NO, THIS ISN’T TENNIS. But it Seemed Too Funny Not to Post Here. Life Imitating, Um, Art?

My column on AOL Fanhouse

“All right everybody, let’s hear it for Tropical Time and let’s hear it for Busch Bavarian. If you’re going to drink a beer, you might as well make it Busch Bavarian.”
That’s how Jackie Moon, played by Will Ferrell in the movie Semi-Pro, made the introduction.

You know how Ferrell movies are just too ridiculous? How they could never come true?

Think again.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said. “I want you to welcome this man that’s going to attempt the impossible, the $10,000 free throw from the other side of the court. The moonshot.”

That was the movie, about a fictional and fledgling team from the old ABA, running ridiculous stunts and promotions to try to stay alive.

This is real life: On Saturday night, the Indianapolis Ice of the United States Hockey League held its own impossible-shot promotion. Shoot the puck the length of the ice into the far net, which was blocked off entirely except for a three-inch slot at the bottom.

Richard Marsh, a 73-year old retiree who still plays in an amateur hockey league, had the shot. It was for $50,000, and he said beforehand that if he made it, he would donate the whole thing to St. Vincent’s Heart Center of Indiana, which fixed his heart in 2007.

In the movie, the basketball fan’s name was Dukes. He needed the money because he was unemployed.

“Well, we’ve got an especially dirty hippy here down on the court trying to sink an impossible shot.” That’s what the radio guy said. In the movie.

Repeat: the movie.

Back to real life, Marsh fired the puck, and you know what happened. He made it. The crowd went nuts. He celebrated.

Fifty-thousand big ones for Marsh, Mr. Charitable, and, thus, the hospital.

So what happened?

Let’s go back to the movie. The hippie made the shot, too, and celebrated, too.

And then Moon (Ferrell) frantically stepped up to the official and said, “Father Pat, he stepped on the line, he stepped on the line.”

No, no, it was legal, the official said.

“No, no,” Ferrell said. “He stepped on the line. You were looking at it.”

Jackie, he made the shot.

“Who the hell has $10,000?”

Relax, the official said. The beer company will pay it.

“”They’re not really a sponsor,” Moon said, panicking. “It just sounded professional.”

Back to real life again. The hockey league announced that the insurance company responsible for giving the $50,000 to Marsh had disallowed the shot.

He had stepped over the line by a foot or two.

Leave it to an insurance company to find a way out of paying, to find the loophole.

What insurance company?

Not Allstate. Apparently, Allstate is one of the Ice’s sponsors, and it is taking heat for this, as people assume it was the company that wrote the insurance covering the $50,000.

In the PR disaster that this has become, the team had to actually announce that it wasn’t Allstate. It hasn’t said what company it was.

Meanwhile, another announcement came that team owners had made a donation of an undisclosed amount to the hospital and to the American Heart Association.

For the record, Marsh was fine with the money being donated to St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana, which fixed his poor heart in 2007. Marsh was also happy over the attention the league was receiving.

“I think they got their money’s worth,” Marsh told the Indianapolis Star. “I think it was very positive publicity.”

Still, the entire length of the ice, and this insurance company finds a way out of paying. Team officials said that Marsh had been told at least three times that he had to stay behind the line. But Marsh told the Indianapolis Star that it was so loud on the ice he couldn’t hear anything.

Really? You think he took one step forward to get an unfair advantage on a hockey-rink long shot?

Please. Besides, the team mascot was messing around with Marsh before the shot and never said anything about the puck being in the wrong spot. The puck was just laying on the ice while the mascot performed.

No one said anything. 

Then, the mascot threw the puck. No one said anything. Marsh lined up. No one said anything.
And he fired away.

Meanwhile, more real life, a former commodities exchange chairman is suing the charity of formerNBA star Alonzo Mourning after he won $1 million in a hole-in-one contest at Donald Trump’s National Golf Club in New York. An insurance company later disallowed the shot after determining that it went only 139 yards when rules required the hole-in-one to go at least 150.

Well, in the movie, when the celebration was over, Ferrell grabbed the winner and said

“Congratulations to Dukes. He just won a giant check that says $10,000.”

Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch


About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: