set forth to create a system of administration full of policy, procedure and more policy. The result is a daily struggle between freedom and bureaucracy. A drama that is played out every day in the land of the sunburn.

Like Canada, many things in Australia have been imported. The roots are decidedly British, there is a apologetic appreciation for an oppressed aboriginal culture, a decidedly southern hemispheric Asian influence, and of course a thirst for the latest (if not greatest) from the good old U.S.A. I am proud to say that one of the American passions that has recently taken hold "down under" is baseball. There are plenty of youth teams and of course my son, enjoys a game every Saturday morning. This year I decided to put my pen forward as the official scorer for the team. It keeps me there, awake, and yet a civilized distance from the action.

The game itself for these under 14 squads shows a resemblance to the North American version I used to know. The kids look the same, the uniforms and gear are similar and for the most part the rules and general setup are familiar. But the struggle between Australian lawlessness and bureaucracy is evident. This week I went behind the stands to the scorers table where I was met by the opposing teams "assistant scorer". Three chairs were laid out, one for me, one for her and one for her senior scoring advisor. I took my book out and began to scratch out the lineups, but I could see from my counterparts that I lacked a certain nervous tension. You see - I've been scoring ball games since I was 8, and this pair have been taking courses on scoring all winter in hopes of being ready for the summer. The two of them sat with 5 coloured pencil crayons, pens, scrap paper and 4 colour coded versions of the lineup cards. Every pitch for them was a different code. The first pitch was a ball which flew over the batters head and crashed against the screen. The umpire, who had clearly just returned from a night of drinkin' at the Labour Club didn't flinch. I put my sunnies over my eyes settling in for a long morning but my fellow score keeping partners were in a tizzy. The conversation went a little like this...Do I mark that in blue for a Ball or Red? Do I count balls and strikes or just pitches? What happens if there is a foul ball? Was that a passed ball or a wild pitch? Should that be an error on the catcher? What is an unearned run? Can you get the book and look up the definition of catchers interference in case that happens? As they were dealing with the official scoring of "Ball One", two more pitches had ensued, a ball and a strike, now they were behind, and were asking what had happened... careful not to ask me, less the official Chinese wall between the two score keeping sides be breached and the corresponding loss of objectivity render the game a forfeit in the standings. This went on for 2 hours and after a painful walked filled 3 inning marathon, the game mercifully ended. After the first inning, one of the coaches, came over and asked for the score...the Bopsy twins looked over at their indecipherable scorecard which contained well over 400 multicoloured marks, and had to confess, they had no idea. 6-1, if you're interested.

The game itself was a testament to good old fashioned Australian mayhem. Dogs ran on the field, players ran over each other like Aussie Rules Stars, parents swore like Canadian hockey moms; as young Australian boys wrestled mightily with this circular version of cricket. The nearest thing I can compare it to is watching a group of elephants play the violin. Frustrating for the elephants, painful for the spectators and an absolute disgrace to the instrument. But hey, in the end, a good time had by all. Malcolm went 2 for 2 with 3 runs scored (who's counting). As I left my scorers chair, having signed the official declarations of the 14 - 1 contest, the home team scorers were still trying to determine the exact number of swinging strikes versus taken strikes as the official game sheet calls for the ratio...good luck with that. I had better things to do, like navigate my way home past fifteen round abouts, all the while trying not to get run down by Australian drivers who think red lights are suggestions and traffic signs are for sissies. I can safely say that I made it home to blog about it.

Next weeks project, I do my taxes, you can imagine the hell that is in Australia...anyone know where my purple pencil crayon is? Where's a good American accountant when you need one?