What a weekend. What a test of the sporting nerves spread across two continents, from aggravating calamity, then survival by an eyelash, followed by a near Ryder Cup revival across the water. Before it all took form, however, we began at Turner Field with a kind of managerial retirement ceremony of near papal quality.
In baseball, usually, managers are fired, or, in some cases, go into retirement before the axe falls. Bobby Cox went out in a style these old eyes have never witnessed, on a stage in the playing field with a gallery of former coaches and players seated on the infield below him. He had announced a year ago that he would retire, and he made it official while all the Braves world looked on worshipfully Saturday afternoon.
Never saw anything like it. Not for Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy, or any of the long-gone managers whose names linger in memory.
Then, Cox’s last team went out and lost pitiably to the Phillies — who had the division pennant won. Just as remarkably, as they have done so often this season, the Braves came back Sunday afternoon and won the last scheduled game. In the process blowing an 8-2 lead, prolonging Billy Wagner’s own retirement, then milled around dishabille in waiting for the final score from the West Coast. As fate would have it, the Giants beat the Padres, thus delivering the wild card finish to the Braves, who then did some celebration of their own, one that spread to the playing field.
Down at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons brought victory back from surely certain defeat. Matt Bryant kicked a winning field goal and down went the 49ers, the winless 49ers. Georgia Tech had found a way to beat a sickly Wake Forest team, but in Colorado, Georgia had found another way to lose, even with A.J. Green — designated key to victory — on hand.
Meanwhile, across the way in Wales, there was still the Ryder Cup to deal with. The Europeans had what seemed a comfortable lead over our side. And if you were a golfing insomniac, Americans could arise and tune in in the darkness of 3 a.m. International correspondents were rushing to concede to the Euros, but as Monday dawned on us, here came the Yankee charge. Tiger Woods — get this, now — contributed a hole-in-one and gave every indication that he was returning his life to golf.
Our side came within a whisker of keeping the Cup they had won at Valhalla. By daunting fate, the U.S. Open champion — Graeme McDowell had won at Pebble Beach — saved his side on the 18th and final hole.
It was spine tingling stuff — if golf tingles your spine — and the Americans’ dynamic recovery softened the pain of surrendering the Cup. If nothing else, it salved the punch to the midriff of Corey Pavin’s captaincy.
Now we wait and ponder while Bobby Cox dresses out the Braves for his curtain call. And our American Ryder Cupper come home to ease the nerves at the McGladrey Classic, the PGA Tour’s next stop, and a new one, at Sea Island and its revered Seaside Course.
Whew, yeah, what a weekend it was.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.