- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

This computer caddie wants to take a metaphorical 1-iron to the point-missing maniacs who turned Tiger Woods’ harmless post-Masters comments into Spazgate.

The non-story began after the final round when Woods, in a rare moment of colorful self-deprecation, explained to a gaggle of media types outside the scoring hut that he had putted like a “spaz” during the finale, his 33 whacks on Augusta National’s greens short-circuiting his comeback bid during a closing 70.

Two days later, journalist Lewine Mair of the London Telegraph was accusing Woods of being insensitive to those afflicted with cerebral palsy or the like and claiming American journalists were covering up what she labeled an “extraordinarily insensitive gaffe.”

What gaffe? The first definition of “spaz” in Merriam-Webster is “one who is considered clumsy or inept.” There is no mention of medical disorders. And to suggest Woods should brush up on his etymologies is outrageous. The word “spaz” is a benign slight in our vernacular, right up there with other oddities of the younger generation like “dweeb,” “dork,” “nerd” and “geek.”

Did you know that a dork is the official name of a whale penis? Probably not, because as Merriam-Webster points out, the word has become synonymous with nerd, a word originally invented by Dr. Seuss in his 1950 tale “If I Ran the Zoo.”

What about geek? Did you know that according to Merriam-Webster, the word comes from the Middle Low German “geck,” which was a “carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake”?

Please, Ozzy Osbourne’s no geek; the geek was your elementary school valedictorian. You know, the one who spent six years with his right hand in the air and a smug look on his spectacled face.

The meaning of words changes according to societal usage, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the reality that the lexicon is established as much by the populace as the literati. To a 30-year-old American like Woods, a “spaz” is someone who is mildly and amusingly clumsy. It’s what you might call your little brother’s overly excitable best mate, the one who occasionally puts his shoes on backward and can’t catch anything — football, baseball, basketball … a punch line. It’s Chuck Knoblauch throwing to first.

And all semantics aside, Spazgate is a perfect example of how the modern media has verbally neutered professional athletes. The media, this space included, are forever whining about the stream of cliche-riddled tripe that gushes from athletes at all levels. But given the possible ramifications of exposing a personality that strays one degree from the mainstream, any athlete who traffics in anything other than cliches is a fool. And that doesn’t mean a jester or court clown from the Middle Ages.

Birdies and bogeys

Officials of the 38th Ryder Cup Matches, which will be held at Celtic Manor in South Wales in 2010. reportedly are considering altering both the traditional date and format of the event. Under consideration is a push back to October to accommodate the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup finale, spreading the event over four days and expanding each of the four sets of pre-singles play to include five matches a series.

Undoubtedly, Ryder officials have watched the success of this suspense-building, more lucrative format at the Presidents Cup. Interestingly, the European roster is notoriously weak at the bottom, and such a change would force lower-tier Euros to play four more matches. Uncle Sam is clearly rooting for the changes. …

Congratulations to the Booz Allen Classic for securing a commitment from defending champion Sergio Garcia, the world No. 6 and a major marquee draw for an event still smarting from the shafting it took from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who bumped the event from the FedEx Cup rota and saddled future sponsors with an unenviable Fall Series date. Here’s hoping Garcia doesn’t show up at Congressional CC on June 19 and marvel at the sparse turnout.

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