Sunday, February 13, 2011

John Devine, Just a thought: Celebrities are stars of AT&T

Watching Dwight Clark take part in Tuesday's Google Charity Shootout brought me back to 1982 when Clark was catching a memorable pass that helped the San Francisco 49ers reach the Super Bowl.

As a kid in college who still believed I was going to be an Olympic sprinter in 1982, I set foot on Pebble Beach for the first time as a reporter, catching a glimpse of Clark golfing with a large following that included Joe Montana.

While I have never had a passion to golf 18 holes, the celebrity portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am has lured me back 29 straight years.

This is Pebble Beach, a world renown golf course with some of the most spectacular views in the world, where the celebrities are the real attraction. And I'm standing on the 18th hole listening to Clark's conversation.

It never gets old.

Oh, the weather isn't always as charming as it was this weekend. I have stood in the rain with seagulls and avoided frost bite with the deer along the majestic course.

It could always be worse, such as walking the streets of Dallas during Super Bowl week in an ice and snow storm in 12 degree temperature, with a wind chill of two degrees.

I've crossed paths with a lot of stars hanging out on the famed links. It can be intimidating trying to convince them to give you five minutes. Let's be honest, my media badge doesn't say TMZ or ESPN.

It's funny how a brief conversation can change your entire perception of someone.

I'll never forget having a conversation with rock star Alice Cooper. It was the most intellectual interview I have ever done. Don't be misled by the raggedy hair or makeup.

When asked about the difference between playing golf and being on stage, Cooper said, "I can not see the audience on stage. But on the golf course, all eyes are on you."

I was not sure what to think when talking to Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith a few years back. My most vivid memory of "The Wizard" was cheap-shooting the Giants' Will Clark at second base in the 1987 playoffs.

Turns out Smith was humble and very polite. The fog had rolled in and it was cold. But Smith — with his wife by his side along the scoreboard on 18 — stood and answered each question.

One of my all-time favorite interviews was with NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving. Not only did Dr. J sit down with me after playing 18 awful holes, but he offered to buy lunch.

I found Dallas quarterback Tony Romo to be respectful and sharp with his answers. Yeah, he's got a little attitude. But it's more confidence than arrogance. He gets the fact that this is a celebrity tournament.

Trust me, there are exceptions. Former quarterback Bob Griese, who led Miami to a 17-0 season in 1972, got in a car after one question and bolted as if a charging lineman was headed in his direction.

Donald Trump had flair and was amusing. On the course, he had a temper, slamming his iron into the turf a time or two. Hey, the guy is competitive.

Singer Huey Lewis was entertaining. He made sure we both had fun, making the interview feel more like a casual conversation with your neighbor.

For the spectator, there are few places or events where you can get an actor, musician or jock to stop and sign an autograph or pose for a photo.

They're out of their realm when it comes to swinging a club on the links. Golf is a humbling sport. At the same time, they're still entertainers. Most of them realize the galleries are filled with star struck spectators.

Hey, who doesn't want to spend a week on the peninsula and say they played Pebble?

The environment along the Pacific is as peaceful as the sport, unless you're paired with Bill Murray.

John Devine can be reached at and 646-4405.

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