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View From The Couch

Second Class

Two remarkable performances that took place virtually simultaneously stood out above all others this past weekend – and both were only for second place.

Perhaps never before have there been two such magnificent losers.

One in Scotland, the other in Switzerland, the sporting world were riveted as these living legends attempted to turn back their respective clocks, only to both came up just the teeniest bit short.

The last time Tom Watson was in contention in a major golf tournament, 40% of the players in the field at this year’s British Open hadn’t even been born. Yet there he was on Sunday teeing off with the fourth round lead in the most important golf tournament in the world.

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The windy day resulted in the scores bouncing all over the place, as many as six players were leading at one point or another, yet on the 18th tee Watson was ahead by one. All he had to do was hit a fairway, a green, and two-putt for the most unlikely major championship in the history of the sport – and that’s a lot of history.

He did hit the fairway. Yet he faltered on his club choice from the middle of the fairway, picking an 8-iron instead of a 9, resulting in his ball rolling through the green. A bad chip left him eight feet past – and an uber-nervous missed putt left him tied with the perennial second placer, Stewart Cink. Watson was clearly shaken. He put up zero competition in the four-hole playoff and had to smile through tears at the trophy presentation – all while praising his opponent.

Afterwards when asked if after the missed putt on 18 he “ran out of gas,” Watson responded, “It sure looked like I did, didn’t it?”

825 miles south, Lance Armstrong, the 37-year-old cancer survivor who was three years absent from his favorite competition, had just finished an epic bike stage of the Tour de France. Beginning in France, it would end in Verbier, Switzerland on a nearly vertical climb that blew the peloton apart, and all but killed Armstrong’s chances at winning his eighth Yellow Jersey.

After the stage he would be second overall in the Tour behind teammate Alberto Contador, but 1:35 seconds behind – a huge time gap with only three competitive stages to go. Unable to keep up with the 2007 champion on the steepest portions, Armstrong fell further and further behind the Columbian climbing specialist, who is 11-years his junior.

Afterwards Armstrong said, “Our team has the strongest rider in the race – and it’s not me. Now I have to put my focus on the team and get Alberto on the top of the podium in Paris.”

To say “Watson and Armstrong are old for their sport” is like saying “Angelina Jolie is fairly attractive for a woman.”

They are frikin’ old for their sports!

Watson is 59. Had he won, he would have shattered the record for oldest major by 11 years. This past October he had hip replacement surgery fer gawds sake!

Armstrong is playing in a much younger man’s bathtub. He is already the oldest winner in the modern era by three years, and he set that record three years ago. If by some miracle he does win, and despite what he said, don’t count that out, he’ll eclipse the all-time record for oldest Tour de France winner by two years, a mark set in 1922.

Because of their unlikely success so late in their sporting lives, both of their stories captured imaginations.

ABC must have been in full panic mode after Tiger Woods failed to make the cut. Envisioning ratings equivalent to the senior tour, the network was clearly thrilled to have Watson go for his sixth Claret Jug on their air. Over the six hours of coverage they never really stopped talking about him. Essentially the only time we got to see Stewart Cink all day long was in the playoff.

As for Versus, who has the Tour’s rights over here, ratings for this year are up 70% over last year due to Armstrong’s presence. Sunday’s stage out preformed their coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

All that said, despite many observations to the contrary by overy enthusiastic commentators, after Sunday it’s very clear that age is everything in sports.

While both were right there at the end, neither had enough stuff left to take out their younger adversary.

However both displayed something all too few youngsters have in defeat.

Class.

Second class.

Cheers – Gavin McDougald – AKA Couch

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