Forget Greg Norman holding the 54-hole lead at the British Open at age 53 having practiced almost as little as John Daly. The biggest upset of this golf season without Tiger Woods is Charles Barkley spending a week in Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship without gambling once.
I didn't really believe the reports at first - let's face it, most reporters in town for a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe aren't going to spend their time trailing Barkley to see if he lives up to his self-imposed temporary gambling ban (unless it's charity poker!) - but after talking to Tahoe PR guru Phil Weidinger I'm buying it.
"Charles really didn't gamble," said Weidinger, the rare PR guy who'd call Barkley on any bull. "He stayed true to his word."
Which doesn't that Barkley didn't dance on top of bars, hand out more free drinks than a politician who's won election night (only Barkley foots those bills - including one Tahoe tab of $10,000) and genuinely have more fun than any man alive. It turns out that Barkley, unlike John Daly can abstain from one of his vices, while enjoying several others.
If you've ever been in Lake Tahoe during the American Century Championship and haven't had a drink bought for you by Barkley, you're just not trying.
Especially if you're a woman. Barkley will buy drinks for fat women, skinny women, ugly women, model-like women. He's the least discriminatory drink purchaser you've ever seen - and he's not looking for anything in return. A lot of times he cannot even see who he's buying a drink for as he hands shots out back through a crowd.
There's a few stories of Barkley's larger-scale generosity going around right now. He paid for the college tution of a busboy at Philadelphia restaurant he frequents when he found out the guy was still struggling to find the money to complete his education degree at age 28. He donated $100,000 to the Angora Fire Fund for victims of last year's Lake Tahoe fires that destroyed 254 homes.
But the best story about Barkley and the Tahoe fires, the one you don't hear much about, is how he took almost 100 Tahoe firefighters out to dinner at Cabo Wabo at Harvey's Lake Tahoe casino. Barkley actually spends his time with regular people rather than just scratching out checks. And it's after that dinner - with plenty of drinks - with the firefighters that Barkley decided to donate $100,000 (orginally he'd planned on $25,000).
Barkley's wasted way more than that in gambling of course - as his high-profile debt dispute with Wynn Las Vegas showed. But so do a lot of other celebs and they're not balancing it with Barkley-like good deeds.
Charles Barkley not gambling in Tahoe isn't just the upset of the golf summer. Charles Barkley is still the best sports celeb story period out there.