Publish date:

Movie Mulligan

Mention Caddyshack to many a sports fan and he will rise, as if
summoned to lead the class in the Pledge of Allegiance, and
begin recital. "Be the ball," he will say. "Big hitter, the
Lama," and, in dramatic conclusion, "Wanna make 14 dollars the
hard way?"

That so many of us are familiar with these lines from the film,
if not downright fluent in Bill Murray-speak, is a testament to
the 1980 comedy's enduring appeal. This Saturday at 8 p.m. NBC
attempts to trade on that popularity with The Story Behind:
Caddyshack, a 56-minute special that airs before the movie and
includes new interviews with director Harold Ramis and Michael
O'Keefe (who played Danny Noonan). If it seems peculiar that NBC
would devote a Saturday night to showing a film that's been on
cable about every six hours for the past decade, well, that's the
nature of the Caddyshack phenomenon. Here we are, 21 years later,
and pro golfers are still being heckled with Bushwoodisms (as
Justin Leonard was at the 1996 Phoenix Open when fans yelled,
"Miss it, Noonan!"); in fact, at least one, teen phenom Ty Tryon,
was nicknamed for a character in the movie. The media keep the
film aloft: In the past six years SI has mentioned Caddyshack 34
times and alluded to it countless others. Even politicians pay
homage. Upon meeting the Dalai Lama in May, Minnesota governor
Jesse Ventura posed "the most important question" he could think
of: Did His Holiness (who of course is referred to in that
deathless line) ever see Caddyshack? (He hadn't.)

So why is it that a movie that critic Roger Ebert wrote "never
finds a consistent comic note" has inspired a Comedy Central
series--Murray and four of his brothers star in the upcoming
golf-themed The Sweet Spot--and a chain of eateries, the Murray
Bros. Caddyshack restaurants? Some might cite Caddyshack's
timeless theme of class struggle, a triumph of the
putter-wielding proletariat over the bogeying bourgeoisie. More
likely, it is that every guy who ever shanked a drive would love
to be Chevy Chase's charmed Ty Webb, to play with Rodney
Dangerfield's fun-loving Al Czervik and to stand a reasonable
distance from Murray's greenskeeper, Carl Spackler.

For, in one magical melange of dancing gophers, buoyant Baby
Ruths and rock-music-blasting golf bags, they and the rest of the
Caddyshack crew captured the inherent absurdity of a sport we
weren't supposed to laugh at and let us know that sometimes it's
all right, as Webb suggests, to measure yourself against other
golfers by your height, not your score.


Twenty-one years later, pro golfers are heckled with
Caddyshack's "Miss it, Noonan!"