Blame game

[One of the publishing industry’s somewhat-morbid idiosyncrasies is that obituaries of famous people often are written months, if not years, before the subject’s demise. Facts are gathered, interviews are done delicately and furtively, and stories are written about the deaths of people who are very much alive. It’s simply a matter of utility: When the inevitable occurs, the writer need only slap a lead on the story listing the subject’s age and cause of death, push a button and send the obit into the ethernet only minutes after the news becomes public.

Publications cull their macabre lists of the undead from the usual suspects – persons of advancing age, typically with serious medical issues. Chances are, if you’re not a long-time, card-carrying member of the AARP with a history of cancer, heart disease or some other serious illness, we wouldn’t consider drafting your death notice. Until now.

Earlier this year a colleague asked a chilling question: Do we need to prepare John Daly’s obituary?

He was serious.

Sad but true: Would anyone be surprised to wake up in the near future to learn that Daly, just 42, had been found dead, the result of too much drinking, too much carousing, too much foolishness – just plain too much?

For a guy who has become a really rotten professional golfer – Daly’s not even sniffing six figures in tournament earnings this year on the PGA Tour – he has a knack for staying in the news. And that news is never good.

The most recent entry on Daly’s troubled record was his having been detained Oct. 26 for (here’s a shocker) public drunkenness at a Hooters in Winston-Salem, N.C (mugshot pictured above). It apparently got so bad that even employees of the restaurant, which sponsors Daly, had had enough and tried, unsuccessfully, to kick him out. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when even Hooters doesn’t want your money.

Upon hearing that unsurprising report, I was reminded of a conversation a few months ago with an equipment company executive, who relayed a story, perhaps apocryphal, about Daly. The story goes that Tiger Woods was on his way to the practice range after a round when he crossed paths with Daly, who asked, “Why are you always practicing?” Said Woods, “I wouldn’t have to if I had your talent.”

True story? Who knows. But it sounds right. The story juxtaposes the world’s two most gifted golfers: one who is determined, even desperate, to wring every ounce of talent out of his body; the other who seems to believe there’s some sort of perverse nobility in his indifference to his gifts.

Daly used to be a loveable lug. He had the chance to be his generation’s Arnold Palmer, albeit with a bulging waistband rather than Popeye-like forearms. He had, and still possesses, the approachable, everyman persona. Fans flock to him. His galleries, often populated with people who couldn’t tell a birdie from a bogey, have an audible buzz.

But Daly’s charm has faded. He’s no longer interesting or amusing. He no longer inspires empathy or pity. He has become boringly predictable. Addicts are like that.

Addicts often are described as “erratic,” when in fact they’re anything but that. If you set aside their detachment from reality or the consequences of their actions, you’ll find that they’re ruthlessly efficient in one area of their lives: their own self-destruction.

“My life is upside-down right now,” Daly moaned a while back. “No matter what I do, it’s wrong. I’m thinking of writing a new song. I’ll call it, ‘I guess it’s my fault, even when it’s not my fault.’ ”

Sorry, Wrong . . . er, Long John. It’s always your fault. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Not anymore.

Miss your pro-am time, as you did earlier this year at Bay Hill? Your fault, John. Are we really supposed to believe that you, out of all the players in the field, were the only one given the wrong tee time? Sorry, doesn’t wash.

Miss another cut? Your fault.

Get into a spat with your former swing coach? Your fault.

Accept another sponsor exemption, only to go AWOL again? Your fault.

Get dropped by a sponsor? Your fault.

More problems on the homefront? Your fault.

Drop another seven figures gambling? Your fault.

And yes, if you continue your headlong sprint toward an early grave, that’s your fault as well.

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