“Sometimes the best way to appreciate things is to be without them for a while.”
I went to a golf tournament last week. No big deal. I’ve attended hundreds, heck maybe thousands, of golf tournaments in my life. Majors, PGA TOUR events, LPGA Tour events, the “minor” leagues, Solheim Cups, Ryder Cups, Ganter Cups, UBS Warburg Cups, United States Amateurs and NCAA championships. But this was a big deal, not because it was the 101st PGA Championship but because it reminded me how truly lucky I have been in my professional life.
I was dragged out of retirement by one of my best friends, and one of the best sports announcers on the planet, Brian Anderson. I worked with Brian from 2003 until 2007 at The Golf Channel until he took a job with the Milwaukee Brewers and became the superstar we all knew he would become. Because of the schedule change that saw the PGA move to May, Ernie Johnson (who normally serves as the play-by-play guy for TNT) was still working the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. So BA got the call and, in turn, he called me.
He was in need of a research/stats person. A job that had a different name two decades ago, in less politically correct days. I, of course, said yes. At Bethpage State Park I saw dozens of folks with whom I’d worked and who I became aquainted thanks to my decades of working in golf television. There was Frank, Sir Nick, Mags, Ewan, Rex, John, Dottie, BK, Lance, Billy K, Lewis, Randy, Swanny, Tracey, Grant, Schwartzy, Colt, Michael, Joe, Ned, Darryl, Clark, Will, Mallory, Mario, Kathy, Casey, Jeremy, Bob, Mark, Charlie, Dennis, Carl, along with so many more. And there were probably a hundred who I knew but wasn’t fortunate enough to run into this time. We hugged, caught up, said we missed each other, had a few laughs, and went our merry ways. I was struck by the fact that, despite the years we’d been apart, we were still family. I was also reminded of the old saying, “the older I get, the better I used to be.” Seriously I appreciated all the kind words hurled my way.
I also made a few new friends. Trevor, David, Craig, Matt, J.B., Luke, Marcus, Kristin, Heather, Cody, Chris, D.B., and more. My old friends know I am terrible at “keeping in touch”, these new ones will learn that soon enough and I’m hopeful they won’t think less of me. Believe me this laundry list of names and paragraphs of reminiscing has a point. And that point is be grateful, appreciate things while you have them, look at each day as a gift.
I recently connected with another old friend, a man for whom I have great affection and appreciation. He was a creative genius and used that talent to build the behemoth golf fans now know as Golf Channel. When I was 39 years and 10 months old, at the very beginning of that enterprise, he hired me and, in doing so, gave me the life for which I am so incredibly grateful today. Then in the early 2000’s, for reasons too complicated and lengthy to explain here, we took different paths. Me, being the famous non-communicator that I am, didn’t stay in touch. Never reached out. Never asked anyone, let alone him, how he was doing and what he was up to. It turns out he got sick. Really sick. Cancer sick. And I had no idea. But I do now. And while nothing can change what’s happened in the past we all can use that personal history to make tomorrow better. My friend is on the mend and we are checking in on one another more regularly these days. Believe me, I know I will slip and go months without so much as a “hey, how’s it going?”. But it won’t be years. Never again.
So thank you Brian Anderson. Thank you for thinking enough of me to entrust me with your “ear” again. This time for more than 20 hours of major championship television last week. And thank you for allowing me the opportunity to see all those old pals and, just as important, make some new ones. But most of all thank you for being my friend.