Quest for Perfection

June 17, 2010 | John West

The 2010 US Open is under way at Pebble Beach.  Who will win this year is impossible to predict.  I remember when that wasn’t the case.  The place was the same and the year was 2000.  Tiger Woods won the US Open by 15 shots.  But first, I have an analogous story.

11 years ago, ESPN ran a year-long special called something like “Athlete of the Century”.  They compiled a list and ran an hour story each week, counting up to number one.  Michael was 1 and Babe was 2.  I don’t remember exactly where Secretariat was, but I think the horse was somewhere around 8th on the list.  In the hour long story, I heard one of the most insightful commentaries on golf, on sport and maybe life, I have ever heard in my life.  So much so, I can remember it today, almost word for word.  When Secretariat was winning the Belmont by 15 lengths heading into turn 3, ready to take off to win by 30 lengths, Jack Nicklaus started to cry.  Jack cried through the end of the race as Secretariat crushed the field in what is often considered one of the greatest sports feats of all time.  It was a reporter who called Jack at home right after it happened and Jack told the reporter what he had done.  Jack couldn’t believe he had done it and had no idea why watching that horse on that day do that specific wonderful and amazing feat, made him cry.  Well, the reporter knew Jack and knew the answer instantly.  “Jack, you saw sports perfection.  You have been searching for it your entire life.  You hope to achieve it every time you play golf, and you don’t think you ever have.  And you don’t think you ever will, and it drive’s you.  That unfulfilled drive for perfection is both your greatest sports asset, and your worst personal attribute.”

In my lifetime, I have seen that drive for perfection in sports in Michael Jordan, Pete Rose, and Tiger Woods.  It carries some potentially massive off the field baggage, but one the field, the glory can be perfection.

Having said all of that, I have seen sports perfection once in my lifetime, and any of you who have seen 2000 US Open in Pebble Beach know I am right.  What Tiger Woods did to the course, that field and to golf in general was to say “I am not one of you.  This week, I am perfect and there isn’t anything you can do about it.”  And he said it ALL with his play on the course.

So, as you watch this weekend, you will be reminded by NBC and Johnny Miller about the 2000 US Open.  Please don’t ignore any of it.  Embrace the reminders of it.  And no matter how wonderful and glorious they describe it, it was better than that.  It was perfect.

Now back to things not perfect……

On June 17, 1988, the Baltimore Orioles were  18-48

On June 17, 2010, the Baltimore Orioles are    18-48