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In Defense of The Skins Game

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↵When it comes to Thanksgiving weekend and sports, most people immediately think “football.” The Lions, the Cowboys, high-stakes late-season college battles and infinite high-school homecoming games around the nation. ↵

↵As a red-blooded American male, I like me some crappy NFL on Thanksgiving, but I have to say that the sporting event that most says “Thanksgiving weekend” to me is The Skins Game. ↵

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↵Having been a sportswriter in some capacity for a while now, pro football, even in the generally lackluster style in which it is usually contested on Turkey Day, still smacks to me of work and the real world and actual consequences to our actions. Likewise the college gridiron. And Thanksgiving is a time when I want to leave the big bad world behind for a while and disappear into an L-trytophan-induced land of the lotus eaters, where the weather is fine and everything reeks of money and languor and quiet, soft-focused sensory splendor. Nothing indulges me in this quite like that hallucination of televised sunshine that is The Skins Game, easygoing rich people playing a meaningless brand of foursome golf that more resembles a glorified drinking game than it does actual sport. ↵

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↵Now known as the LG Skins Game in this sad, sad era of corporate darkness, the event has lost some of its majesty in recent years from the golden era when Freddy Couples was the annual attraction and merely with his regal presence made the whole thing feel almost like a celebrity pro-am. Phil Mickelson has stepped into Freddy’s place lately as the regular star, and though I’m a Phil fan, I confess that this to me is about as satisfying a substitution as when Ray Romano took over Bill Murray’s role as resident clown prince at the Pebble Beach Bing Crosby Clambake (I can’t even be bothered to go look up what this tournament is actually called now -- I believe that AT&T is involved in the title, and possibly Pizza Hut). Ray Romano, I have seen every Bill Murray movie. I saw Stripes in the theater twice and I can recite Caddyshack backwards. What I’m trying to say Ray Romano is that you, sir … are no Bill Murray. ↵

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↵But I digress. The 2008 Skins Game is this Saturday and Sunday (ABC, 1 p.m.) and the foursome features Phil, Rocco Mediate, K.J. Choi and last year’s winner, Stephen Ames. Admittedly, it’s a far cry from the quartet that comprised the first Skins Game in 1983 -- Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player. Only Mickelson of the 2008 crew seems worthy of even caddying for any of those giants. But whatever -- it’s not really about the golf anyway. Rocco is a welcome addition and he should spice up the essential between-hole banter and lighthearted razzing. And look, it’s still four wealthy guys getting wealthier on a pristine golf course in the Southern California sunshine with gentle, burbling music and deep-voiced announcers whispering in your ear. It’s the perfect fantasy to disappear into with the torpor of laziness and caloric excess, after your fourth turkey-and-stuffing sandwich washed down with a hefty shot of whipped cream taken straight out of the can. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.