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Adventures in the land of cyber golf

Let's face it. Video games are a tragic waste of time. As is spending your off-work hours impaled on a barstool.

Hence the beauty of the Cyber Center Sports Bar and Grill. Only here can you enjoy two of life's greatest time-wasters at the same time in the same place.

Sure, the guilt begins to creep in the moment you enter the place. But guilt is like the national deficit in the way it loses meaning when the numbers get too big. Once you reach a certain level, when $1 trillion becomes $2 trillion and so on, when booze and video games enter an unholy marriage of futility, you just have to give in and go with it.

Only a man could have conjured the idea of this place. Any woman with an ounce of self-preservation should run screaming from the site or strap on a half-pound of C-4 and wipe it from the face of the earth, Hamas-style.

I have no statistical proof, but I'll wager video games have destroyed more relationships than domestic violence and philandering put together. Men are to blame for this. Video games are made by us and for us.

I once watched as "Madden NFL 2004" vaporized a friend's marriage. I remember so many nights grinding out a Bears vs. 49ers game with my buddy, while his wife sat sad and lonely at the end of the couch. After four or so hours she would meekly announce she was going to bed and disappear without either of us noticing until the final whistle.

Throw alcohol into this mix and good-bye hot lovin' and hello cold, cold twin bed at the Comfort Inn.

What immediately strikes you about the Cyber Center is its size. It's huge, like medieval-castle big. High ceilings, tons of floor space, rooms that jut off into multiple directions and a dungeon. I'll talk more about the dungeon later.

I spent a few days there last week and can honestly say I had a good time. They had every game you could imagine glowing from between 50 and 60 televisions scattered across the room.

The most daunting visual flourish is a wall of flat-screen televisions glued together in the upper corner of the main beer hall. Fifteen, count 'em, 15 idiot boxes span the length of a wall, each tuned to a different channel. It looks like something from the command room in "24."

I admit I was a bit disoriented when I stared at the thing for too long. My eyes darted back and forth from the Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Charges game, to a bloody cage fighting match, the Mark Wahlberg underdog sports flick "Invincible," a "Girls Gone Wild" commercial and a motocross race. If it sounds like a "Clockwork Orange" moment, it was.

Confronted with so many entertainment choices that overloaded my brain, at one point and I found myself staring at a small, dark space between two televisions, as if it were some beacon of sanity in the high-def madness.

I turned away from the digital wall and was drawn to the golf simulator located in the back of the bar. For $20 per hour you can hone your golf game by swatting a ball into a screen tuned to real courses located throughout the United States.

I took a couple of swings and was instantly hooked. I like real golf as much as the next guy, but I am horrible at it. My friends hate going with me because I'm the guy that holds everyone up while I search for my ball in the adjacent fairway.

Not so in digital golf. For that brief moment I may not have been Tiger Woods, but I wasn't a bumbling novice and an embarrassment to my friends. I think the golf simulator would go over well in several bars across the Rogue Valley. When I asked the Cyber Center's general manager, Brian Evans, a friendly, helpful dude who seems to know what he's doing, he said they are expensive and require a lot of work to function properly.

Plus, the Cyber Center clientele are a laid-back bunch and can be trusted to wield golf clubs responsibly. Giving a Jagermeister-soaked knuckle-dragger at Ground Zero a golf club is probably not the best idea.

Next door to the golf game is the hunting simulator. If I ever strike it rich, I know I will end up like Daniel Day Lewis' character in "There Will Be Blood" and spend my hours locked deep in my basement eating raw meat and playing my hunting simulator all night and most of the day.

The way it works is you stand behind a wooden fence, yes the Cyber Center crew built an actual fence inside the place, and blast digital elk, wild boar, pheasant, clay pigeons, shot glasses, whiskey bottles and disco balls with a plastic handgun, shotgun, rifle or bow.

Think Nintendo's original "Duck Hunt" game on a godlike level.

Evans let me play a few rounds for the story I wrote about the place last week. I approached the simulator straight-faced, playing the role of the serious journalist, but after a few minutes Evans and I were laughing like fourth-graders while I capped a wild boar in the head with the handgun. Gangsta-style, yo.

From there it was off to the video game dungeon located in a dark room off the bar. Inside were the serious gamers, well hidden from the social beasts next door. For $3.50 per hour you can tackle the online epics "World of Warcraft" and "Left 4 Dead" on spiffy flat-screen televisions.

The video game room is creepy, but that feeling went out the window when I tried a round of "Gears of War 2" and the rest of the world disappeared for a while. I always leave video games feeling like Ray Milland in "The Lost Weekend" in that I have a vague feeling time has passed and events have transpired around me, but I cannot make the necessary connections after being lost in the virtual space populated by aliens, zombies and spaceships.

In all I think the Cyber Center is a welcome attraction in Medford's nightlife scene. I always like to see something new that appeals to a niche of people who otherwise might spend their Friday nights sequestered in their rooms with only a flickering screen and a hand-held controller for company.

Oh yeah, the Cyber Center has $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon pints every night of the week. And the very affordable food's not bad, either. I had the fettuccini alfredo one night, and it tasted a bit too much like silicon, but the barbecue chicken sandwich is a fine slice of animal homicide between slices of bread.

The Cyber Center is tucked away on Automation Way off Biddle Road just before the Medford airport. Visit its Web site at www.cybercentersportsgrill.com.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.