The View From Here

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Given the current climate in the world, what with the drumbeat of war emanating increasingly louder from the United States and a dozen of our best golfers about to play a match that was postponed because of a terrorist act, I wondered what exactly was the view of America in Birmingham, England, on the eve of a Ryder Cup that was last played amidst such enmity and bitterness.
 
Heres what I saw and heard, much of my research culled from an exercise known in these parts as the Monday night pub crawl:
 
I saw a billboard in center city asking how many more Iraqi children must die and for what reason. As I rode by that message, I found it somewhat reassuring to know that our staunchest ally allows its citizens, like ours, to ask dissenting questions of its government.
 
On the other hand, its futile to ask an Englishman for directions. They have a penchant for punctuating sentences by saying, right, and straightaway. So, in trying to get somewhere I heard the following, and it helps to imagine, say, someone with Montys verbal lilt (even though hes a Scot) doing the talking: Downtown, right. OK, what you do, right, is go down to the roundabout, right, and turn left, right. Straightaway. I, of course, shook my head and said, Right, then proceeded to go half a block with absolutely no clue. Do I go right, left or straightway?
 
We eventually made our way to a local sports bar and along the way youd have thought you were in Cincinnati or Seattle. I saw a bustling, vibrant collection of urban youth-Wall Street types in suits, shaven heads with tattoos, baggy jeans and dreadlocks, Middle and Far Easterners, blacks and whites.
 
Inside the establishment, John Cougar Mellencamp blared away. And then Michael Jackson. We heard a litany of American musical icons. A friend asked a lady above the din, What do you think of all this American music?
 
Its crap, she replied, and then stood up to dance to K.C. and the Sunshine Band.
 
There was a bit of a cultural disconnect, though. Sure they had Eric Lindros and Shaquille ONeal jerseys all over the walls. But there was also a schedule of upcoming sporting events which proved to be somewhat comical. It listed things like, Wiggans v. St. Helens in rugby on Sept. 15th, Manchester City v. Blackburn in soccer on the 20th and then on the 25th the Bulls v. the Vikings in the NFL. Immediately I thought that at 185 pounds Jalen Rose of the Bulls is a bit light to go up against the men in purple.
 
Anyway, the night played on and we continued our research. With Barry White serenading, one chap told us he thinks Americans are at times war-like. Another said were a bit rude, like the time we ran on the green at Brookline.
 
I was pensive as I took this in. I excused myself and went to the 'loo,' their word for bathroom. So Im in the loo standing their doing my business and I looked left. There was a sports page taped to the wall, just like you see in the sports bar bathrooms in America. Only this one read, 'Henman is Britains Hero.' And I thought, 'Henman? Whats he ever won? In the U.S., weve got Tiger. Yea for our side!'
 
I returned to the pub. They were dancing to ABBA, the evening beginning to deteriorate. It was '80s flashback night and it couldve been Birmingham, Ala., just as easily as Birmingham, England. On the TVs high above the bar, fast-paced soccer highlights played via Sky TV. ESPN or Sky, it doesnt matter. Everywhere you look, its football season.
 
Finally, another friendly Brit asked me if I thought we should launch war. I said that I was no lover of war, but that I wasnt sure what was right. I said the only thing that I knew is that this week its not about war. Its about golf. And golf is better than war. So, I explained, lets play golf this week, and not fight about it.
 
Right, right, he said. And Springsteen blasted away above it all.
 
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