Last Night's Winner: The Return Of Bill WaltonS

In sports, everyone is a winner — some people just win better than others. Like weird, wonderful ol' Bill Walton, at last healthy again and back to doing the thing he does best: being ridiculous in public.

Walton took in a Giants game with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann yesterday — it was Jerry Garcia Tribute Night down at the big toy box in China Basin — and during the seventh-inning stretch the trio led 7,000 kazoo-playing fans in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

I realize Walton's not for everyone. There was a long time that all his orotund gushing — the "terrrrrible"s; the Stockholm syndromy paeans to John Wooden; the way he'd call Grizzlies-Pacers in December as if it were the Battle of Thermopylae — seemed like basketball's answer to Madden's studied blockheadedness: a clown act perpetrated by otherwise very smart people for the folks watching at home. Then not long ago he stopped doing games, and we were left with the likes of crabby Jeff Van Gundy and professional boring person Mike Breen — who I maintain is the only man to go to a basketball game and root for the refs — and suddenly national hoops broadcasts felt a lot smaller. It turns out Walton's decades-old back condition had gotten considerably worse, and the pain was such that he couldn't even work. He would later liken it to "being submerged in a tub of boiling acid with an electrified current running through it" and admit that he was very nearly driven to suicide. (He eventually found a surgeon pioneering a less-invasive and apparently effective form of spinal surgery.)

All of which is to say that it's nice to have him back saying preposterous things (he's tutoring Roy Hibbert, whom Walton seems to have mistaken for Hamlet) and generally being a public weirdo again. Last night's kazoo serenade was supposedly some sort of attempt at a Guinness World Record, and even if it mostly failed I can't think of a better way for Walton to have returned to public life: the Big Redhead once again making happy, inexplicable buzzing noises into a microphone, the doodah man in full.