Bye Bye Baby*

*that's what Charles Barkley said to me when he left me at the 15th Hole at Edgewood Golf Course


from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Go 2 Guy: At 'Party with Arty,' Barkley and friends grab spotlight


STATELINE, Nev. -- "Ten thousand five hundred?! That ain't enough, little fella!"

It's Wednesday night in the Harrah's Casino showroom, and Charles Barkley is smack-talking Marcus Allen as they bid for a trip to Wimbledon, a charity item at the American Century Championship.

"Hey, $15,000!" Barkley shouts from his spot next to the bar.

Emcee/auctioneer John O'Hurley informs Barkley that Allen just raised the bid to $15,500.

"Hey, man!" Barkley yells to Allen. "You're bringing a knife to a gunfight. $20,000!"


Besides the celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe, there are several peripheral events such as this one, an auction that was preceded by an elegant buffet dinner and followed by a standup routine from Cedric the Entertainer.

Barkley takes the stage to introduce the headliner but gets off a couple of cracks before he does.

"As y'all know, I'm probably not gonna win this thing, I'm here for the gamblin'," Barkley said. "But I want you to know that no matter how good you think you are in this room, you're not at the greatest level. So you suck just like I do."

Cedric the Entertainer is funny, but not hilarious Barkley funny. The next show is about to start in Harrah's lounge. It's a "Party with Arty," but Arty the keyboard and karaoke guy is about to turn the spotlight over to Barkley and friends.

About 200 people crowd around as Ray Allen takes one of the mikes and sings a background vocal to "Brick House." For the next two hours, the Sonics star is center stage, but if this were baseball, he'd be the set-up man, and Barkley the closer.

In less than an hour, Sir Charles buys 10 bottles of Patron tequila and pours double shots into plastic cups for dancers and drinkers around the stage. He takes several swigs himself and is unquestionably the life of Arty's party.

Former Coug Mark Rypien has a tradition here of interrupting the hip-hop and rap music with his rendition of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." Part of the crowd swayed and sang along, but Barkley glared.

"I love Mark Rypien," he says to the crowd. "But if he ever plays that song again, I'm gonna kill him."

With that, Barkley polishes off the last shot from the 10th bottle with help from Jerry Rice.

"I'm sorry, I gotta go," he says. "If I don't gamble, I'll break out in a rash."

Barkley told ESPN he has lost $10 million gambling. He won't quit but is trying to bet in moderation. Asked how much he was up or down playing 21 in the high-rollers room Wednesday night, Barkley said: "Up about a hundred (thousand)."

BEN ROETHLISBERGER arrived at the range before 8 a.m. Thursday, attracting more media attention than Donald Trump, who hit balls next to him.

Roethlisberger is a big story because he led the Steelers past the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and an even bigger story after a helmet-less accident on his motorcycle last month in Pittsburgh.

For the first time, Roethlisberger spoke about the incident on ESPN Wednesday night and said he nearly died. Aside from talking to Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times and Roy Firestone on Thursday, Roethlisberger won't address the scribes here until this morning.

That didn't stop some of us from observing him, and one of us sunk lower than a divot to blatantly eavesdrop on two of his conversations.

"You look good," Maury Povich told Roethlisberger.

"Thank you, I feel good," Roethlisberger said.

I'd never seen him close-up before the accident so I have no idea if he looked about the same, worse or maybe even better after breaking his jaw and other facial bones. He looked completely unblemished from my range, maybe 10 feet away.

"Are you going to be able to go full speed from the beginning?" Trump asked him.

"Yeah," Roethlisberger said.

Fans with his No. 7 jersey lined the green fence behind the range and watched him hit a handful of balls with his Nike clubs, smacking drives that towered over the pines and traveled straight, too.

AFTER ROETHLISBERGER left for his 7:55 tee time, I hung out behind Trump's bag for half an hour. He hit some good shots and more bad ones, while finding time to be interviewed, pose for photos with fans and schmooze with other rich people.

He seemed bothered by interview requests and short with responses. In a crafty veteran move, I asked yet another Trump assistant if I could talk to him, and the guy said yes, when Trump was finished.

I prepared a few questions, realizing I'd get about 60 seconds with the man. I also chose not to give him a hard time for rejecting my request to caddie for him because he probably didn't hear about it anyway.

"So what was harder for you, turning 60 or fatherhood at 60?" I asked.

Trump's wife, Melania, gave birth to The Donald's fifth kid three months ago, a boy named Barron.

"Definitely turning 60," he said. "The concept of fatherhood I've handled well. But I see friends of mine who are 60 and I go (bleep)! Sixty! That's getting up there, no question about it."

Trump has said he doesn't change diapers and indicated Thursday he doesn't get awakened at night because "I've got a wife who watches the baby so beautifully."

At that point he was whisked away from the questions and onto the course, his hair not-so-neatly tucked under his red cap.

RAY ALLEN is about to tee off but finds a few minutes to hit balls and answer questions. But first I had to poke fun at his karaoke skills.

"When people do karaoke, who can sing?" Allen said, lamely defending himself. He would get a better shot in later.

Allen addressed a variety of subjects. He said the KeyArena issues won't affect the players, and he hopes free agent Chris Wilcox stays with the team.

"He's in a whirlwind right now," Allen said. "We've been playing phone tag. I definitely want him to understand how much we need him. What he did at the end of the season, he could do for an entire season. Contract-wise, if he plays well, he doesn't have to worry about money."

Regarding controversial first-round draft choice Mouhamed Saer Sene, Allen said: "I was booed when I was drafted by Milwaukee. We all have to assume the guy is going to be able to play and help us a lot. They wouldn't have drafted him (No.) 10 if he couldn't play.

"And really, how much do you get out of first-year players anyway, especially this year because the draft is so much weaker?"

Allen won't guarantee a playoff berth next year, saying: "All I can guarantee is when people come in the building, they're going to enjoy themselves. We're going to do as a team what we're expected to do."

A Bob Weiss backer a year ago, he's a Bob Hill backer now.

"He's a great motivator, and he's going to get on you, but he always peppers it with good stuff," Allen said of his coach. "You can see his passion. He'll cheer on the sidelines and it breeds on down the bench."

Allen then tackled a more important topic, wondering if I wanted to bet on his score. What? Of course. He's a 6-handicapper, and we set the over-under at 77.

I caught up with Allen again on the par-5 18th tee. Naturally, he was 1-under. "Want to go double or nothing on this hole?" he asked.

So we did, Allen needing to make birdie to win again. What happens? He smokes a 310-yard drive down the right side, has 180 left, hits a branch with his approach, lands in a bunker, knocks it out to 15 feet and naturally makes the downhill birdie putt.

An index finger is pointed my way, and I wanted to respond with a different finger but settled on a handshake instead.

"Remind me to never bet against a professional athlete again," I told Allen.

"No," he said, "I'll remind you to not bet against me again."

The amount of the bet was nominal ... to one of us.

MORE BARKLEY: Can there ever be too much? In between tequila pours, I asked Barkley if I could get five minutes with him on Thursday. He obliged, and the quickie Q&A was conducted on the first two holes of his round in which he hit his drives everywhere but down the middle.

Lance Armstrong is here, helping raise money for charitable causes, which is a very cool thing, but he's not a true athlete according to Barkley.

"Nobody riding a bike can be considered great," Barkley said. "Everybody can ride a bike. He's in phenomenal shape, but he rides a bike."

Asked if he likes the idea of Michelle Wie playing against the men, as she is again this week at the John Deere Classic: "No, 'cuz she's a woman. She's trying to see if she can make the cut. If you can't win, don't do it. She needs to learn to win against people her own age. Making the cut doesn't mean anything to me."

And he has a dog. What kind? "A little, I don't know what you call the (bleep)," he said.

Barkley has lost 25 pounds and hopes to lose 25 more, trimming down for a special occasion in September.

"I don't want to be a fat (bleep) when I go into the Hall of Fame," he said.