When it comes to sports, for the most part, I can take ’em or leave ’em.

I don’t remember who played in the Super Bowl, because I didn’t care.

Basketball’s NCAA tournaments are over, and once Duke’s teams lost, I lost interest.

Are they playing professional basketball and hockey now? I think so — there are headlines in the sports pages, but I don’t read any of the stories.

Baseball season is underway, and the Braves are 7-1. I’m glad for that, though I haven’t bothered trying to find any of their games on TV, and I wouldn’t know any of the players if I did.

But this week, I will be a sports enthusiast, if not a nut … it’s Masters week at Augusta National.

I never played well enough to call myself a golfer and have barely touched a club in years, but when Masters week rolls around, I’m content even if I don’t have a date: I’m happy enough to park myself in front of the TV with whatever writing or paper-grading needs doing at the moment, and to soak in the broad green vistas of the world’s most beautiful and perfectly kept golf course.

The whole place is an embodied conceit, I know — a rich man’s playground kept up with obscene amounts of money that waited far too long to take its first tentative steps beyond racism and sexism — but it’s also a reminder that, even in the South, things can change for the better.

I grew up just 40 miles from Augusta, back in the day when it was still possible to get an occasional ticket to the tournament, or to walk up for any practice round and pay $5 to watch Jack and Arnie and Gary play golf. 

And to spend hours exploring those hallowed grounds.

To this day, if I fantasize about heaven, I’m more likely to think of Magnolia Lane than pearly gates, and I figure God’s throne would look best on the thirteenth green, surrounded by towering pine trees and brilliant azaleas in full bloom, with meandering Rae’s Creek serving as the river of life. If it was heaven, I figure, the pollen wouldn’t be a factor.

I’ll have my favorites once play begins, and I’ll hope that an American wins instead of one of those cagey Europeans or South Africans who have such a penchant for doing well there. Mainly, though, I’ll enjoy the quiet bumper music, the almost commercial-free broadcast, and the amazing beauty of God’s master design, tweaked to something approaching heaven on earth.


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