A couple years back, we were putting together a foursome for golf at First Pitch Arizona. Lawr Michaels had taken up golf in recent years, and when we ended up with a late opening, we extended him the invitation. I was curious, because while I’d known Lawr for a decade, the idea of him golfing was...dissonant.
We get to the course, and Lawr has beaten us there. He’s on the range dressed in Lawr Golf, which consisted of a tie-dyed shirt and denim shorts. After checking in, Lawr and I are sharing a cart.
Now, I can be a little intense about my golf, because focus is critical to maintaining that 25 handicap, so I pull the other guys aside and say, look, I’ll ride with Lawr for nine holes, but then we’ll switch at the turn. They agree, and we set off.
We never switched. I probably would have fended off Jeff and Jason with a nine-iron had they tried to take my spot at the turn. That round with Lawr was one of the best days I’ve had on a golf course. He had just married his longtime girlfriend, Diane, and he told me about how they did it, the trip to New York, the whole amazing story. He told me how he’d taken up golf, playing in a league on a par-three course at home. For two guys ostensibly at a baseball conference, I’m not sure we talked about baseball once.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that day since Monday, when we learned that Lawr had taken a turn for the worse. He’s battled GI issues for a long time, and this morning, we lost him. We lost him too young, with too many rounds left to play, too many drafts left to crush, too much joy left to spread.
Lawr Michaels was pure. He loved baseball, and music, and whatever people you put in his path. I met him back in 2002, at my first First Pitch, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know what to do with this guy with the long hair and funny voice and vague aura of weed. I’d see Lawr twice a year, once at First Pitch, and once in New York for Tout Wars, and I learned two things very quickly: He knew his stuff, and he was the nicest man in fantasy.
He wasn’t just a baseball guy, either. Like many of the old heads in fantasy sports, Lawr had come up in a time when there was no “fantasy industry,” when it was just overgrown children playing a kids’ game based on a kids’ game. Lawr was passionate about music, a guitarist who generously sent me his CD. If you’ve listened to fantasy podcasts, you’ve probably heard riffs from “Downward Facing Dog” in intros and outros. Along with other fantasy aficionados, Lawr started Rock Remnants as a place to write and talk about the music they loved.
Being around Lawr made you a better person. You wanted to match his joy, his heart. Fantasy sports conferences are both collegial and competitive, an environment where you’re hanging out with people you like, but you also need to beat them to gain prestige, build a brand, make a dollar. Lawr Michaels, who could write and analyze with any of them, lived as if that part didn’t exist at all. He just wanted to connect with you, over whatever you loved. Your draft, your team, your new putter, your favorite band, your kid.
Lawr Michaels made our small world a better place, and in doing so, he made the larger world a better place. We mourn him today, but even in doing so, we know that he’d rather we celebrate him, rather we play nine under the lights, or watch nine under a blue sky, all while talking about our 2019 sleepers and the longest Khris Davis homer we saw and the best aftershow we ever attended. Lawr Michaels spread joy, and he would want us to do the same.
Oh, and that guy in the tie-dye and denim? He beat me by eight strokes. Turns out his driver was as pure as the man himself was.