The third-best celebrity sports fan in America is Jack Nicholson, even though this year's Lakers occasionally induce him to leave early.
The second-best celebrity sports fan in America is Samuel L. Jackson, whose tweets about the Olympics were 17 times more entertaining than the Olympics itself.
But the race for best celebrity sports fan in America isn't close. Bill Murray is Secretariat at the Belmont. And the gap widens every year.
Last weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he showed up looking like a 19th-century railroad conductor. He agreed to sign a spectator's body, and wrote BOZO on her forehead. He pretended to steal former 49er Harris Barton's Super Bowl rings. He threw a giant champagne glass full of tees into the gallery. And after his approach to the 18th hole, he picked up his divot and fed it to a spectator like a hunk of wedding cake.
Take an afternoon when the boss isn't looking and just search YouTube for "Bill Murray sports." There he is throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field – after stepping off the mound like a pro. There he is hopping like a kid as Illinois comes back on Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight. There he is coaxing Shaquille O'Neal into one of his finest performances. There he is missing field goals on Letterman. (Dave, it should be said, is not much of a holder.)
My favorite is this short clip where somebody catches him on a golf course and asks him to say a few words in support of the local high-school team. In 57 seconds he urges the kids to do terrible things to their coach, and dumps on their upcoming opponents from Bedford, Indiana: "Take some responsibility and eliminate those Bedford creeps."
Those clips are mixed in with the clips you know from Murray in the movies: Carl Spackler, greenskeeper; Ernie McCracken, spectacularly coiffed bowler; and Bill Murray, defensive liability. But really, it's all one Bill Murray -- the guy who can make people laugh, the guy who obviously loves sports.
He seems to have life figured out better than most of us. He lives in a way a lot of us would -- or hope we would -- if we had fame and money. He takes on a new movie only if he feels like it. He shows up unannounced at random parties, and accepts strangers' invitations for karaoke. Although he won't confirm or deny this, the story is that he comes up behind people on the street, covers their eyes, and when they turn around, says: "No one will ever believe you."
The Cubs games and Pebble Beach are all part of that wandering life. He's a sports bum, and he lives like a sports bum who happens to be a millionaire. (That's a compliment.)
When Bill Murray is around, sports are fun. That's a good lesson for sports fans who lose sleep over a tough loss or obsess over a missed call. Clearly, sports matter to him -- just listen to his beautiful speech when he was inducted into the Sally League Hall of Fame. But they matter to him because they're fun. You get to play golf on a sunny day. Maybe you wear a funny hat. What's better?
I know I said my favorite clip was the one where he talked to the high-school golf team. But my real favorite is the Charleston RiverDogs' video Christmas card. Murray is co-owner of the minor-league team -- that's how he ended up in the Sally League Hall of Fame -- but if you didn't know him, and you watched this, you might think he was the groundskeeper, or the guy who runs the hot-dog stand. The video isn't especially funny, but it's sweet. And Bill Murray looks like just part of the team. He's at a goofy team Christmas party, talking to the camera, having fun.