Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland

Speaking of streaks ...

Sunday, September 24, 2006 4:17 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- One streak is over. Another continues.

Moments after Europe clinched its third consecutive Ryder Cup, an unidentified and nearly naked spectator -- wearing nothing but a toothy grin and a well-placed patch of fur he'd mysteriously named "Corky" -- skipped across the 18th green, just as J.J. Henry was about to attempt a lengthy putt for a halve against Paul McGinley. In a remarkable act of sportsmanship, McGinley conceded Henry's putt to give each team a half-point. And in a remarkable act of both pubic and public indecency, the authorities apprehended the streaker and took him to his fate. Someone obviously forgot to tell Corky fourballs were yesterday.

But those shenanigans shouldn't obscure the naked truth: the European Ryder Cup team is better than the Americans. Period.

In 1985, when Europe won for the first time in nearly 30 years, it was an upset. In '87, when they won for the first time ever on American soil, it was historic. When they won today, making it three straight Cup victories for the first time ever, it proved the U.S. is simply no match in this competition.

Actually, the Americans got the score they wanted Sunday. But following the form of the last 20 years, they were on the wrong side of the ledger. Needing to win Sunday singles by at least a score of 8 1/2-3 1/2, the Yanks were beaten by that same score, en route to another rout, 18 1/2-9 1/2.

The U.S. remains winless in this millennium, and the prospects for turning the tide aren't promising. There are no Americans under 30 on this team. Europe has three, including Sergio Garcia, who's now played in four Cups by the age of 26.

Today had all the suspense of a metronome. Colin Montgomerie went out first for Europe and delivered, as he's done his entire Ryder Cup career. Monty birdied Nos. 3 and 4 to establish a lead he'd never surrender in a 1-up win over David Toms that kept him unbeaten in singles play (6-0-2).

Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, David Howell, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Lee Westwood took Montgomerie's lead with wins that slammed the door on any notion of a Brookline redux.

The scene at the 16th where Clarke closed out Zach Johnson was one of the most surreal I've ever been a part of. Not unlike the way Tiger emotionally unloaded when he won the British Open on the heels of his father's passing, Clarke let it all hang out once the outcome had been decided. Barely a month since the loss of his wife, Heather, Clarke had been carried all week on the shoulders of these raucous but well-behaved Irish galleries.

There were plenty of shoulders for Clarke to cry on from players wearing both uniforms. One of the first to congratulate him was U.S. Captain Tom Lehman. The two remained embraced for what must've been a full 60 seconds. When that was over, Tiger was waiting.

The hugs and tears won't be the only thing flowing at The K Club tonight. At least one celebrant got started early. But tonight at some jail cell in Dublin, Corky will drink alone.

Not the start the U.S. was looking for

8:40 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland (third Green) -- "Go, Cinkie!" Stewart Cink turned to look at the bass voice who shouted encouragement to him as he walked down the second fairway. It was Michael Jordan. What a role reversal. Cink was playing for Georgia Tech when Jordan was becoming the world's greatest athlete. Now, Jordan was rooting him on. And it was working. Cink was outside Sergio Garcia on the first but won the hole when he made his birdie and Garcia missed.

I walked with Jordan for a minute or two and asked him if there was a U.S. comeback in the offing. He said, "Brookline, baby. Brookline," referring to the Americans' epic rally from the same 10-6 deficit they had this morning. I think Jordan and I connected in some small way. There was a certain look in his eye as security ordered me to the other side of the ropes. It's hard to explain.

Anyway, this wasn't the start the U.S. hoped for. Instead of a sea of red on the board, Europe took the early lead in three of the opening four matches. But then the Yanks fought back. Tiger Woods won the second to square his match with Robert Karlsson, who let Woods off the mat by missing a short birdie putt at 3. Tiger went on to birdie 4 and 5 to put a red flag on the board.

Still, to come back from a deficit this big, nearly everything has to break perfectly. And so far it hasn't. When I came back to file this report, the Euros led in four matches, the U.S. in three, with three others tied. My pants (with mud) and my mind (with memories of watching this spectacle in person) are equally and indelibly stained.

Everything's coming up aces for the European team

Saturday, September 23, 2006 3:53 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Everything you need to know about the afternoon foursomes could be found at the 14th hole. In the first match, Phil Mickelson's tee shot at the 213-yard par-3 was airborne as he yelled, "C'mon, honey, be right!" Honey wasn't listening. The shot landed a good 40 feet short of the hole.

A few minutes later, Paul Casey said nothing as his tee shot at the same hole flew toward the green. It didn't stop until it hit the bottom of the hole. That one shot was the fifth and sixth holes-in-one in Ryder Cup history. Casey's ace clinched a 5-and-4 win for himself and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, technically meaning the Euros conceded a 1 to the Americans. You know things aren't going well when your team's best shot all week is one it didn't even hit.

This seems to happen every year, and each year you wonder how it gets to this point. How do the top three players in the world combine to go 0-2 in this morning's fourballs? If you want to talk about the quirkiness of alternate-shot play, that's one thing. But fourballs is essentially each guy playing his own ball. And Woods and Furyk were the two hottest players in the world coming in. But apparently something happens when American players start dressing alike, and that something's not good. Maybe Seinfeld was right when he said it's all about the uniforms.

I was standing behind Jim Furyk this morning after he teed off at 10. He looked behind him toward a giant banner featuring a picture of Ian Woosnam and this quote: "For me there can be no prouder moment in my sporting career than this week leading Europe in the greatest team event in the world." I had the feeling Furyk was thinking, "This guy's no bigger than my golf bag. How is he doing this to us?"

On the other side, you wonder what else Tom Lehman could've done? He's drawn rave reviews on his leadership from American players. He somehow convinced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to rearrange their schedules to join the entire team on a two-day reconnaissance mission here last month. He even brought Tex Mex over on the team plane. What he didn't anticipate was his team folding like a soft taco once play began.

Maybe Lehman has the Europeans right where he wants them. He played a significant role when the U.S. rallied from the same 10-6 deficit they face going into Sunday singles this year. In fact, Lehman was the first man out on that Sunday at Brookline when Ben Crenshaw stacked his best players at the top of the lineup to try to close the gap as quickly as possible. Lehman waxed Lee Westwood that day, 3 and 2, and the comeback was on. Sunday, Captain Tom will send out Toms (Montgomerie), Cink (Garcia), Furyk (Casey), and Woods (Karlsson) in the first four matches and ask them to even the score.

Will Lehman's lineup card be right? The U.S. can only hope his depth perception is better than Mickelson's and that Europe doesn't have another ace up its sleeve.

Ireland's not in the UK, and the U.S. stars are not in attendance

12:06 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Breaking news from The K Club: the Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom. Earlier in the week, I loosely lumped the two together, even though Ireland's had its independence from the British Empire for a decade or eight. Thanks to faithful reader, M, for pointing out my mistake. And keep making those cool gadgets for James Bond.

It appears the U.S. team will Die Another Day. Desperately needing momentum after falling behind Friday 5-3, the Americans' top two tandems, Woods/Furyk and Mickelson/DiMarco, came out this morning and collectively laid a giant goose egg, going 0-for-2 to put their combined total for three matches at 1-4-1. Turns out, the problem with this U.S. team isn't the presence of four Ryder Cup rookies. It's the absence of their stars.

In fact, the first-years are about the only Americans playing well. Zach Johnson, after getting a half-point with Stewart Cink in the foursomes Friday, single-handedly took down Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson. Scott Verplank was technically paired with Johnson, but contributed about as much as the walking scorer. Johnson is the Joaquin Phoenix look alike, and he Walked the Line this morning, making seven birdies, the sixth of which answered a pitch-in from Harrington at the 15th and the last of which was a birdie pitch of his own at the 17th to close out the match. (While we're playing Separated at Birth, please note that Robert Karlsson will be playing the role of Dolph Lundgren and Paul McGinley that of William Devane.)

St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, but a Horned Frog's running free. Former TCU star J.J. Henry rallied his team to a half-point Friday morning and did the same today with an eagle at the 16th and a conceded birdie at the 17th. But nothing's easy for the Americans this week. As great as Henry played, he three-putted for par at the 18th and opened the door for Paul Casey to make birdie, win the hole, and steal half a point from the Americans.

While the U.S. begs for scraps, Sergio Garcia's turning cartwheels around The K Club, firing up his European mates and breaking American hearts. Garcia's now 12-1-2 in Ryder Cup foursomes and fourballs after teaming up with his amigo Jose Maria Olazabal for the second morning in a row and delivering another win. I saw former Euro captain and still-current Spaniard Seve Ballesteros following that group, pumping his fists and leading the cheers while listening to the other matches on the radio. I kinda got the feeling Seve still thinks he's captain, and no one wants to break the news to him that he's not. I wonder if anyone's told him about Ireland.

We've seen this before, and before, and before

3:15 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Stop me if you've heard this one. Nearly every match on the first day of the Ryder Cup went down to the wire. Then with points on the line, Europe played better and took a commanding lead. The Euro coaches and players talked about not getting ahead of themselves. Their U.S. counterparts spoke of how close the competition was, how the point totals could've been a different story with a good bounce here or a dropped putt there. And at the end of the day, Europe led.

This has been the Friday night bedtime story for the last decade. In this particular chapter, Europe leads the U.S. 5-3 with the first day now fast asleep. It's the fifth consecutive Cup in which the Yanks have trailed after the opening matches. Same story, umpteenth verse.

This has become golf's version of "Groundhog Day." Every other September, a band of European players comes out of the shadows and sees an American team that can't seem to consistently produce when it matters most. And it usually means two more years of Ryder Cup winter for the United States.

Perhaps the only difference this year is that the Europeans are, top to bottom, at least as good as the U.S., if not better. Case in point? Ian Woosnam used every one of his 12 players Friday, and each contributed something toward Europe's total. You get the feeling Woosie could squeeze half a point from the two guys in the Guinness commercials. Brilliant! There's no other way to describe Europe's team play over the last 10 Cups.

In the old days, Europe won by hiding the pack mules and riding the studs. Now, it's the American team wondering how to mix and match the Brett Wetterichs and Vaughn Taylors. Taylor's actually still waiting to tee it up. He didn't play Friday and wasn't in Tom Lehman's lineup for Saturday morning fourballs.

But you can't pin this latest Friday flop on the rookies. J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson earned as many points -- a whopping half -- as one of America's dynamic duos, Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson, who went 0-1-1, which is not bad if you're looking to dial internationally but stinks if it's your record at the end of Day 1.

Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk's mark of 1-1 was barely better but not good enough from two of the top-three ranked players in the world. Furyk was the steadier of the two on Friday but that snapper he hit on 18 -- with a half-point hanging in the balance -- was, as of press time, still hooking.

The Americans' timing at the Ryder Cup is every bit as impeccable as Squiggy's. Remember when either Laverne or Shirley would say something like, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen," just as Squiggy walked through the door saying in that high-pitch whine, "Hellaw." It's not that the U.S. side never hits good shots; they just don't hit enough of them when there's no margin for error.

If we're assigning each team a '70s TV character, the Euros favor Vinnie Barbarino when it comes to blows in that they tend to be a bit braver in a pack. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, who beat Woods and Furyk Friday afternoon, may as well have been yelling, "Hey, Carvelli! Ya mutha! Ya mutha!" These are the same guys who were wholly skewered by Tiger in the final rounds of the last two majors of the year, respectively.

But this isn't a major. It's the Ryder Cup. And until they make the entire competition a series of singles or the U.S. learns to play better as a team, there may not be many Happy Days anytime soon.

Tiger wasn't very good, but Phil was worse

Friday, September 22, 2006 11:05 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Tiger and I both got off to a rough start this morning. He hit his first tee shot in the water, but at least he was on the premises. I'm still waiting for my wake-up call. Perhaps the chap at the front desk thought I meant 5:45 p.m. Nonetheless, both of us rallied.

Playing alongside Jim Furyk, Tiger played poorly on the whole but mustered enough to catch up and eventually pass Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington. After lipping out par putts at Nos. 5 and 7, Woods rolled in a birdie at 8 to square the match, another at 11 to put his side 1-up, and still another at 12. Was it a coincidence that Woods caught fire when I caught up with his match? Definitely.

Tiger may've been more inspired by the presence of one of the few people in the world who knows what it's like to be him, Michael Jordan, who escorted Mrs. Woods around The K Club for most of the morning. Tiger and MJ aren't exactly alike -- Jordan is usually coming in about the time Woods is waking up -- but they are easily the two greatest athletes of my lifetime and probably the most competitive. As I watched those two walk past me at the 11th, I wondered if Woods might actually feel around Jordan the way most of the U.S. team feels around Woods.

Make no mistake, though, Furyk carried this team most of the day, including at the final hole when he hit the par-5 in two and was conceded his short birdie putt to secure for the U.S. the first point of this Ryder Cup.

The final match of the morning fourballs saw Phil Mickelson, as he's done all summer, play the starring role in his own production of "Where's Waldo?" Paired with Chris DiMarco against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, Mickelson was nowhere to be found when his team needed him most. Nary a birdie after the fourth, Mickelson couldn't take advantage of his length at the par-5 16th. He settled for a par that put his team 1-down with two to play. He then blew his tee shot on 17 into the water, leaving DiMarco to halve the hole himself with a steady par. Then, on the par-5 18th, needing an eagle to halve the match, Mickelson put his second shot from the fairway over the green and couldn't make the pitch shot coming back. That gave the Euros the full point and the overall lead after the morning matches, 2 1/2 to 1 1/2.

You think it was bad for DiMarco this morning? He only had to watch. This afternoon in foursomes, he'll have to not only find Mickelson's ball but somehow figure out how to play it.

If only Pop Pop and Payne could be here

11:03 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- The pipes, the pipes were callin', and not even a hopeless smart aleck could resist. The opening ceremony at the Ryder Cup today was awesome.

The truth is, I'm even more of a sucker for big moments than I am a wiseguy. So I'm partial to both pomp and circumstance. And there were copious amounts of each today at the K Club.

The whole time, I kept wondering what others were thinking or would've thought. I saw scores of little kids in the crowd today and could only imagine what it must be like for a lad from bucolic County Kildare to watch the world land in his backyard with the fireworks and the TV cameras and the superstars of golf, not to mention the President of Ireland.

I thought of Payne Stewart. He would've played a Ryder Cup on Pluto, if it were still a planet. He would've really loved playing in Ireland. Stewart would sometimes prep for the British Open by coming over a little early to Waterville in the southwest corner of the Emerald Isle. Shortly before he died in a plane crash in October of '99, Stewart accepted the Honorary Captaincy of Waterville Golf Club for the year 2000. He never served, but a bronze statue of his likeness still welcomes all comers to the Waterville links.

Stewart also got it when it came to the Ryder Cup. Having spent the first few years of his career playing everywhere but the U.S., Stewart had a deep appreciation for the privilege of playing for his country. Which is why he was so livid at the suggestion by some U.S. players, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, that they should be paid for their participation. As much money as the respective governing bodies milk from this event, I think even Stewart would now concede that it's only fair for the players to at least get something to give to the charities of their choice. But he didn't think with his head. In such matters, Stewart always thought with his heart, which always bled Red, White, and Blue.

I also remember how giddy Stewart was after winning the '99 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. It wasn't just that he'd won the Open. He'd done the math and figured out he was at that point a lock to make his first Ryder Cup team since 1993.

And then I remember at that Ryder Cup at Brookline, an event teetering on the edge of civility, how Stewart conceded the 18th hole and his match to Colin Montgomerie after Monty had endured merciless heckling all day, despite Stewart going so far as having security escort some out-of-control American fans off the premises. The sportsmanship has been better in the two Cups since, in part I think because of Stewart's gracious gesture, but the competition itself is worse for his absence.

And the other person I thought of during the festivities today was my grandfather, Billy Brewer, though I never called him anything but Pop Pop. When I was in fifth grade, my grandmother (you guessed it: Mom Mom) and he visited Great Britain and Ireland and brought me back a few little Irish trinkets. He loved golf, and I learned to love it by playing with him. He died 20 years ago this month. I thought about what a pure and holy man he was, way more than I'll ever be. And I thought about how much fun we'd have had together had he been with me on this day.

As much as I've enjoyed the opening act, I'm ready for some golf. Jim Furyk says Monday through Thursday of Ryder Cup week seem like they take three years, and Friday through Sunday seem like three minutes. Well, Furyk's wait will be among the four shortest. He'll pair with Tiger in the Ryder Cup's opening match, a fourball against Montgomerie and national hero Padraig Harrington. The waiting is over. Let the games begin.

This trip so far has been pure poetry

Thursday, September 21, 2006 1:43 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -

There was once was a man from Killarney
Who wanted to go kiss the Blarney
He soon puckered up
But kissed Ryder's Cup
At K, The Club built by Arnie

That ancient Irish limerick dates back to this morning's breakfast. It was inspired by a pair of chance encounters I had with the King after my last post. I've always thought there's a sense in which that regal moniker doesn't fit Arnold Palmer. Kings aren't cozy with their subjects like Palmer. He's more like the mayor of Golf Town. Or the head of golf's universal Chamber of Commerce.

Everywhere he goes, people yell out, "Arnie!" or "Mr. Palmer," and each time, he turns, looks the person in the eye and smiles as if they're old friends, when in reality their relationship goes back about as far as my limerick.

I bumped into Mr. Palmer last night in the lounge at the Citywest Hotel after yet another evening gala. (There's a rumor swirling around the grounds here that they may eventually play a golf tournament. I'm cautiously optimistic.) The gala was a black-tie affair for members of both teams, assorted dignitaries, and even selected members of the media who've historically interpreted "formal wear" to mean "including socks." Most of us in the traveling media enjoy shoehorning our In-N-Out Burger bodies into a tux about as much as Tiger likes playing fourball with Phil.

Speaking of the hotel, it's been a huh-yuge disappointment in that it's clean, roomy, internet-ready, and entirely too comfortable. I was fully expecting some drafty, fleabag of an inn with holes in the ceiling, thin walls, and hot-and-cold running varmints. There are a few differences from typical American accommodations. For one thing, the sinks have dual spigots, which sounds as if it could be the guest from Kilkenny in Room 207. ("Paging Mr. Spiggets, Mr. Doole Spiggets.") This bit of lavatorial genius ranks right up there with the spring-loaded airplane faucets, which, when depressed, emit all of a nanosecond of water, leaving the user depressed.

While it has spigots in spades, the loo lacks woefully in wetness protection. For some reason, the shower door only covers half the tub. The optimist would say the shower's half closed; the pessimist, half open. Both can agree the floor is fully soaked.

I'm just happy to put what shower door there is to good use. I was taking baths until this morning when I finally figured out how to keep the water from coming out in full boil. It would've been perfect for noted shower chef Kramer, especially if we could've replaced the drain with a garbage disposal.

Did you know that "Grant" in Gaelic is spelled "Grant?"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:35 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland - Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, with the only possible exception being when that woman’s husband is Tiger Woods and a terminally-sleazy Irish periodical publishes a nude photo of a woman it claims is Tiger’s wife and piles on with verbal pejoratives about wives of other U.S. players and American women, in general.

A local magazine did just that earlier this week. When the clothes came off, so did the gloves. Tiger prefaced his press conference comments Wednesday morning with a statement denouncing that publication, carefully measuring his words but making clear the depths of his disgust. On the other hand, a U.K. tabloid printing slander isn’t exactly front-page news. It’s about as surprising as Nicole Richie dropping another dress size. My only hope is that this incident won’t dampen Woods’ love affair with the media.

There was a legitimate skins game on the course Wednesday as U.S. players jettisoned plans for a full-scale practice session because of conditions that most closely resembled a dishwasher. Heavy winds and rain peppered The K Club all morning, so the American team headed out as a twelvesome around 2 p.m. local to hit a few random shots and wager a couple of quid.

It turned an otherwise miserable day into a memorable 90 minutes as the players heckled each other and took an occasional barb from the partisan patrons when a shot went awry. For a group whom Jim Furyk said often looks constipated during the Ryder Cup, the American team on this day appeared to be a bunch of regular guys, enjoying the opportunity to one-up the other in a friendly game.

I was out there for about an hour before taking refuge in the massive media center. The press room here at The K Club is slightly different than in the U.S., and by different I mean “equipped with an open tap.” The leering press, as Mike Rhyner of The Ticket in Dallas calls it, has historically needed little encouragement to choke down a brew or two or 12. Having such libation within arm’s length of the assembled scribes is akin to putting in a Cinnabon outside Oprah’s office.

Another local quirk is the language. These people speak English, but stuff is also written in Gaelic. The best way to describe the Gaelic language is to imagine a drunken journalist trying to bang out a story on deadline after about six pints o’ Guinness, which is probably happening somewhere in here as we speak, come to think of it.

For example, the lass dispensing drinks in the press room pub pronounces her name, “Neev.” The spelling? Niamh. There’s no particular relation between the actual letters and the sounds they make. It’s like when you accidentally put your fingers in the wrong starting position on a keyboard and blast away.

I asked Niamh what my name would be in Gaelic, hoping for something exotic. She said it would just be “Grant.” Figures.

I Never Knew Guinness Cured The Common Cold

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 2:43 PM

Day 2 on the Emerald Isle, which is even greener thanks to the vile goop coming out of my nose and throat. I’m officially under the weather, and that’s saying something considering the fact that the weather keeps changing. There’ve been at least a dozen different meteorological conditions in the last 24 hours, from hot and sunny to cold and rainy. Then there’s my favorite description, "dank." Seems like the U.K. ought to have exclusive descriptor rights to "dank." It just fits.

Haven't had much success finding medication, other than Ireland’s legendary brew. In checking around a couple of different places in search of a decongestant, I kept getting the same response, "Nothin' a pint o’ Guinness won’t cure." I laughed. They didn’t. Reminded me of the SNL skit with Steve Martin as Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber.

Theodoric: "You'll feel a lot better after a good bleeding."

Drunk Guy (Bill Murray): "But I’m bleeding already!"

Theodoric: "Say, who's the barber here?"

Apparently, the plan here is to drink as much Guinness as possible when you’re feeling a little low, and go from there. Either you feel better or pass out or both.

The U.S. is feeling hale and hearty after touching down in Dublin on Monday afternoon. Your intrepid reporter stayed at the airport an extra two hours after landing to make sure I was on hand for their arrival. That and the fact that I couldn’t find my ride to the hotel. Mostly, though, it was my intrepidness and reporterhood that compelled me to be there.

The U.S. team was three hours late getting in because, according to Captain Tom Lehman, they couldn’t cram all their luggage into the chartered jet. Fortunately, Americans don’t already have a reputation for wretched excess. Of course, they hope to carry home even more than what they brought. Something tells me they could find room for the Ryder Cup.

Reporting For Duty

Monday, September 18, 2006 2:43 PM

On the second weekend of the NFL season, I made four touchdowns: DFW, O’Hare, London Heathrow, and finally Dublin around 11:00 a.m. local time. Considering the contestants from Super Bowl 37 still don’t have a single one between them in two games, I’ll take it.

Going halfway around the world is always a challenge, but – using Ryder Cup parlance – I felt like I was 3 down before I’d even left. For one thing, I’m already missing my beloved, who drew the short straw and had to stay home with the kids. It won’t be as fun without her.

The second part deals with underwear, so I’ll keep it brief. I could only round up about half of what I needed in packing for the week. I’ll have to utilize a local laundry service here, find an area haberdashery for reinforcements, or go summer camp-style. (Don’t act like you’ve never done it.)

Third, my already-unmanageable mop of hair was completely out of control. It wasn’t just what my buddy, Steve, has always called “the big hair;” this had become a threat to homeland security, as evidenced by the suspicious stares from airport screeners wondering what gels or pastes I had hidden up there.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What doofus would be so grossly ill-prepared for travel and brazenly daring that he’d risk getting snipped by an airport barber?” Scroll down to the bottom of this page, and you’ll get the picture. The barber shop in DFW’s Terminal B has photos on the wall from famous people who’ve been through there. Sports stars and assorted celebrities like Joe Theismann, Jimmy Dean – the sausage guy, not the Rebel – and the Sanford and Son daily double of Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson. I was maybe 10 minutes into the cut before I realized, I don’t like any of those guys’ hair.

But it was actually fine. My stylist was Holly, a native of Vietnam who came to the U.S. six years ago. Assuming Holly was an Americanized moniker, I asked what her real name was. She said she couldn’t tell me because it’s a bad word in English. So the rest of the cut I debated whether or not to ask her if she’d seen the infamous Seinfeld episode or perhaps even inspired it. I chickened out, paid up, and went on my way, freshly shorn.

Speaking of chicken, I always laugh when I pass an Au Bon Pain after a flight attendant told me the pilots call it Abdominal Pain. (If you just read that last sentence, it means my editor confirmed Au Bon Pain isn’t one of our sponsors. It also means they probably won’t be anytime soon.)

When I saw the itinerary for the overnight flight from Chicago to London, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. It’s an eight-hour haul that drops you off at Heathrow at 8 a.m. local, which is 2 a.m. according to the body you left the U.S. in. Now, you could try to sleep the entire eight hours and hit the ground running the next morning in London. But that would mean passing up two full meals and, thus, violating the International Brotherhood of Broadcasters guiding principle, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

What airplane food lacks in flavor, it more than makes up for in mystery. First, where else do you get your nuts warmed but at 30,000 feet? Second, the “steak” is always a bit too malleable. Kind of like you might be eating the love handles of a cow who grew up playing video games all day instead of playing outside with his friends.

Still, I honored the IBB’s mantra, nibbled around on what was offered and proceeded to doze in and out of sleep until the pilot came on and told us we were making our final descent. To prove it, they showed us the plane’s progress as we inched toward London using computer graphics borrowed from the Atari 2600.

After essentially playing Frogger through security lines and customs queues at Heathrow, I boarded my fourth and final plane and arrived in Dublin just a couple of hours ago, a little more weary, a little less hairy, and a whole lot excited about the week to come. Especially if I can find that haberdashery.

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