by David Sisler

Beware the Ides of March!

With the NCAA tournament brackets selected, and businesses losing $101 million in productivity for every 10 minutes their employees spend obsessing about the tournament (that statistic from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas), it is time once again to examine one of the greatest words in sports – close. Or almost! Ah, it’s a game of inches. If only.

Bob Prince began his broadcasting career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1948. Until he was fired by Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1975 for failing to knuckle under to the yummies up on carpet corridor, Prince was the Voice of the Pirates. In a game with many close plays, the Gunner (a nickname he acquired for his rat-a-tat-tat delivery style) coined the phrase, “Close only counts in horse shoes and quoits.” Quoits, for the uninitiated is horse shoes played with a round rope ring. To the Gunner’s list you could add hand grenades and atomic bombs, but I digress (so what else is new?).

Local college basketball favorite Georgia Tech came close to defeating Duke, the team that may win it all this year. A late rally fell short and the Yellow Jackets lost to the Blue Devils 69-64. Other than a higher seed, and pride, the close loss in the ACC Tournament may mean nothing to Tech when March Madness is over.

In tournament play, determining who gets in and what the seeds are, Oral Roberts University came close to winning the Mid-Continent’s automatic NCAA tournament bid, but fell short when Pierre Dukes made a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left for Oakland University. With that last second loss ORU was shut out of March Madness. It is of little comfort to the Golden Eagles that their 25-7 record is better than 46 of the teams that made the field of 64 – and only 14 teams had more wins.

Cries of, “Wait ‘till next year!” are drowned out by the sobs of, “Close!”

On to other sports news.

Jimmy Mize came close to winning the four-day Citgo Bassmaster fishing tournament. In fact, he caught more fish than the eventual winner, Mike Reynolds, but Mr. Mize’s 20 fish weighed 5 ounces less than Mr. Reynolds’ 19, and for that Reynolds took home $100,000 and Mize netted (sorry) $32,000. If any one of Mr. Mize’s 20 largemouth bass had swallowed a Big Mac, the outcome would have been different.

It was close.

If I were arrested for being a golfer, there would not be enough evidence to sustain an indictment. That does not stop me from watching the game and rooting for my personal favorite, Charles Howell III, a young man who grew up here in Augusta, Georgia. When I was in the jewelry business, I waited on Charles one December as he picked out a Christmas gift for the woman he would later marry, but on to the course.

Back in January, Charles may have earned golf’s all-time “Close” award. He was playing the final hole of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines South on January 23, 2005. Using a 54-degree sand wedge (I quote ‘em, I don’t have to understand ‘em), he aimed his third shot on the 546-yard par 5 at the pin 96 yards away. The ball carried 96 yards, struck the flag stick, the back of the hole, and then ricocheted 15 yards backwards. As Jay Posner reported for the Union-Tribune, the ball did not stop there. It rolled through the rough and into a pond.

Charles, who later said, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” bogied the hole and wound up in a tie for second. His earnings for the weekend were $358,400.

If the ball had stayed in the cup, Charles would have carded an eagle, and, as things turned out, been in a playoff against his good friend Tiger Woods. A win in the playoff would have earned Charles his second PGA Tour victory and $864,000. An outright second would have been worth $518,400.

Any way you look at it, that shot, which ABC Sports analyst Paul Azinger called, “One of the worst breaks I’ve ever seen,” cost Charles Howell between $160,000 and $505,600.

But he was close.

The records of close accomplishments is hardly touched by this brief recounting.

Amelia Earhart came close to flying around the world.

Jim Lovell came close to touching the moon – twice.

Thomas E. Dewey came close to winning the presidency.

Al Gore came close to winning the presidency, but close does not count in either Florida or Ohio.

The governor told the preacher, “You’ve come close to persuading me to become a Christian,” but so far as we know Agrippa never received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. There was no reason for that close to count for Agrippa. There is no reason for it to count for you.


Copyright 2005 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

Your comment is welcome.
Write to me at:

Back to David Sisler's Home Page