Brien Crothers: Not Average. No Way.


(Blogger’s Note: Brien Crothers of Hidden Valley Lake, CA and I “met” online a few years ago because of mutual interest in the Way of St. James. Just last year we missed one another at the end by only one day.  But Brien is much more than your average Camino pilgrim … he’s an extreme athlete with dozens of achievements to his credit around the globe. In November, he’ll tackle the world-famous Marathon des Sables, 155 miles across the deserts of Peru. I asked Brien a few questions as he prepares for this incredible event. Brien has written a book on the Camino de Santiago titled Su Camino…  and you can follow his adventures on his blog at


Q: What prompted your interest in outdoor activities like hiking, walking, and running?

A: Growing up in a very small rural community on the north coast of California, in a time when we were encouraged to get outside and play, I knew every kid on my street. Hiking, exploring, fishing, building forts and creating our own toys were how we filled our free time. Also, my father and his four brothers grew up on a ranch where we, as I got older, would get together, usually to trek around in the hills hunting deer. It was great passion for them, less so for me, but I enjoyed and came to respect the outdoors. After our daughter was grown and my career brought better finances, running and cycling put me back in the outdoors.

Q: It seems you’re even more drawn to distance events in extreme conditions. Why not just take an easy walk in the park? Why the extreme?

A: There are two answers to that, I suppose: In my late thirties, I was introduced to a group of people who ran marathons, ultramarathons, and did extreme events like Eco Challenge and serious mountain climbing. For whatever reason, I found myself drawn to the extreme stuff. Now, I jokingly say that I am not a fast enough runner (with a 3:52 marathon personal best), so I do the longer events so my slow pace doesn’t show so badly. Second, and more accurately I think I just don’t want to be average. To look at me in a crowd, I’m average, white, and forgettable. I don’t want to be average.

Checking gear and preparing for a 155-mile desert run in Morocco.

Q: List for me the extreme or ultra events you’ve participated in.

A: California 1995 Mt Whitney climb*
Several summits of Mt Shasta*
Washington 1996 Mt Rainier climb
Kenya & Tanzania 1998 Mt. Kilimanjaro climb
Peru 2000 Inca trail and Machu Picchu trip*
Viet Nam 2002 Raid Gauloise ten-day adventure (multi-sport) race
Nepal & Tibet 2005 Everest advanced base camp hike, north face of Everest
Russia 2007 Mt. Elbrus climb
South Africa 2010 Cape Epic 440-mile eight-stage mountain bike race
Argentina 2003/4 Aconcagua expedition (unsuccessful attempt to summit)
2009 Aconcagua expedition (unsuccessful attempt to summit)
2015 Aconcagua expedition (unsuccessful attempt to summit)
(Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere.)
Morocco 2014 Marathon des Sables 155-mile six-stage foot race
Spain 2015 Camino de Santiago via Camino Frances*
2016 Camino de Santiago on Via de la Plata*
Have completed over forty marathon and ultramarathons, including Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, 3 times (WSER is considered the premier 100-mile trail run in the world).

* = Not terribly extreme, but fun


Q: What are the unique challenges in the upcoming Peru event?

A: The unique challenge of such events is why the organizer has created the race where it is and containing what it does. For Peru and the Ica desert, it’s all about sand and distance. There’s also the route. You can pick just about anywhere for a race and take an easy route or a difficult route. Race officials always find the tough stuff. The required course will direct runners over mountain passes and through vast sand dunes rather than through a valley, for example. To top it off, there’s the 50-mile stage that runs well into the night hours.

Q. Discuss both the physical and mental preparation techniques you use.

A: Physical: Run, eat right, rest, run again. I use a progressive training program. One that builds up mileage requirements over four weeks then is reduced, only to build to a higher weekly mileage in the next wave. This schedule has me running 100 miles per week by the first weeks of November. Mental: I’ve never had much trouble here. I know I’m not likely to win a race, having done so only once (it was a small field), so I go out with a pace I should be able to handle and then adjust up or down as the race unfolds. I have a competitive nature, and use that to push myself harder when I can; I see a runner ahead and start tracking them down.

Q: Speaking of mental and physical, what are the unique challenges you encounter in events like this?

A: Finishing such events is all about managing resources and staying healthy as a result. One must manage water, as it is rationed out at checkpoints; manage to repair, or have repaired, blisters and any other injuries before they become serious, race ending; manage input and output, meaning eat your daily allotment on schedule, and run as hard as your conditioning will allow. It’s all about making it to that last mile and putting out that last bit of stored energy before the finish line.

Q: In what ways does the benefit from these experiences carry over into your every-day life?

A: I’ve come to understand that when we push ourselves beyond normal comfort zones [perceived] hassles of everyday life just don’t seem like a big deal. Our capitalistic society is built on a trance of scarcity, one of lack, and a sense of not being worthy, not pretty enough, not perfect. That’s all bollocks, and we (well, I) need to be reminded of that reality, of my own wisdom.

Q: One thing we share is our experiences along the Camino de Santiago. What are your feelings about the Camino?

A: Wow, that’s a big one. I’m not religious, but something called to me when first introduced to the Camino. On one level the Camino is physical, challenging. On another, it’s adventurous and outside normal life, outside that comfort zone. But, the real reason I have enjoyed every kilometer of the two Caminos I have completed is spiritual. I feel as if I am walking in a peacefulness and calmness that I believe to be the combined traces of energy fields left behind by all those that have taken that path before me, for their cause, in common cause, to find ourselves, to find or be with God.

Q: I’ve always said that everyone knows what it’s like to be tired, but very few know the sensation of complete physical/mental depletion. Would you agree, and can you describe that?

A: I certainly agree that most of us won’t actually dig down to complete depletion. In our modern society we just don’t ever have to go there. Sometimes, when I have been in that state of complete exhaustion but still moving forward, I have experienced some freaky hallucinations. Those occurrences have been like what I might imagine it to be when experiencing hallucinogenic drugs. I have marveled at and enjoyed those experiences, enough so that I look forward to them, but not enough to take the lazy approach.

Q: Not everyone is cut out to be an extreme athlete. What words of encouragement would you have for people who just wish they were in better shape and would like to make some lifestyle changes for the better?

A: It takes some serious self-evaluation to know what your own goals might be. I am driven by accomplishment. The best advice I can give is just get out there and walk. I know a lot of people who haven’t walked more than a few blocks in decades. I don’t get that, but to each their own. For those who do ask me, I’ll ask, what do you want from your question? (I’ve not met anyone ready to do what I do.) Nearly all have said they just want to be healthier. There is nothing easier than walking your way to better health. Start with a city block, then a half-mile, working your way up to whatever works for you and have enough time for. This is very important: do what you can make time for. The key is, consistency. I train six days a week. Five is good. Three is okay. For most people, working up to and walking three miles, three times per week will bring a level of healthiness they haven’t felt in years.


BONUS QUESTION: In the days/weeks following an event like this do you experience a certain emptiness or depression because the lack of intensity and anticipation in your life is temporarily gone?

A: Yes. I always enjoy the reduced urgency to be out there for hours at a time, but I also feel that something is missing, there’s a hole in my day. The best thing for me at that moment is to find the next event. Even if it’s months away, I have something to sink my teeth into.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your interest in these events?

A: Yes. For several years now, I have been involved at the local level in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. The Relay For Life campaign is one of the most successful fundraisers in America. And, the advisers and students at my alma mater, Middletown High, are the absolute best. Also, staying on the school track and running as much as 100 miles in 24 hours has encouraged others to get involved, to be healthy, to understand the benefits of pushing beyond perceived limits, or at least question their own self-imposed limits. For the Marathon Des Sables Peru, I have partnered up with our local Rotary club (my wife, Kathey, is president-elect of that club) in a campaign called “Polio’s Last Mile” to raise funds for Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign—to finally eradicate polio from our world.

From a recent article in local papers: “Rotary International has been instrumental in collective efforts around the world to put an end to the dreaded disease that once crippled 35,000 children a year, in the US alone. The Rotary Club of Middletown has long been active in raising funds toward that end.” Year to date, there have been nine reported cases worldwide.

Rotary International and the Gates Foundation with a two-for-one fund match are making a big push this year, because “We are this close.” #poilioslastmile


Arkansas State’s Conference Championship: The Biggest Plays Came After the Game

(For coverage of last night’s championship game with some fairly decent photos, check out last night’s post just after the game.)


Sun belt champions

It was a great night at Liberty Bank Stadium, and for the record, I love the movement to call it The Vault.

Offense and defense showed up putting together a classic championship victory – a 45-0 statement likely earning them a ticket to the Liberty Bowl.

Too bad the game’s post-championship ceremonies couldn’t have been more about the team. For the play-makers at the microphone it was much more about future moments than present ones.

And necessarily so.


First, there’s this. ASU System President Chuck Welch is a highly effective advocate for his school. His earliest months are producing tangible, visible, measurable results. Welch has drawn the plays, called the plays and executed the plays. His most recent executive hires over the last three months assemble a multi-talented team both in and out of football. He’s delivered.

Welch will pay a price for his success. He’s now required to get even better.


It all played out on a make-shift stage at the 50-yard line last night as the microphone went from one “player” to the next.

You could almost see ASU-Jonesboro Chancellor Tim Hudson cringe at Welch’s out-of-the-gate calculated, but necessary statement.

DSC_0112Here’s what they all said (accompanied by a translation of what they were all really saying.)


WELCH: (I’m paraphrasing this quote but it’s pretty close.) “I want everyone here right now to show Coach Gus Malzahn (and his team) just how much we appreciate what they’ve done.”

Translation: Malzahn’s hot, if not the hottest property in college football right now. We’re all going to have to pull together and do our part to keep him here, and it may take a lot more money … or money may not even matter.


HUDSON: “How about the students at ASU? I want to hear it for the students!”

Translation: Everybody just heard Welch single out the coach. It’s not right, but he had to do it. My job here is political correctness and keeping everyone (impossibly) happy.


MALZAHN: (In response to  reporter’s question about his desire to take ASU’s program to the “next” level.) “Look at this,” he said, scanning the crowd. “This is the next level.”

Translation: Okay, Auburn, Tennessee and anyone else (especially in the SEC) who wants to continue calling or call anew, look at the scoreboard. We just made a statement, and I’ve backed up everything I promised here. What say each of you now?


Political X’s and O’s at their finest.

Will Welch be good enough to keep Malzhan at ASU? And if not, what rabbit will he next pull out of the hat?

Good news is, we’ve never really had to worry about this stuff before. Bad news is, we’re worrying about a lot of stuff, and it’s all new to us, so we don’t quite know how to react or what to do.

Now, we wait.

Waiting may be all we can do.



Arkansas State University: Sun Belt Conference Champions

Big media day.

Big media day.

Touchdown. Ball and arm are in.
Touchdown. Ball and arm are in.

Sun Belt  Championship

Next Four Photos in Sequence

#1 Watching it in.

#1 Watching it in.

#2 Bring it down.

#2 Bring it down.

#3 Praise it Up. Thank You Jesus for SIX!

#3 Praise it Up. Thank You Jesus for SIX!

#4 Party Down

#4 Party Down

Sun Belt ChampionshipSun Belt Championship

Post game, headed for the locker room, Coach Gus Malzahn stops for a photo with fans. We sure hope he stays.

Post game, headed for the locker room, Coach Gus Malzahn stops for a photo with fans. We sure hope he stays.

A championship STATEment. 45-0

A championship STATEment. 45-0

14 Cliche’s That Work Well in Arkansas’ First Congressional District

A follow-up to this post, yesterday.

1. The Early Bird Gets the Worm – not always true, but always worthy of consideration. The best campaign I ever witnessed (as a reporter) was in 1989 when Osceola, AR attorney Mike Gibson ran for 18 solid months against entrenched incumbent Rep. Bill Alexander. Gibson lost the primary by the tightest of margins.  Today, he would tell you his defeat, and the subsequent decision not to run in the following primary (when he would have almost surely won) were the best circumstances and single best decision me made in his life.

Arkansas' First Congressional District2. Go Big or Go Home – in 1997 I was press secretary for Marion Berry, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Arkansas‘ First Congressional District. The primary was a three-way contest, money was key, and we had every reason to expect a runoff to make it to the general. Two weeks before the primary vote, we made the decision to spend every dollar we had, rather than hold back for the runoff. Good decision. Had we not gone “all-in” we might never have made it to the big dance, which, by the way, we won.

3. It’s What You Know AND Who You Know – there’s no better candidate than one who’s connected AND wise.

4. To the Victor Go the Spoils – Arkansas’ First Congressional District has a history of sending men/women to office and keeping them there. Hopefully, that’s not the case in this season.

5. You Can’t Teach That – the best candidates are born with something God-given, and it can’t be taught or learned.

6. It’s a Two-Sided Coin – public service is a wonderful profession for those who truly are public servants. But executed at its best, it’s grueling. The analogy applies further, unfortunately, in that the best candidate is one skilled in both politics (campaigning) and public service (actually getting things done.) The candidate who excels at both, is rare.

7. It Pays to be a Student of the Game – there is no substitute for a Politics in Arkansas' First Congressional Districtcandidate who does his/her homework every single day. The candidates who make a personal habit of study, far exceed the capabilities of those who depend on a staff member to be a student for them.

8. Always Play Like You’re Down – the best run like they’re scared, and as if there’s no tomorrow.

9. Expect the Unexpected – every day. It’s a cruel world out there.

10. A Championship‘s Won One Game at a Time – those who take their eye off the ball and look ahead, often get blindsided in the back field.

11. Just Getting in the Game Requires a Real Gut-Check – any candidate must take serious measure of him/herself to do this right, and well.

First Congressional District of Arkansas12. We’re All Monday-Morning Quarterbacks – hind sight’s the easiest game we play, and yes, it’s perfect.

13. Things Usually End Up in a Game of Hardball – this is not for the faint of heart.

14. Be True to Yourself – Arkansas’ First District electorate is now looking for someone who’s real, to whom they can relate, who can reach across unnecessary racial and ethnic boundaries, and who will respect and return our heritage to its former glory. You can’t fake that.


Thrilla in Manila II: As Iron Sharpens Iron…

Late last night, I had no idea how I would formulate today’s post. Discount it as “religious” garbage if you may, but when I stepped out of bed at 3:23 a.m. today, this verse came to mind, and I believe it was straight from God Almighty.


“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

as iron sharpens iron

First, a disclaimer, and a few definitions are in order.


For 25 years I’ve been proud to work as a professional journalist, who above all things, strives for objectivity in his work (unless it’s an opinion piece). And furthermore, at the outset of my career, I purposefully chose not to be a sports journalist. Why? Because I love sports too much, and I never wanted something I loved so much to be – well, work.

This follow-up post from yesterday is fully intended as an objective work, but I’m acknowledging how very difficult it is to write objectively when the I’m one of the subjects.


MULLIGAN: In golf, a “free or extra shot,” the terms to which the players have mutually agreed, prior to the match.

THE HONORS – A rule generally allowing the player with the lowest score on the preceding hole, to tee off first, on the following hole. E.G.- On hole #4, you take a 4, and I take a 5, YOU have the honors.

HANDICAP: Relative to par, the number of strokes a player is generally allowed to deduct from his score to enhance the competition among players at different skill levels. E.G. – If par is 72, and my handicap is 8, I can shoot an 80 and still claim par.


By Steve Watkins

The day began with a pre-match breakfast at the highly acclaimed Eat-A-Bite restaurant in Monette, Arkansas, just 8 miles west of Manila, the home of Big Lake Country Club. Eat-A-Bite is so highly acclaimed because it’s the only restaurant in the home town where Brady and I grew up. That should give you some sense of our rural roots.

as iron sharpens iron

My buddy on the links, watching a nice second shot.

Brady had a western omelet. I had two eggs, fried, with two sausage patties and toast. It was the perfect beginning to a perfect day.

Just a few hours earlier, I’d previously posted: Thrilla in Manila II: But This Time, It’s Two White Guys on a Golf Course, and the post was shared via several social media outlets. By 9 a.m., we’d had dozens of comments about our match among well-wishers who gave their support to one or the other of us.

“Dude, you could hype up two birds on a wire,” Brady said, as we scanned the breakfast menu. I laughed, but took it as a hopeful complement considering the fact that I’m about to launch a new marketing company on foreign soil. The new business, in its most fundamental of works, is all about “hype,” so I sure hope he’s right.


Our breakfast conversation focused, as it most frequently does, not on golf, but on life in general. We finished up, and because we were in a good mood and it was a beautiful day, left the waitress with a healthy tip, and traveled 8 miles east to Manila’s Big Lake Country Club. And it was on.



Brady and I’ve been very best friends since 1977, when we were fifth-graders. Thirty-six years later we frequently discuss the “red-state, blue-state” issues so prevalent among the conversations of all Americans over the last few months. Brady and I agree on 90 percent of these things fundamentally. We simply disagree on the government’s role in how certain legislation (especially on the ‘moral’ issues) should be implemented, i.e., gay marriage, abortion, immigration, death penalty, etc.

The great thing is that we agree to disagree without it effecting our friendship, and unlike so many others I’ve seen.

Brady and I had a bet, and a side bet, on the recent presidential election. His money was on Mitt Romney, mine was on Barack Obama. Up for grabs was a dinner for four at Texas de Brazil, and a dozen golf balls to the winner.

I won the bet.

as iron sharpens iron

My second shot form in a match earlier this summer.

The day after the election, I proposed a heads-up golf match to go double or nothing on the dozen balls. In no way was I about to risk losing a carnivore’s delight at Texas de  Brazil. It’s off the table.

For the match, and because I’ve never beaten him a single time in 36 years, I proposed an 8-shot handicap for myself, relative to his superior skills.

He took the bait, and I have him on record saying “there’s no way an 8-shot advantage is gonna be enough for you.”

The terms were agreed upon, and the match was set.


We rolled up to the first tee and offered God our genuine thanks for such a beautiful day. And it was a beautiful day. Crisp, clear, with a light north wind that became more prevailing through the day, and became a factor as we played on.

We flipped for honors. I won, and deferred the honors to Brady.

Through the first two holes we both went bogey, bogey, and so I maintained my 8-stroke cushion. Through the remaining front nine, Brady gradually cut the margin to two. Front nine scores: Brady 41. Me 47. We both played fairly well, and but for a few lipped putts, I’d have been at least two strokes to the better.

At the turn we bought a quick snack at the 19th hole, and the stage was set. If the back nine played out like the front nine, he was going to take me down to China Town.


We matched with two bogies on 10. He gained a stroke on 11, and I took the honors back on 12.

Thirteen and 14 – even up.

He gains one of 15. I get it back on 16.

With two holes remaining (and with the handicap) I’m up two, and we both know the match is on. And I know his mind games could set in at any moment. He always does it when it’s close. But it’s not a surprise, because I know it’s coming.


as iron sharpens iron

This man, Chuck Gschwend, was generous enough recently to give me an hour of his time. His lessons changed my golf game entirely. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

In all my years of golf, I’ve had a terrible slice. Thanks to a lesson from my friend and church pastor, Chuck Gschwend some three weeks ago, my slice hasn’t disappeared entirely, but it’s MUCH less frequent. I’m hitting the ball straighter and longer, and my iron skills are a thousand times better than before. I can’t explain in words how magnificent it feels to hit a driver straight down the gut, 200 yards and change, or to flop a wedge 10 feet from the hole from 40 yards out. My adrenaline skyrockets just thinking about it.


I had the honors on 17. There was pressure on us both to hit well-placed drives on BLCC’s most difficult hole, a 407-yard par 4 with an ever-so-slight left-to-right fade.

At this point on the back nine, forget the handicap, we’d played heads-up, mono-e-mono golf for 7 holes. I’ve never hung that close with Brady over 7 holes.


I launched a baby-fade drive, some 220 yards down the gut. (insert sigh of relief here), and Brady followed with a good drive of his own, only a yard or so behind me, and to the left. Our respective second shots both landed on the fringe of the green, and we both got up and down in 5.



I have the honors. The north wind has picked up, about 10 mph, dead in our face. About 300 yards down the fairway lies a very big lake.  It’s historic how many times that lake has changed a match. A short drive on this fairway means you’ll flirt with disaster on the second shot, and you’ll have to make a crucial decision as whether to “lay up,” or go for it.

My drive sends a high long ball straight down the middle. My best drive of the day, especially under pressure. Brady’s drive is also long, only a few feet behind mine, and just to the right. NEVER before have I out-driven Brady on two consecutive holes. As we approach the second shot, and just as I expect it’s coming Brady surprises me and says: “No mind games. May the best man win. If you clear the lake, I’m beat.”

Second shot. It will take 150 yards to clear the lake safely, and just beyond are two bunkers, left and right of the green. I pull out a three wood, praying for a sweet stroke. All I want to do is clear the lake and avoid the trap.

The three wood goes just left, but straight, clears the water by 50 yards, and I’m left with a 15-yard wedge to get up and down. I believe Brady hit a 4-iron (not his favorite club), and he clears as well, five yards inside me.

Again, we both get up and down for two 5’s, and the match is over.

With the 8-stroke cushion, I win by two strokes, but more importantly, lose outright, only by six, and we played stroke for stroke on the back nine, both chalking up a semi-respectable 44.

It’s the best nine holes of golf, I’ve ever played. We shake hands and embrace in a man hug, and the day is done.


So I win the bet with all its nuances, but still come up short six for an outright win. Brady knows I don’t care about winning the bet. He knows I long to beat him heads up over 18 holes, and that I’ll never be satisfied until it happens.

Sort of like kissing your sister, Lou Holtz might say. Actually, I’d submit, it’s even a bit better. Perhaps as if you’d kissed a really good-looking second cousin. Nevertheless, sans handicap, it’s a loss.



Driving home, I reflect on an absolutely exquisite day – not so much about the play, as the meaning of the day itself. Two buddies in fierce competition, yet cheering one another on at every stroke. It’s the rarest of things.

Arriving home, I send my friend a message thanking him for a day of wonderful memories. I tell him I know my improving play will only enhance his drive to become better, and that next Spring, we’re going to be one hell of a team.

He replies in concurrence, and said he was proud of me. And yes, he said, a fire now burns within him to get better with age. “It’ll be a great day when you beat me, he says, but I’ll never throw a single shot to let you do it. You’re gonna have to beat me.”

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.


Thrilla in Manila II: But It’s Two White Guys on a Golf Course in Arkansas

Cornish v. Watkins - Thrilla in Manila


“One of the greatest qualities in a friendship is two guys who compete against one another, almost to the death, yet cheer one another on every single minute.” ~ me


By Brent Musburger, Lewis Grizzard Clod Dinglehopper:

thrilla in manila

BACKGROUND: In an epic and ongoing rivalry, these two fierce competitors play most frequently as companions and team mates taking on all two-man scramble challenges across the globe Northeast Arkansas. The team is complemented by Cornish’s long drives and mid-iron skills, and Watkins’ trusty putter, dangerous anywhere inside 40 feet. Best pals since 1977, Cornish, a high school state medalist, took Watkins under his wing as golf coach mentor in 1983. In their occasional epic mono-e-mono battles over the last 30 years, the protoge’ has yet to beat a stubborn Cornish who refuses to admit it could one day happen, but knows in the back of his mind, it will. Today begins a new day, in a new competitive era, and it’s on like donkey kong.golfing partners

VENUE: The Pristigious Big Lake Country Club, Manila, Arkansas.

TEE TIME: 10 a.m. CST

FORECAST: From our sponsors at The Weather Channel – Sunny with a high of 60°, light northeasterly wind at 9 mph. Humidity 49%.

COURSE CONDITIONS: Lightning fast greens, tough pin placements on undulating greens and leaves everywhere (it’s Fall in Arkansas).

RULES AND SPECIAL ALLOWANCES FOR THE DAY: One mulligan off the first tee, and then one mulligan per nine on 18 holes.

steven watkins blog jonesboro arTHE PURSE: It’s complicated with all kinds of action and side action. Cornish is down a dozen golf balls and a steak dinner for four at  Texas de Brazil from a recent presidential election double-wager that hangs over his head like a thunder cloud. At “steak” today – double or nothing bet on the dozen golf balls PLUS: this is the first day of an ongoing 365-day wager specifying $500 to the winner of a bet where Watkins says he’ll beat Cornish straight up at least once in the next year. Side action on the side action – and if Watkins beats Cornish, said Cornish has agreed to write a guest blog post on this site with detailed color commentary about how it all went down.

VEGAS LINE: Cornish comes in as an 8-1 favorite, but the prognosticators are keeping a keen eye on the Watkins surge.

best friends

Our favorite picture together, taken earlier this year in Mountain View, Arkansas honoring two favorite movie characters from Lonesome Dove: Texas Rangers Capt. Augustus McRae and Capt. Woodrow F. Call.


  1. CORNISH – Must concentrate on a full backswing and follow-through, head down, and he MUST guard against over confidence going into the match.
  2. WATKINS – With new momentum coming off his first golf lesson from someone who actually knows what they’re doing, he must bring his wrist through the ball for consistent distance and direction, settle down on his wedge shots, and ignore Cornish’s inevitable mind games.

FULL COVERAGE AND RESULTS: Check Saturday’s listings on CBS  Sports and ESPN this blog tomorrow.


Wahhh Pig Sooie

Who am I? What am I doing here?” ~ vice presidential candidate, Admiral James Stockdale (1992)

The Woo is gone out of Woo Pig Sooie.

John L Smith fired

This says it all in Arkansas.

It happens to the best of them: the Tylenol scandal; New Coke, Coke-Classic debacle; Bill Clinton’s, “I never had sex with that woman.”

If ever there was a case study in crisis management, University of Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Director Jeff Long now has one on his hands.

From the Spring Sunday when Bobby Petrino took an infamous motorcycle ride with a young athletic staff employee, to the Razorback‘s temporary Band Aid with John L. Smith, to losing to a “cupcake” in the Sun Belt Conference, to an embarrassing home wipeout at the hands of the Univerity of Alabama, then Rutgers … and in the midst of it all a series of incomprehensible statements made by Smith (including the latest today) and the apparent oversight of Smith’s $25 million in debt, Long is now far past the job of trying to prevent apathy among fans who were once hopeful for the Razorback’s first national championship in three decades.

He’s now faced with how to stop people from making a mockery of his school. That’s never happened before.

The word cited most often of Smith’s performance is “moronic.” He doesn’t even know where he is, folks.arkansas razorback football

A “Fire John L. Smith” Facebook Fan Page is gaining momentum.

Once loyal fans, even in the face of the most imaginable of circumstances, are now repugnant toward the program.

Truth is, Smith should have been dismissed in the post game following a historic shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide when his team shut down. It certainly should have happened Saturday night after the Rutgers fiasco.

It’s no longer a matter of salvaging a football season. Now it’s a lot more.

It’s a control issue.

Some things are simply unpermissable.

Long is faced with the decision and showing his fan base the “unacceptability” of the circumstances.

I think you’ll see it in the next 24 hours.


Pards, Pars and a Birdie Straight from Heaven

As a team, we are known as one of the greatest duos in golf.

Four years from now, the PGA Senior Tour awaits.

The white dimpled ball fears our strike.

Handicap- ZERO. Even par.



I call him: The Birdie Man.

He calls me: The Snow Man (figure that out for yourself.)

Twenty plus years ago, a weekly round of golf (at least) was standard for my best pal, Brady Cornish and me. At 14, Brady was a young golfer at the top of his game, a high-school Arkansas medalist, and could hang with ANY high school golfer in the state. He could draw, fade (we called his most famous shot “the medium-low burn” and manipulate the ball as he pleased.

I was a high school basketball player with a fair jumper from the left wing, but always admired Brady’s God-given ability on the links. As basketball came to an end for me about the time we both entered college, I made him start taking me to the course, and eventually we began playing team tournaments where he continued his greatness, and I would contribute a shot or two each round.

The memories we shared, and the good times we had on the course are among my best of times.

Twenty plus years ago, life’s random circumstances caused us both to walk away from the game. It was a huge void in both our lives.


Two months ago, we vowed to get back on game – and improve enough that we’d feel comfortable getting back on the Northeast Arkansas PGA duffer’s tournament circuit in 2013.

In a practice round at Fox Hills Country Club in Paragould, AR yesterday, Brady declared that if we didn’t scramble a 42 on the back nine, we’d ban ourselves from tournament play and continue practice until 2014. So there was a lot on the line.

In the end, we shot a 39. Not bad. And Brady began showing signs of his old self. He took three birdies on nine holes, and at one point went on a flurry of par-birdie-birdie.

The highlight of the day was a sentimental one for us. Somehow, Brady came across an old ball where someone had written the initials “DW” in black ink. Those were my dad, David Watkins’ initials.

On a par 3, unbeknownst to me, Brady placed the DW ball on the tee, and hit a beautiful 9-iron that tracked in for a near ace. Left with a 9-foot birdie put, the DW ball rolled in for bird. It was a birdie straight from heaven.

We speak of our dads often on the course. Golf is a game many memories … and here are a few from our round yesterday…

The prestigious it’ll do Fox Hills Country Club.

golf courses

New clubs, I’ve had for only three weeks. I love them, and the hybrid wood is shaving a few strokes from my game.

Tom Watson Tight Lies

The Birdie Man, sizing up a second shot a hundred yards out on a par 4.

Golf shot

The 11 Commandments of Fox Hills. We have since repented of any violation of Commandment #10.

Golfing etiquette

My second shot after laying up on #6, a par four 298-yard hole with a lake in a really bad place.

steven w watkins

The Birdie Man believes proper club selection is essential. Little did we know at this moment, he was about to hit a monster drive on #6 that left us with a 10-yard chip for eagle.

golf club selection

Toughest and tightest hole on the course.

par 4 golf

I’m usually at my best without a club in my hand.

 golf etiquette

We’ll never forget this ball, launched from the par 3, #2 hole – a birdie from Heaven.

hole in one

Tournament play, here we come.

under par


Olympiad: The World’s Original Reality Show

Long before people gathered on remote islands to outwit, outsmart and outplay…

Well before ABC insulted our intelligence with a show where “couples” accept keys to have sex on three consecutive nights in the “mystery suite”…

Before we could ever imagine the pain of enduring the pre-scripted drama of Nancy Grace and Marie Osmond on a show where people “dance”…

And eons before Chic-fil-A unintentionally/brilliantly launched World War III…

Before all this, there was a reality show with honor. The Games of the Olympiad.

The Olympics: A time when people of whom we’ve never heard (though they’ve dedicated their entire lives to this moment) become overnight sensations. And deservedly so.

Anyone who has an ounce of competition in their flesh loves the Olympics. It was a different venue where Jim McKay coined the phrase, but it truly is a picture of the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.

I hope I never remember the name of a single reality show “star” I’ve ever seen, but I’ll never forget these folks … ever…

My top 10 Olympic memories …

10. Bruce Jenner‘s all-round performance to capture the Olympic decathlon. I was so young, I mostly remember this because he was on a box of Wheaties. Seems things have been downhill ever since for Jenner. I feel sorry for him with that clan he married into.

9. Sugar Ray Leonard, named after his mother’s favorite singer, was a light welterweight on the 1976 U.S. boxing team with teammates Leon and Michael Spinks and John Tate. They’re considered by many to be the greatest olympic boxing team of all-time. Leonard won the gold medal and went on to become the first professional boxer to bank $100 million.

8. Mark Spitz won seven gold medals and set a world record in each event in which he swam in Munich’s 1972 games. It’s a feat yet to be surpassed.

7. Kerri Strug won gold for her team (The Magnificent 7) in 1996, and the world will never forget her landing off the vault despite a ravaged ankle.

6. Mary Lou Retton was the first female outside eastern Europe to capture the all-round gymnastics title in 1984. And she was just so darned cute.

A man’s man. Vasily Alekseyev.

5. Vasily Alekseyev won weight-lifting gold medals in 1972 and 1976 and was the first man to clean-and-jerk 500 pounds. I watched it happen. It was absolutely incredible and you almost busted a gut just watching. In Greece, in 1999, Alekseyev was acknowledged as the best sportsman of the 20th Century.

Klammer smoked that hill in 1976.

4. Franz Klammer, an alpine skier from Austria, I will never forget. Behind 14 places in the treacherous downhill in Innsbruck’s 1976 Winter Games, Klammer flew down the hill as if his skies never touched the ground. Commentators said he literally skied on the edge of disaster in taking the gold by .33 second.

3. Nadia Comaneci, the stonefaced Romanian gymnast who won a

She never cracked a smile. Nadia Comaneci was a focused champion.

total of five gold medals from 1976 to 1980, was the first female gymnast to score a perfect 10. And the world celebrated her victory.

2. The U.S. Olympic hockey team‘s stunning victory over the Russians in the midst of the 1980 cold war was pure magic. Once again, we believed in miracles.

1. For me, the greatest moment in Olympic history came off the field of competition. So stunning was the moment when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch in the 1996 summer games, I could hardly breathe. And for a moment, I believe it took the world’s collective breath away.

These are the world’s real reality stars.

An additional post on my primary blog today may be viewed here: