For the past thirty-five years my father's been kickin' my ass at golf. It really pisses me off. And he knows it.
When he calls me he always asks how my golf game is. My answer is always the same. I tell him golf sucks. My sport is darts.
But neither of us has been completely honest with each other.
For example, I know damn well that my father doesn't give a rat's ass how my golf game is. The only reason he asks about my game is to remind me that even though he's now 75 years old, I still can't touch him on the links. And the reason I react the way I do isn't because I can't stand golf. What I can't stand is getting beaten by my old man.
The mysterious thing is I can hit the ball much farther then he can. He just dinks it straight. I pound the bastard. I launch the ball 250 yards, pretty much every time I tee up. It flies exactly 125 yards down the middle of the fairway, at which point it mysteriously slices ninety degrees to the right, flies another 125 yards and then frightens the drawers off some old lady on the adjacent fairway. I just don't understand it.
For years my father tried to help me improve my game. He gave me his old clubs. He took me to the driving range. He hustled me out of bed on Saturdays to show me the finer points of the game -- as I sweated and dragged his heavy-frickin' bag around his favorite course in the humid, buggy mornings. I was his caddy of choice. I was free.
When my father would stop with his buddies at the nineteenth hole he was always gracious enough to buy me a soft drink as the foursome wound down with a couple of pints.
From the time I was in my middle teens I swore to myself that someday I would whoop my father on the golf course.
Well, I have given up. I can't do it. As my father has often pointed out, I just don't have the "mental capacity" for the game. I wouldn't normally admit to such a thing but sometimes one just knows when they ain't got what it takes. I knew this about golf the day Steve Brown almost beat me. He shot a 136 and lost just about as many balls.
So I hatched another plan. I began to plant the seeds with my father for a little game of darts. Last Friday night I unfolded my plan at Ledo's Bar, 2608 North High, in Columbus, Ohio. But damn if it didn't turn out that my father had a plan of his own.
Once upon a time Ledo's was perhaps THE main darts establishment in Columbus, Ohio. In the late 1970's and early 1980's the joint sported three boards on its backroom wall and drew the heart of the area's darting community. None other than Jay Tomlinson, Editor of Bull's Eye News and former two-times Columbus City Champion, used to throw from Ledo's way back in the days when he still had hair.
Ledo's is a hang-out for college kids. It's situated just a few blocks north of the Ohio State University campus. The music blares. The smoke is heavy. The crowd is young and energetic. Immediately inside the entryway is a large bar. Beyond the bar in a room in the rear there are pool tables. To the left of the bar in another large room are six dart boards. The old boards have apparently been reproducing.
After a quiet Chinese dinner, we headed to the bar to be joined shortly after 9:00 p.m. by my father's friend, Stevy. Immediately I knew I was in trouble.
This is because Stevy, who I naturally figured was some black dude with braids who played the organ and sang, turned out to be a GIRL! Even worse, she was a young, ATTRACTIVE girl -- a 38 year old Cameron Diaz look-a-like. Even worser, she had her OWN SET of darts!
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking is that "worser" isn't a word.
Well, screw you! This was a bad, BAD situation. There ain't been a term invented to describe how bad. My father and I hadn't even stepped to the line yet and he was throwin' up serious distractions.
But it got WORSE! Stevy could throw darts! She was a member of a league.
And she could DANCE! Before the night was over (and this is the honest-to-God's truth) she was on the bar with a hoola-hoop around her waist competing for beers with twenty year old communications majors.
Blimey! Here I was with a well-hatched plan to stomp my old man for years of stompin' me on the golf course and then buyin' me COKES instead of Budweisers and here he was bringin' in pretty ringers and messin' with my mind.
So I sucked it up. I bought my father a couple of martinis and a chocolate ice cream cone. I bought Stevy a beer. And then I walked to the oche.
I dispatched Stevy in short order. Honestly, I felt bad about it. But I HAD to send her packing. I was gonna need somebody to keep score when I taught my father that real sport involves more than tooling through the dew in a golf cart. Besides, other than my father and myself, I was pretty sure that Stevy was the only person in the joint old enough to know how to add and subtract.
It was nearly midnight when I stepped to the line for pay-back time. I won the bull and called cricket because, truth be known, I wasn't exactly sure Stevy could do more than add. I didn't want to embarrass her further.
Exactly five handfuls later, right about the time my old man figured out which end of the dart actually sticks in the board, my revenge was complete. Well, almost.
We headed home. We hit the sack. I slept soundly. I always do after a night of whoop-ass darts. But my father hugged the porcelain.
The next morning he was moving very slowly.
"Hey Dad. You okay? You remember what happened last night?" I was honestly concerned.
He looked at me through bloodshot eyes. "I was up all night. I'm sick."
"You'll be fine. Really."
"Maybe. I'm old," he replied. I can't mix Chinese, ice cream and martinis." He looked pathetic. He was definitely in bad shape.
"Nobody can, Dad. Nobody should. I think you taught me something like that once."
"Yeah, I suppose." Yep. He was hurtin'.
"Your darts suck Dad. You don't have the mental capacity to compete." I figured, what the hell, I'd rub it in. In almost fifty years I'd never really had such an opportunity. He'd recover.
Defeated and sick, my father sort of stared blankly, eyes unfocused. But I could tell... I could almost hear his mind processing a response to my dig.
And then he spoke... his first complete sentence of the new day. His head turned just slightly. His eyes locked on mine. "I was just thinking. How about we have breakfast and then squeeze in a few holes?"
That's when I understood. I'd won nothing but a leg in the long set of life.
My father was gonna be just fine.
From the Field,