Commish for a day
July 13: Tiffany Simons talks to Charles Barkley and makes him NBA commisioner for a day. What would he change?
LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - And so we come to the end of our journey, and I think we've all learned something. I learned not to type too closely to the course when Charles Barkley is swinging. And hey, Sir Charles learned something as well.
I asked him to explain his comment on Saturday: "My game is like a blog."
"When I talked with you on Thursday, you said you were doing a blog, and I didn't know what that was," Barkley said. "I don't know what a blog is, but it don't sound good."
Barkley ended the weekend the way he started it: Signing autographs for nearly everyone who asked. And that's saying something, because the tournament set an attendance record with 31,226 tickets sold. It's safe to say that many of those folks showed up to see Barkley, who consistently drew the largest galleries. Of course having playing partners such as David Wells (Friday), Kevin Nealon (Saturday) and Darryl Strawberry and Ray Romano (Sunday) helps.
"That was a lot of fun," said Romano, who finished at plus-3; six points better than he started on Sunday. As he's talking with me, two fans rush up to ask for a picture. "Plus, look," Romano says. "Two women on each arm.
"The thing about Charles is that he's always fun," Romano said. "He's always in a good mood, even though he's struggling on the course; but he doesn't let it get to him. He has such a great outlook on life."
Leave it to Raymond Barone to get to the heart of the matter. Everbody loves Raymond, but everybody idolizes Charles Barkley.
Yeah, reluctantly, even bloggers.
"I'm still not sure what a blog is," Barkley said. "But like I told you, it can't be good."
Payday for loyal fans
Nine-year-old Max Jones is minding his own business, sitting in the front row of the grandstand at the seventh hole, when Ray Romano hits a beautifiul shot that lands on the green about six feet from the hole (No, 7 is a par 3, 167 yards).
As Romano scopes out his putt, he looks up and spots Max. "Hey little boy, if I make this birdie, I'll give you $20." Romano looks to a little girl who is sitting next to Max. "Is that your sister?" "Yes," replies Max. "Well, you can share."
The crowd breaks up. But it's all on the line now: Romano's chances for an even score, and Max's big payday. Romano strokes it ... and barely misses. The crowd groans. Someone yells: "Give him the money anyway!" But before Romano can react, Darryl Strawberry withdraws his wallet and hands a twenty to Max up in the stands.
Romano then walks over and hands another twenty to his sister, Peyton, 6. Then he hands another twenty to another young girl in the gallery.
"Man," he says, while walking toward No. 8. "This round is costing me money."
"I was surprised," Max said. "Especially since he missed."
Annika Sorenstam, who recently retired from the LPGA Tour, is providing analysis for NBC, and takes time out to visit the media room and give her impressions of the tournament. Inevitably she is asked about Charles Barkley's swing.
"Well, if he would swing out on the course the same way he swings during practice, it would be fine," Sorenstam said. "It's a very unorthodox swing. I try not to look at it too much, to be honest."
Crowd goes wild at 17th
The 17th hole is known as the party hole at Edgewood, and Charles Barkley's group played it in the full spirit of the name.
The group's following has been building all day, and by No. 17 the gallery is huge. The crowd is bolstered by hundreds of fans who have docked on the beach that lines the fairway. After the trio tees off, they begin walking the fairway, and someone throws a football from the beach side. Darryl Strawberry picks it up and throws it back.
"Sign it!" yells a fan, and throws the football again, this time followed by an autograph pen. Ray Romano picks it up, signs the ball and throws it back, to raucous cheers. Then a fan runs onto the fairway with a program for Romano to sign. He obliges.
Then three more fans invade the fairway, followed by five or six more. It's a madhouse, and security officials scramble to clear the area. Barkley is walking up ahead, shaking his head and smiling. Now a security guard is yelling at Romano, "We have to go, Ray!" Security can't control the crowd (shockingly, alcohol may be playing a role in the mayhem). Romano makes his way up to the 17th green.
Earlier in the day on 17, Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards had sliced his drive onto the beach, directly over an outstretched Chiefs logo blanket held aloft by Matt Smithmier of South Lake Tahoe, Nev. "I'm a huge Chiefs fan," said Smithmier, who was also the one who threw the football to Romano and received his autograph. "I'm from Kansas City, so it was great to meet Edwards." You'll meet a lot of folks if your shots end up on the beach.
And now the horrible truth: Barkley is at plus-69, which in the Stableford scoring system is about the worst you can get at this point in the weekend. Romano, who began the day at plus-9, is now at plus-4. Strawberry is at plus-28.
'Nice drive, Charles'
Barkley and Manny the Mammoth are lumbering down the fairway; it's like a trip back to 10,000 B.C.
Barkley is not unlike a large cave bear — if cave bears smoked cigars. Romano, of course, plays the voice of a mammoth in the "Ice Age" movies.
Barkley tees off on No. 14, and his low drive hits some reeds a few yards ahead, where a small creek runs across the fairway. It scatters a covey of blackbirds.
Barkley: "Just once in my life I'd like to hear, 'Nice drive, Charles.' "
Romano: "Just once I'd like to hear, nice dunk, Ray."
Chiefs fan Matt Smithmier got a signed ball from Ray Romano.
At No. 16, Romano slices one to the right, a little ways into the trees, yelling "Fore!" Barkley: "You don't have to yell 'fore', Ray. There ain't no people over there."
Barkley begins the festivities on the 10th tee by announcing ... a wager. Has he broken his no-gambling vow? It depends on how you look at it.
"Ray and I have a bet," Barkley says. "Best total today wins, for $10,000, all of which goes to the winner's favorite charity. Of course he's spotting me 40 points."
Romano then addresses the gallery: "My charity will be Hooters, where I'm not allowed to look at anything."
Barkley: "They have good wings, though."
Romano has another announcement: "This is my fourth time playing in the tournament, but this is the first time I've been able to bring my family with me. So I'd like to introduce my wife ... come out and take a bow, honey."
Romano then motions to a very attractive blond standing nearby. She comes out, and he puts his arm around her.
"The silicone treatments have really done wonders," he says. The gallery cracks up. Then the announcer holds up a cell phone and says: "Ray, it's your real wife on the phone. She'd like to have a word."
Romano yells back: "Tell her to go cry on a bag of money."
Before teeing off
"My game is like a blog." — Barkley
That's actually a compliment if you're, say, Rick Rhoden or Tony Romo, who lead this event at plus-45 and 43, respectively. But when you're the guy who spends the majority of his day searching for his ball in the woods, that's a bit of an insult.
I'm not sure if Barkley is reading this, but Thursday, when I introduced myself to him, he claimed that he didn't know what a blog was; he was actually quite befuddled by the term. So, just maybe, we have added another word to his vocabulary, which was already extensive.
"A bug just went up my nose. Things are going good." — Ray Romano.
The "Everybody Loves Raymond" star will be in Barkley's group Sunday, which should be interesting. Darryl Strawberry also joins in, with a tee time of 10:20 a.m. The day should be hilarious, although topping the slapstick comedy stylings of Romo will be difficult. The Cowboys quarterback fell into a water hazard on the first hole Friday, about 120 yards from the green. No word on the reaction of girlfriend Jessica Simpson, who had been following his round.
Well, let's get this party started. See you on the third hole.
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