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All Points West: The other side of the world no different
March 11, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Arriving in South Korea a week ago, I realized how much golf is loved here, probably just as much as it is anywhere else, except that because of the limited space here, courses seem to crop up almost anywhere including in the middle of an Army base in Daegu. Golfers play through a series of holes, which leave no protection for the innocent bystander strolling just mere feet away down a nearby sidewalk. Balls go flying over a haphazardly strung net designed to prevent the small projectiles from pinging cars and bouncing dangerously down city streets. Pick anytime of day, any day of the week, golfers appear like crack addicts on the narrow links. Like any crowded city in Southeast Asia, the designs accommodate for limited space. The narrow courses borrow from the already valuable real estate, but for good reason. Beyond the small patches of grass and sand traps, pavement, bricks, houses and high-rise buildings cover the rest of the city, leaving little uncovered; bare ground is a rare sight.

The Republic of South Korea is about the size of Indiana surrounded by the Yellow Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. Daegu’s citizens outnumber all Nebraskans by about a million. Relegated to a finite space, the South Koreans have nowhere to build, but up. Exercise becomes a premium. Hills, which butt right up to civilization here, give a false impression of escape. Hikers and runners head up steep trails to get a bird’s eye view. Age is not a factor. Slowing down doesn’t mean the elderly stop exercising.

Given the wide-open spaces of the Midwest, I’m left to wonder what’s stopping a lot of us from getting out. Though, in a contradictory effort, there are others who wear masks, due to the air currents, which carry China’s industrial efforts directly over the peninsula. Without too much thought to the damage it might have caused us, a merry band of three KATUSA soldiers, or South Korean conscripts, and I galloped up 4.4 miles worth of steep terrain, past priceless sights, including an ornate religious temple.

At our finish, an observatory about the height of the Scotts Bluff National Monument, we captured a moment of glory. A stiff breeze was just enough to shake off the last remnants of jet lag. There wasn’t any way to really rest along the course unless you wanted to roll backward. Fear of such a fall, the thought of embarrassment more than injury kept me juiced. There was no quit.

The young KATUSAs, all around 20-years old, in contrast to their elders on the golf course, and on this particular hiking/running course, seemed to be against the whole idea of physical exertion, just when I was beginning to think the entire culture valued being fit. They are a lot like university students anywhere, who’d rather get drunk and sleep late. A slight disappointment set in. Because they are conscripts, fitness is one of the orders of the day. For this country’s older generations, just like our American ancestors, it is a way of life based on a once agrarian society.

Meanwhile, my American compatriots would rather talk sports. College basketball tourneys have yet to be played, and may well give the distinctive preview to the madness about to take place. Last weekend, in the MMA world, Nate Diaz scored a stunning upset against Conor McGregor in UFC 196. To think, the Irishman was about to be the face of UFC founder Dana White’s creation, after Rhonda Rousey found herself vulnerable – this according to Sports Illustrated. McGregor appeared on the magazine cover, and for those of you who believe the curse, well …

Longing for sports, bound by exercise schedules, we expound on the merits of finding the right coaches and quarterbacks for our favorite NFL teams. Now that Peyton Manning annunced his retirement and Brock Osweiler has verbally committed to the Texans, who will Denver’s John Elway select? Or, will the Broncos front office look for someone who is more seasoned? God forbid the team sign RGIII. Discussions strangely segued into how the Colorado Avalanche, Stanley Cup favorites, have done so far this season. Seeing results in the Pacific Stars and Stripes doesn’t feel the same as seeing them on TV or live in the Pepsi Center. In a reminiscent mood, my fellow Wyoming Guard soldier ticked off the fights in a large-scale melee between the Avs and Detroit Red Wings players in March 1997. The brawl was nicknamed Bloody Wednesday, Fight Night at the Joe, and Brawl in Hockey Town.
Fast-forward to the alumni game last month at Coors Field between the two teams, a match, which the Avs won 5-2 – a much tamer affair. The game featured Colorado’s Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg and Detroit’s Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Kris Draper. Roy is 50, and still managed to quickly drop to the ground to stop speeding pucks.

Wonder how his knees felt on the cold ice.

All I got to say about the drive – golf, football, hockey, or otherwise – this side of the world isn’t that much different. I felt like Rocky Balboa on the top of that hill.
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