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To you athletes who smoke, I hid your cigarettes last night.
Don’t snicker you athletes who chew tobacco. I hid your tins, too.
I was in a hurry—I had more places to visit on Christmas Eve than I thought. And Santa visited some places longer than I could wait him out. So some of you athletes may still be able to find your cigarettes and your chew.
To the rest of you athletes, I am doing you a favor.
A self-righteous Scrooge? Of course.
But please answer me, Mr. Athlete and Miss Athlete, what is the benefit of smoking?
I don’t understand. Like a hangnail, cigarettes have no useful purpose.
Sadly, some professional athletes prove me wrong, athletes like Angel Cabrera. He’s the golfer who won the 2007 U.S. Open, puffing away on the final few holes for a one-stroke victory. And years ago, even Arnold Palmer would have ignored me. Watch a clip of him in the 1960 Masters, the one where he charged to victory by birdieing the final two holes. During one of his shots, his billowing cigarette smoke is as eye-catching as the Augusta greenery.
But Palmer kicked the habit. And all athletes who smoke should do the same. If you smoke before you play volleyball or while you bowl or when you compete in any game, show me a doctor’s release that says you need that cigarette. (If you get that release, let me see it. If I have hidden your cigarettes or your chew, I will apologize and return it.)
It was before a Brunswick Community College volleyball match I saw some members of the Dolphins’ opponent that night huddled outside the West Brunswick High School gym smoking cigarettes. They looked as if they were young teens huddling outside a gas station rather than fit athletes eager for a game.
And I thought bowling centers were smoke free. But while doing a story at a bowling center in Wilmington, cigarette smoke ambushed me. Bowl your ball. Inhale the tar. Bowl your ball. Inhale the nicotine. Bowl and puff.
After I ordered something to eat, I walked outside to my car to eat the food. When I returned home, I washed my clothes and I showered to remove the stink. And that was when I, mild-mannered sportswriter, became Scrooge and planned this Christmas mission.
I know some recreational athletes are trying to end this nasty habit. Good for them. A recreational basketball player named Barack Obama apparently has kicked the habit. And others make progress day by day. During the most recent Oyster Festival races at Ocean Isle Beach, one runner crossed the finish line with an unlighted cigarette puckered between his lips. Would he miss his cigarettes if I hid them? If not, and if all athletes would quit smoking, then next Christmas will have one fewer Scrooge.
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.