WE’RE READY TO HOST ‘EM ALL

We’d like to welcome the 100,000 or so visitors for the Ryder Cup by giving a huge shout out to all the Americans — whoo-hoo! USA! — and by saying to our European friends: Please line up for fingerprints.

Ha! No. That’s a joke. One of those “us versus them” things. Which, let’s face it, is what this Ryder Cup thing is all about, right? Red, white and blue versus baguette, scone and haggis? It’s sort of the Olympics shrunk down to two countries and a putter.

Or so we’ve heard. The truth is, we here in Michigan may be hosting the Ryder Cup, but very few of us — and by “few” I mean about six people — actually know how you play it.

Oh, we know each morning, after a breakfast of steak, crepes, omelets, fresh fruit, hot oatmeal and French toast (oops, “American” toast) the U.S. team will race out to take on the Europeans, who’ll have finished their breakfast of one hard boiled egg in a silver cup.

But other than that, you won’t find too many locals explaining “four-ball” or “best ball” or “alternate shot.” For one thing, we haven’t a clue. To Michiganders, golf is what you do to escape complexities. If it takes more than five seconds to explain the rules, we get a headache.

Besides, most of us will be too busy trying to find a place to park. Which brings us to your vehicle. Actually a shuttle bus will bring you to your vehicle, which will be conveniently held for you in Toronto until after the Ryder Cup is finished.

Which makes this a perfect time to suggest, if it’s not too much trouble, that while you’re here in the Motor City, buy a car, OK? Could you? Buy a car? It’ll help the local economy, like when you buy one of those beaded necklaces on a Caribbean island, only, of course, you can’t park a necklace.

You also can’t park a car, not anywhere near the Ryder Cup, anyhow. There is plenty of parking in Pontiac, at a place called the Silverdome. The Silverdome is spacious. It is as close to the Ryder Cup as Buffalo, but it is spacious. Don’t worry, we’ll shuttle bus you to the competition. The ride isn’t long. Just use the bathroom before you go and bring a change of clothes.

What’s that? Sure, it would be nice if you could park on the streets near the venue, but that’s obviously out of the question because, well, because, obviously, it’s out of the question. It is not true that if you park anywhere within five miles of Bloomfield Township you will be roped and tied.

It just feels like it’s true.

By the way, my name is Mitch, and this is the Ryder Cup, but I am not Mitch Ryder. Unless you buy a car.

Did we tell you about the restaurants?

Great grocery shopping

It just so happens I live not far from Oakland Hills Country Club, so I can tell you our area has been putting on the ritz. Monday, I drove past the local supermarket where I shop — we call it Kroger’s — and there was an entire landscaping display, complete with giant golf clubs, two big flags and freshly planted, colorful flowers that read “Bloomfield Plaza Welcomes the World of Golf.”

This was amazing to me. For one thing, I never knew the place was called “Bloomfield Plaza.” We just say “I’m going to Kroger’s.”

Also, I didn’t know the world of golf was coming for groceries.

But there it is. We are thrilled to have you. All the local businesses will be more than accommodating, and already at the nearby food places, there are golf-ball-shaped doughnuts and fairway-green soups. There is even a restaurant, walking distance from the entrance at Oakland Hills, called Hogan’s, dedicated to the great Ben Hogan and filled with photos of Ben and other golfing legends. And that place has been around for years, long before we knew that Irish golfer Padraig Harrington was related to our local quarterback, Joey Harrington.

By the way, if someone comes up to you and says, “The Lions gonna do it this year?” the proper response is, “Yeah, right.” Unless that someone is Joey Harrington.

Read the jerseys

Question: How can you tell us “locals” from the “tourists”?

Well, for one thing, anyone wearing a red jersey that says “Yzerman” — that’s a local. Also, some of the locals will be holding signs that read “House For Rent — Cheap.” That’s because a few of us were told, by some evil rumormonger, that we could make big money for renting out our homes to desperate golf fans like you. This turned out to be as true as Pamela Anderson’s chest.

There was, for a moment, a rumor that basketball great Michael Jordan rented someone’s house for $750,000 and there was great rejoicing throughout the city. Until someone pointed out that for $750,000 Jordan could have A) flown a helicopter every day from Chicago and landed on his own newly purchased one-acre lot or B) built his own mansion in Bloomfield and rented it to someone else.

So then we got depressed again.

But now you’re here, and the world is right. And we are going to love this week of eating, and partying, and shaking hands with salespeople, and eating some more. The golf itself, I believe, is scheduled for a half-hour on Sunday, from 3:15 to 3:45, after which we resume the parties and the handshaking. We’ll even shake hands with you Europeans. The fingerprint ink should wash off by then.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com”

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