The Last Word
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
Scratch the surface of most every professional golfer and you'll find an incorrigible sports fan. On the practice range, on the putting green, in between shots in the middle of hotly contested tournaments, the conversation is about any sport but golf.
Mike Weir is typical.
As they walk down the fairways, he and his caddie, Brennan Little, often engage in animated conversation about one sports issue or another as they try to mitigate, fleetingly, the pressure of the next shot.
Very little that occurs in the world of sports escapes them.
That is why Weir appreciates fully the debate that has gone on for the past few weeks and will, no doubt, continue into the near future surrounding the tough call the voters for the Lou Marsh Trophy had to make this year.
"I'm awfully proud of what I was able to accomplish this year," Weir said recently. "But it's hard to argue with perfection."
Weir was talking about relief pitcher Eric Gagne and his 55-save season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he was handed the ball this year, not once did Gagne cough up the lead. As a sports fan, Weir was in awe of that statistic.
In golf, perfection does not exist, even as an intellectual concept. The game is more about managing the margin for error that exists every time you strike the ball.
"It's not my place to say whom I would vote for," Weir said. "There are good arguments to be made for anyone whose name is mentioned for the award. We both did something that no Canadian in their fields have ever done before. What he did was amazing."
Indeed, if you consider their seasons, each as a single body of work, it's not hard to see that Gagne's backers think he deserved to have his name on the trophy.
No relief pitcher in history, forget about any particular nationality, has accomplished what Gagne did. It won him the Cy Young Award as the National League's best pitcher.
But Weir's recognition is not about his entire season, as good as it was. Weir won the 2003 Lou Marsh Award eight months ago when he raised his arms in celebration after beating Len Mattiace in a playoff for the Masters championship at Augusta National.
This wasn't about winning the Bob Hope or the Nissan championship. It wasn't about his $5 million US in winnings or his rise to become the sixth-ranked player in the world.
It was about reaching down deep for one stunning performance on what is arguably the most important Sunday of the golf season.
The Masters is one of those rare events that transcends its own sport.
People who don't play, or even care about, golf become riveted during the first week of April because the event itself has a mystique. The Kentucky Derby has that appeal, and so did the Indianapolis 500 motor race until recent times.
If you need proof of how many Canadians Weir touched at Augusta, just recall the cheering throng at this year's Canadian Open when thousands lined every fairway to get a glimpse. They even cheered wildly when he came out of the port-o-let.
To suggest that one glorious day out of 365 does not fit the criteria of the award diminishes the credentials of most every past winner, including many Olympic gold medallists. People such as Myriam Bedard, Daniel Igali, Carolyn Brunet and Gaetan Boucher were not rewarded for an entire year of accomplishments. They were rewarded, and rightly so, for being the best on that one important day.
Weir over Gagne? Gagne over Weir?
Yes, it's a tough call, a call that Weir could have been comfortable with, either way.
But it's also the right call.