Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Very Diplomatic

In past blogs I have discussed some of my friends.  Just by first name so as not to cause them undue celebrity.  Avoiding those nosy reporters can become very time consuming. However this time I have to reveal the complete identity of my friend, Dr. Michael Binder.  Why you ask? Because Mike is the current World Champion of a very interesting game called Diplomacy.  And that's what this is all about.

Mike and his wife Amy live in Florida and every summer they visit Amy's parents who have a beautiful home on the beach on the north shore of Long Island.  Not as ritzy as the Hamptons or Sag Harbor but still a most relaxing place to spend time.  I generally visit with them at this time but I was committed to work at the US Women's Open golf tournament (see previous blog) and I was so exhausted that I couldn't make it.  Mike understood but I was upset.  Then he said that he was going from Long Island to Philadelphia (by train no less) to play in a Diplomacy tournament.  I said I would meet him there and hang with him.  He said there wouldn't be enough time for serious hanging out but I was committed to see him.  I made a reservation and I was set.

Now I have never really been a big fan of Diplomacy but I figured the best way to learn to like it was to understand it and I figured the best way to understand it was to watch it. Now I understand it and it is fascinating.

The game takes place in 1901 Europe. Empires are being built and power is being brokered.  Your goal is to dominate the map.  How do you do this? With guns and bombs? No. Through negotiation and backstabbing. Basically you talk to the other players (in closed, secret meetings) on a 1 to 1 basis and create alliances.  Then when it suits your needs you turn on them. But what if they beat you to it?  That is the fascinating part of the game.

Anyway the game consists of 15 - 20 minute negotiating sessions followed by 5 minutes of moving the pieces (everybody moves at the same time). As fascinating as it is to watch I decided to go out and walk around Philly for a little bit.  I was staying on Broad St just south of City Hall and the area has a lot going on.  It is also very gay.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's actually one of the primary reason there's a lot going on.

I walked and window shopped, bought an ice cream cone and people watched. And I got hit on.  Twice.  I guess I still have it.  At least for middle aged gay guys. Very nice.  As I got back to the hotel I saw Amy talking to a really tall (6'6"), incredibly buff guy.  She introduced him to me as an old high school friend named Marcus. He was wearing a skin tight cycling outfit and he had a very expensive looking bike.

We made some small talk and I mentioned that I had walked around the area.  The first thing out of his mouth was that it was really gay. Now it wasn't hard to figure out that Marcus was probably gay and he may have been doing this to gauge my level of homophobia.  I just said that I didn't really notice the guys holding hands and making out.  This kind of threw him for a loop.  He looked at me a little funny and didn't really talk much more.  I said good night and went back to the Diplomacy tournament.

The next day Mike, Amy and I went for breakfast.  On the walk to the restaurant Amy mentioned that I was rude to Marcus.  Now let's get one thing straight.  I am capable of being extremely rude (and obnoxious) but this comment threw me big time.  How was I rude? "Well you made fun of him being gay" she said.  This floored me.  I am at a loss to understand it but  all I can say is I must not have been very diplomatic.

In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid.

Lincoln Chafee 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Walk With the Parks

I have been involved with golf for a long time.  I have played it most of my life.  Maybe one day I will get good at it.  Truth be told I doubt it highly.  If anything I am on the downward side of having any hope. I am OK with it.  I have enjoyed my time on the track. In fact I can't really play any more because of a bad foot.  If I get in 2 or 3 rounds a year it's a lot.

I have also been a caddie on odd occasions.  It is much harder than it looks and it is a very tough way to earn a dollar.  I have known some great caddies, Admiral Eddie and Million Dollar Frankie come to mind, and I can say that I am not one. But it taught me quite a bit about dealing with people who were having a bad day.  It also pointed out to me that I looked like a jerk when I acted that way.

Over the years my company, Tape-Rite (www.taperite.com) has been a major supplier of the special double-coated tape that is used for putting grips on the club shaft.  We have expanded and we offer a complete line of tapes for the golf industry at www.golftape.com.

These days I get my golf fix by officiating at local tournaments and volunteering at USGA Championships.  So far I have worked at 6 US Opens, 1 US Amateur and at  the recently completed US Women's Open. I volunteered to act as a hole marshal.  This involved crowd control and finding lost balls. Usually I work with scoreboards so this was a new experience for me.  All I can say is that it was fabulous. I was as inside the ropes as you can get.

Being up close and personal with today's crop of women golfers is very exciting for an old fart like me. I mean who wouldn't want to be surrounded by groups of hot chicks with great bodies who can hit a high cut 3 iron.  My mind is flush with fantasies. All I can say is that whomever is getting these women interested in golf is doing a fabulous job.  More is better.

While I was working I noticed that there were several players named Park. This is directly due to golf becoming very popular among people of Korean background. If you haven't noticed, Korean women are starting to dominate the LPGA tour.

The eventual winner (and currently the world's best female golfer) was Inbee Park who had won the Open in 2008.  She was the youngest person to ever win it, a record she still holds. Inbee crushed the field with a score of 8 under.

The other Parks included Annie who is a) from Long Island and a local favorite and b) the current NCAA Women's Golf Champion, Jane and He Young. Of the 3 only Jane made the cut finishing at 12 over par.  That was good for a tie for 42 place. The way things are going I am sure there will be many more women named Park on the LPGA tour. Maybe one will be named Central Park. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

The course that the Open was held on is called Sebonack. It is located out in the Hamptons (Southampton to be exact) which is where the rich and famous people hang out every weekend with the same rich and famous people they hang out with in Manhattan the rest of the time.

Sebonack was opened in 2006 but it has neighbors that are the epitome of golf royalty.  It's immediate neighbor is National Golf Links. National is very private and exclusive and the course always ranks in the 100 Best Courses in America as determined by Golf  Digest magazine. Adjacent to National is Shinnecock, one of the truly great courses on the planet. Shinnecock has been the host of several US Opens and will be the host again in 2018. The course at Sebonack gives them both a run for their money.

Sebonack was developed by Michael Pascucci.  By an interesting twist of fate I went to high school  with his son Michael. I am a year older than he. They lived in a mansion that was once the home of Gil Hodges when he managed the NY Mets. Every summer they would have a big bash for all the kids from the area.  The summer of my graduation (1973) Mr. P asked me to run into town to pick up the pizza for the party. He snapped off a hundred dollar bill and handed it to me and told me to keep any change.  This may have been the first time I had actually held a hundred.

I was driving into town in my Mom's Mercedes and I was going a wee bit too fast.  The next thing you know I am getting a ticket for doing 70 in a 40. It wound up costing a lot more than the change I kept from the hundred. The reason I bring this up?  Maybe Michael will read this and offer me a round of golf.  I would probably turn it down because of my foot but you never know.

"Golf is a good walk spoiled." -- Mark Twain