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Broken Rib or Not, Casa de Campo Here I Come
I remember when my buddy Nicky Priore went down to Disneyworld with his family a few years back. Poor guy hadn't had a vacation in three years. He'd survived the "Winter from Hell" in upstate New York. That would be the winter of 1994, where the month of January saw not only 23 feet of snow, but the temperature never once topped 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Blizzards crippled the area well into April, and it even snowed on May 5th.
Well, Nicky finally gets to take a vacation out of that igloo - the first real vacation for his kids, and it's Disneyworld, Augusta National for kids for all intents and purposes - and it's his first break from a civil litigation practice in three, long nerve-jangling years, and what happens?
His wife and kids all get chicken pox the day they arrive.
"Cruel fates!!" he wailed plaintively. "Why do you mock me so??"
That's how I felt the second I tried to take my first breath after the rib-cracking fall I took trying to get off the LIRR train last week. I knew I had broken and/or cracked ribs and was seriously hurt. And I was 10 days away from going to Casa de Campo for my big assignment on Dominican golf.
You gotta be joking.
For the next 10 days, I've was operating at less than half-strength and speed. The first four days were excruciating, couldn't sleep, could barely move, was a shell of my former self. For the first week I only had the energy to work half-days in the law office. The pain still comes and goes in fits and spurts. It only hurts when I breathe, sneeze, cough, hiccup, laugh, move, bend, twist, turn, reach, walk, sit, or - shudder - lie down. Sleep is intermittent at best. Tossing and turning in pain at worst. I don't know what's worse - getting on the couch (or into bed), or getting off it (getting out of bed).
Worst of all, there's no treatment for it. You can't re-set the bone. You can't wrap the torso because that will constrict breathing even more. You just have to grin and bear it four to six weeks.
That being said, I'm doing the Casa trip. In fact, I'm sitting here right now, wheels down in the Dominican, at the resort's Lago Grill, ceviche lunch on the way and a tall glass of Brugal Viejo - the Cadillac of rums - at my left hand.
Remember that name: Brugal Viejo. Viejo means old, Brugal means tasty!
Anyway I can hear the screaming and scheming from all of you, a fiendish hell-broth of "Are you nuts?" "How is this possible?" and "You're going to hurt yourself worse and ruin the rest of the year."
Well guess what? No I'm bloody not. I'm not nuts, I'm not blowing the rest of the golf season, and I specialize in making the impossible possible. Just ask any of my law clients about that one.
I am not an idiot, and I am not a martyr. There are some excellent reasons why I'm still going . . . err . . . here:
• If I don't go, someone else might get the gig. You don't give someone else the chance to steal your workload. Never forget! The reward for good work is more work. And all too frequently, guys who pass off the job find themselves permanently replaced by their second substitute. I know a few world-class golf writers who got their start because the guy above them had to take a pass for whatever reason. Screw that, Jack. As Dan Jenkins says, you gotta play hurt. Tom Brady is a Hall of Fame quarterback and three-time Super Bowl winner because Drew Bledsoe got hurt on a freak play. You think I'm going to do six months of prep work and then pass the gig to my understudy? Not in this lifetime.
• What better place to convalesce than an island paradise? Part of my gig is to tell you what it's like to take a vacation somewhere. Well, we'll see exactly how restorative five days at Casa de Campo is on my ribs.
• I need a rest - I haven't had a break in 18 long months. You try practicing law in New York City - some litigation to boot - and then see if those gibbering water-heads don't bring you down faster than a piano falling off a building.
• I'm a gamer. I don't quit. I have the next five weeks to rest before the next big assignment (Winged Foot). I plan on "shutting it down" the minute I get done. In a choice between going around meekly and fighting my way through this, I'll battle. I'm a Trinity bantam. We go, fight, win. Besides, Tiger won a U.S. Open with a crack in his leg, and Ben Hogan won a U.S. Open after nearly getting squashed flat by a Greyhound bus. We hadn't seen worse driving till Phil at Winged Foot.
• A rib injury is a walking injury. Hogan was a man of extraordinary discipline, so I'm following his treatment regimen: rest, sleep, hot-water baths and showers, nothing stronger than aspirin, stretching and taking it easy when not on the golf course. Besides, football quarterbacks play games with bruised or cracked ribs all the time.
I'm not about to lash a driver, but I will try to gently bunt the ball around while concentrating more on breaking down the four golf courses at Casa like a fraction for you. I'll put a half-swing together with popsicle sticks, duct tape and chicken wire, but I'm also not about to swing with a full coil while trying to drive a par-4. I'm just going to do the lowest impact actions I can exert and just try to make it around the course. I'm crazy like a fox . . . but not crazy.
"Hey, I broke my ribs and ended up with a much better golf game because of it," confided one friend. "I learned to swing more slowly and the ball goes farther and straighter with more consistency than when I tried to play like a hot-blooded young Turk."
Look, if it's not working, I will shut it down, and short of going into a hyperbaric chamber every night or having Tiger's doctor inject me with strange substances (cough, cough, Dr. Galea! Dr. Galea! cough cough), I've had the best advice and a team of people backing my moves. If I can't play, I will shut it down and just walk around, take pictures, putt and write about it. I'll get plenty of beach and Jacuzzi time. But I've got a job to do, and after 18 months without a break from the lunacy that is practicing law in New York City, I'm going to decompress. And I'm going to give it the old college try. I have six more weeks to recover before the U.S. Open.
So I'm a human guinea pig this week as well as a sportswriter. You get to be the fly on the wall. Strap yourself in, it should be interesting. The ceviche was tasty, the Brugal sweet as candy, and the sunshine calling my name like Britt in a negligee.
Well, maybe not that good.
But I do have a date with Teeth of the Dog. You think I'm passing that up for a hot dog cart in TriBeCa? Guess again. I'll break four more ribs myself with a hammer before that happens.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma 's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. A four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf - or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.