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Jim Murray

He Turns a Dream Into Deeds

August 18, 1987|Jim Murray

Every man has got a little Walter Mitty in him.

I've got a lot. I see myself in the British Open, hitting these incredible long shots hole after hole, gaining on the leader until I come to the 18th needing a 3 to win and 4 to tie. It's a long par-5 over water and a raging gale is blowing in my face as I face a 255-yard second shot, all carry, to this elevated, fiendishly guarded small green.

"Give me the driver!" I command my caddy.

He blanches. "You'll never get there with that!" he pleads. "Take the 4-iron and lay up!"

My lips curl in unconcealed contempt. "Hah!" I snort. "Murrays never lay up! Murrays go for it! Better to die on your feet than live on your knees! Give it here!"

I snatch the driver from his trembling hands and slash the ball in this long, gorgeous trajectory that is the envy of the tour and the ball soars high and true, over the raging seas, over the sand and lands majestically on the green, where it takes one hop and sucks up and stops two feet from the hole.

The crowd goes wild and my caddy, a Yank like me, gets tears in his eyes and says: "God bless you, Jim, you've brought the cup back to America! It's ticker tape on Broadway for us."

And, then, there would be the dream where I was on the dance floor doing these incredibly complex and beautiful tango steps with a girl wearing a comb in her hair and the whole ballroom would stop and watch and someone would sigh: "Look at those moves! Nobody since Valentino could tango like him!"

Or, it'd be the bottom of the ninth in the World Series and the home team would have the bases loaded, two out, and us one run ahead and the skip would call me in from the bullpen and ask anxiously: "Do you think you can get him?"

I'd snarl: "Are you kidding! That's only Musial up there. Gimme the damn ball! He won't even hear these three pitches!"

I bring this up because Keith Erickson, the ex-basketballer, has come up with an idea that should bring joy to the Mitty in all of us.

It's a cassette of a "Dream Game" in which you are the star. It's you who's bringing the ball up-court, who is faking Larry Bird into the popcorn machine or laying up over Robert Parish or dribbling around Dennis Johnson at the top of the key. Or maybe you're going over from the one-yard line against the Chicago Bears or running back the winning punt in the Super Bowl. Whatever your private fantasy is, the cassette fulfills it.

We're living in an era of breakneck wish-fulfillment anyway. Baseball offers "fantasy camps" in which you can, for a fee, line up alongside Duke Snider or Maury Wills for a week, bat against Sandy Koufax. Presumably, somebody will come along with an idea to let you climb in the ring with Muhammad Ali for an afternoon or maybe try to return Rod Laver's forehands for a set.

Keith Erickson is probably best known to the world at large as the guy who has made a career out of saying, "You're right, Chick," on camera or over the air at Laker games.

All his life, Keith has been Tonto.

He was not the best basketball player ever to come out of UCLA, he was not the best baseball player, he was not the best volleyball player or tennis player. But if you wanted one man for four sports, Keith Erickson was your man, the best that school has had since Jackie Robinson.

He was on that famous Bruin team that went 30-0 and won the Final Four in 1964 without a man on the team taller than 6 feet 5 inches, a team that went 28-2 and repeated the next season as national champions. The trouble is, the public remembers Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and Kenny Washington from those teams. What Keith gets is a surprised "Oh, were you on that team? I'd forgotten."

In the pros, he came to the Lakers at the same time as Wilt Chamberlain, to give you an idea. That's like riding in an open car with the Pope or going to a premiere with Joan Collins.

His job on the court was always to take the ball away from somebody and give it to somebody else. He shot only in the (unlikely) event that he found himself with the ball and only one second to go.

Not surprisingly, Erickson hit the broadcast booth as "color man" for Chick Hearn when his career on the court was over. Chick needs a color man about as much as Siberia needs air conditioning. Chick has a low threshold of interruptability.

Keith seemed ready for a lively career as somebody's butler. Instead, he and Chick have teamed up in a new kind of broadcast, the "Chick Hearn's Dream Game" cassette, a five-minute trip down Fantasy Lane that puts you in the center of a mythical championship game in which you make the difference.

If you ever dreamed of stealing the ball from Larry Bird with two seconds on the clock and swishing the winning basket through without touching iron, if you ever dreamed of getting Wade Boggs on a high slider with the Series on the line or serving an ace to Ivan Lendl to win Wimbledon, do they have a gift for you!

Erickson thinks it's an idea whose time has come. He has left the booth to handle the promotion and production of the new product, the ultimate in party records, rated PG and bring the kids.

The only thing Keith's dream cassette lacks at the moment is the ever-lovin' postgame show where our hero could say: "Shucks, it was nothing. I knew Larry Bird couldn't handle my head fake."

In my case, it would be Pebble Beach that couldn't handle my power swing. "I just cut a little 4-wood in there, just rolled my wrists and hit a little knock-down into the wind. I like a little wind. Holds the shot on line."

And when the announcer says "A little trick Hogan taught you?" I will answer coldly, "No, a little trick I taught Hogan!"

Pocketa-pocketa . . .

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