Sunday, February 28, 2021


I had a plan for the sunset of Tiger Woods' professional golf career.

I had it all mapped out in my head and I was going to submit it to him like it was a movie script, because, really, that's how he's played the game: Like an unbelievable movie. Like an aging and broken Babe Ruth hitting three home runs in one of his last games. Like Roy Hobbs in "The Natural," knocking the cover off the ball. The icon and his moment.

My script went something like this:

He's currently 45 years old with 15 majors, just three shy of reigning king Jack Nicklaus. Woods also has 82 career PGA victories, tying him with Sam Snead for the career lead.

But numerous back and knee surgeries, an ensuing opioid addiction and some billowing private demons slowed Tiger's quest to catch Jack. It's amazing how many surgeries Woods has endured for somebody who excelled at a championship level in a non-contact sport.

Then came a Hollywood moment when he won his fifth Masters tournament (and 15th major) two years ago, ending an 11-year major title victory drought. I'm not sure many people saw that coming, but the victory resurrected hope in many of his fans that Tiger was still on track to reach 18. A difficult chore, for sure. But that's how high Jack had set the bar.

In my script, Tiger would somehow win two more majors in the next five years. Who would bet against him? It was certainly plausible. Tiger had become inconsistent as he got older, but no less competitive. I'm sure there were two more majors somewhere in his golf bag. Then, at age 50, he would join the PGA Champions Tour. Gloriously, he would win his 18th major – fittingly the Masters – as a senior player in the way that Tom Watson nearly won the British Open in 2009 when he was 59 years old.

It would be the exclamation point of a somehow star-crossed career. The icon and his moment.

But my script didn't include a rollover single-vehicle accident that probably came closer than we know to the amputation of his right leg. When I saw the pictures of the wrecked vehicle Tiger was driving Tuesday morning when he lost control, I was astonished. The wreck didn't look survivable.

We learned the next day that a rod had been inserted in his right tibia to stabilize the breaks in his leg. Pins and screws held his foot together. The fear of bone infection in the first 24 hours of his recovery would determine whether or not he kept his leg. Fear of infection still might be an issue.

The legs are everything to an athlete, maybe even more so than his core. The legs are the engine that provides the power, the stability, the balance needed to perform. The right leg to a right-handed golfer is all of that.

So now Tiger's future in golf is a question mark and not an exclamation point. Everything depends on his recovery and the physical therapy he'll receive. And golf? Will the leg be strong enough to handle the torque generated by his swing? Will there be pain in every step he takes? Will there be enough endurance to play four rounds in a tournament?

Tiger has already left his mark on the game. He brought athleticism to the golf course, bringing power to go along with precision. Golf courses had to be redesigned and 'Tiger proofed" to make tournaments competitive for the other players. The technology behind golf clubs and golf balls were altered. 

Club houses were also altered as Woods, a person of color, broke many of golf's elitist social barriers. I'm not sure Tiger ever wanted to be a messenger of social change, but he quietly carried that burden with dignity, too.

And attendance swelled at golf tournaments that Tiger was in. So did TV viewership. Golf was no longer a peripheral sport when Tiger was playing.

I guess I'll have to rewrite my script. It might resemble the Ben Hogan story. Hogan recovered from a devastating auto accident in the prime of his golf career in 1949 when a Greyhound bus materialized out of the fog and plowed into his vehicle. It took nearly a year before Hogan stepped on a golf course again, but he went on to win six more majors on a limited schedule and while playing in pain.

We don't know where Tiger will be in a year, much less next week. And while we're not there yet, golf without Tiger Woods is a rude and sad possibility.

But mostly sad.

My favorite Tiger commercials. He was just goofing off when the first one was filmed.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Bits and pieces

I have several thoughts running through my head this morning, so instead of a single blog dedicated to one subject, I'm going to run down a stream-of-consciousness assembly line and we'll see what happens:

• As I've gotten older, I find it more and more difficult to stand on one foot. Don't laugh. This is an essential skill if you're trying to put on one sock at at time, or to put on a pair of pants.

I once heard from a rehab specialist that as we age, the capillaries in our extremities deteriorate, thus inhibiting the flow of blood to nerve endings - especially in our feet. We literally lose touch with the earth, and it goes far to explain why older people tend to fall more often.

It's probably a good idea not to put on socks or pants on while in the bathroom. Nothing good can happen falling in a room surrounded by porcelain fixtures like sinks, tubs and commodes. Might be best to put on socks or pants in the bedroom, where there's a soft mattress to land on.

• Sheldon Cooper fun fact: In 1961, the American League expanded to 10 teams with the addition of the Washington Senators and the Los Angeles Angels. That necessitated expanding the season by eight games, from 154 to the current 162 (unless there's a pandemic, when there's only 60 games).

But expansion didn't hit the National League until the following year with the addition of the Houston Colt 45s and the New York Mets. 

Consequently, the American League played a 162-game schedule in 1961, while the National League played a 154-game season. Asterisks all over the place, huh?

I had forgotten that.

• I'm not sure what to make of the Boeing 777 that literally lost an engine over Denver Saturday. It caught fire in flight and dropped engine parts over a residential suburb.

The plane didn't crash. No lives were lost. And it landed safely back in Denver with a trail of smoke behind it. Does this mean Boeing makes incredible aircraft that just keep flying under all sorts of duress, or was the whole episode just plain luck?

Early speculation centers around metal fatigue, especially in the jet engine fan blades. The Triple 7 came into service in 1994, and this particular plane is said to be one of the oldest in the fleet. It could be 27 years old.

I once flew in a Ford Tri-Motor that was 70 years old at the time, and later in a Consolidated B-24 that was also about 70 years old when I flew in it. Metal fatigue never entered my mind.

How does metal fatigue happen anyway? Does metal just say, "OK, I'm tired now," and give up its properties? Yikes.

This particular flight was scheduled to fly from Denver to Hawaii. It could have been a lot worse.

• Sheldon Cooper fun fact: When George Washington commanded the American Army in 1775, he was 43 years old. I always had it in my mind that he was older. Other Founding Fathers that year were John Hancock, 39; John Adams, 40; and Thomas Jefferson, 32.

Revolutions are not for the elderly. Unless you're Ben Franklin. He was 69.

• And what's up with Texas Senator Ted Cruz?

While his state is suffering incredible hardship during the recent winter vortex, he slips away to Cancun? And then blames his error of judgment on his daughters when he realizes this isn't a good look if he ever wants to become president?

Our elected officials are put there by the people in order to work for us to make our lives better, not to make their lives better or skip responsibility. Meanwhile, a New York congresswoman raises $2 million and donates it to Texas relief. Where were you, Ted?

This type of irresponsibility goes to character. He may be representing Texas, but the arrogant and self-serving decisions he makes in the Senate affect all of us.

• While the Texas power grid came close to catastrophic failure, and airplanes in our infrastructure are losing body parts, America was still able to put an RV on Mars, equipped with its own helicopter-like drone.

I hope when we finally put a human on Mars, the Martians have a thoughtful and welcoming immigration policy.

Food for thought. That's all for today, folks.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Where are we?

I was going to write a Facebook post letting my friends know that I wasn't going to write a blog today simply because there's just so much to process after Saturday's acquittal of President Trump from impeachment proceedings.

Then I realized explaining my decision would require a blog.

For those of us who hoped for a guilty verdict, the 57-43 outcome was never in doubt, and we knew that. Certainly not with a jury that included co-conspirators (therefore Hawlings, Cruz, et al, couldn't vote to convict themselves), hypocrites (apparently a politician's birthright) and those beholden to donors (another baked-in birthright).

The only real surprise were the seven Republican crossovers, who became the first Senators to cross party lines to vote against a member of their own party in a presidential impeachment. Petty Republican repercussions are pending.

Even Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said Trump was guilty, moments after he voted for Trump's acquittal (hypocrite category).

A guilty verdict was never going to result in jail time anyway.

So what happens now? This is where I need to process.

Because we knew this jury would never convict, the purpose of the impeachment proceedings turned out to be putting Republicans on record with their votes, as well as a desire to keep Trump from running for office in the future.

The next step might be pursuing Section III of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits any person from holding office who "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion..." Trump's incitement of his white nationalist storm troopers of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters to assault the Capitol on Jan. 6 during a Constitutionally-mandated certification of electoral votes is the insurrection. A simple majority vote of Congress, and not an impossible two-thirds vote, is all that is needed.

Outside of that potential Federal remedy, there are civil and criminal investigations underway in both Georgia (where Trump attempted to change the vote count with a threatening phone call to the state's Secretary of State) and New York, where Trump is facing, among other things, charges of racketeering and bank fraud. Convictions there could result in jail time, and even if he gave himself a secret "pocket" pardon before leaving office, that pardon would have no application at the state level.

Our democracy is still in the balance. In a sense, it always has been. Democracy lives on a precarious ledge, and it seems even more so now because of instantaneous social media outlets that essentially allow you to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater while forwarding conspiracy theories – some of them patently absurd – one after the other at the speed of a mouse click.

It all comes down to accountability.

And processing.

Friday, February 12, 2021

This particular milestone

I've been reflecting on all the milestone birthdays in my life.

The first big one, I think, was 16. That's when I got my driver's license and I thought I had become an adult. It was sweet.

Then there was 18, when I had to register for the draft during the Vietnam War era.

And 21, when I could both legally drink alcohol and vote. Sometimes I would have a drink before I voted. And then follow that with a chaser after I voted. Brrrrr.

Then came 30, when I could no longer be trusted.

After that came 50, just because it marked half a century on the planet. Retirement came at 55. And there was 65, when Medicare kicked in.

I never minded any of the milestones. They were basically all just numbers. Sometimes people would take me out to eat, and I would let them. The best part about having birthdays was that I usually got cake. So, yes, I am that shallow.

But today might be different. Today I turn 70.

Seventy is a big number, as aging goes. On the one hand, it lets people know that I'm entering my eighth decade and, in theory, I should have tons of experience and wisdom to impart on those who might care. On the other hand, I really, really feel like taking a nap.

It even sounds old. 70. An Aquarian septuagenarian. Holy smokes.

There's an actuarial aspect to this, too. The life expectancy table after reaching age 70 feature numbers that tend to drop precipitously. Depending on whose table you are looking, the life expectancy for a white male in the United States is 76.8 years, which means I have 6.8 years left to check off my bucket list items.

Fortunately, my bucket isn't very demanding. I think all I really want to see anymore are certain countries in Europe. I want to stand in a pot bunker at St. Andrews in Scotland. I would like to see the beaches of Normandy in France. I would love to visit the Black Forest in Germany, from where the Wehrles germinated (you can only germinate in Germany, you know). We'll see.

I know we should be living our lives to the fullest, but it's not all that easy in the middle of a pandemic.

And, of course, there are random events you don't see coming. I could be bopped on the head by a stray asteroid at any moment, rendering actuarial tables moot. Or the family gene pool might kick in, giving me 20 more years. My Aunt Bea (for real) made it to 102. So you roll the dice and play the odds, I guess.

And maybe stop looking at the actuarial tables.

Unless there's cake on them.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Halfway there

 Kim asked me if I was worried about getting my Covid-19 vaccination.

Not one bit, I said.

So this morning, I went to the Davidson County Health Department at the appointed hour, got the shot – Pfizer – and was back home within 20 minutes.

Originally, I was supposed to get my initial shot on March 5 through a different vendor. But an opportunity came up to get the shot this week, so I jumped on it and made an on-line appointment. I didn't want to have to wait another day, much less another month.

OK, OK. I'm still due for a follow-up shot on March 4, which should give me pretty close to full immunity when I get it. I know everybody is built differently, but the way I see it, I just knocked out needing a ventilator from the equation, should I ever get Covid.

My understanding is that the first Pfizer shot gives you about 50-60 percent protection. The second injection supposedly gives you about 90-percent plus.

As of today, I think I am one of about 46 million adults who have gotten the vaccine, which means I'm doing my part to help the country reach herd immunity. Right now, the vaccine is primarily targeted to first responders, essential workers and those in the population who are age 65 and older. I'm in the "and older" category.

When you get your shot, they keep you for about 15 minutes just to make sure there is no reaction to the shot. So far, my eyes haven't turned yellow, my ears aren't pointed, I haven't grown a tail, and there's no buzzing or ringing sounds in my head. 

They also give you a nice participation gift, a bag that includes a pen, a small container of hand sanitizer, and an information brochure.

Ahh. Information. Apparently, there's a ton of misinformation about the vaccine out there in Qanon world. My favorite misinformation bit is the one that claims bazillionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates helped fund a vaccine that injects microchips into the human blood system for easier government tracking – as if the government doesn't have enough to do. The government has more than enough ways to track you anyway. Pay income taxes? Got a driver's license? Collect social security? Do Facebook algorithms much?

Gates is supposed to be in cahoots with presidential medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci because they're supposedly making millions off this pandemic.

Another fear out there in crazy online community world is that the vaccines have not gotten FDA approval (true) because it was rushed into the community without the usual many years of testing and study. Consequently, those getting the vaccine are nothing more than Guinea pigs and we'll all be sorry this time next year, just you wait and see.

But this is a new type of vaccine, focusing on mNRA lipids (I don't know what that is but it sounds impressive) and not actual virus elements to attack the viral intruder. Given that we're in a global health emergency, the FDA has given emergency approval for use. I'm in.

So, no. I'm not worried. I'm hoping this is ultimately a step toward normalcy. You know, eating in restaurants. Road trips. Vacations. No more masks.

Wait. There's now an annoying ringing in my head. Off. On. Off. On.

Oh, no wonder. Excuse me. I have to get this.

Bill Gates is calling me.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Watch out for Brady

There was a time when I actually rooted for Tom Brady.

That was back in the day when he was the quarterback for the upstart New England Patriots. We're talking 20 years ago, friends. That was back in 2001, when Brady took the Patriots to a narrow 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Yay. The new kid on the block did a pretty good job in that game, with a quarterback rating of 86.2. Plus, I'd lived three years in New England in my youth, so that was a nice touch, too. A connection.

I never thought then that Brady would never leave. Since then, he's appeared in eight more Super Bowls, winning an astonishing five of them.

Consequently, as he kept winning Super Bowls, I started pulling against him. I wanted to see somebody different take home the trophy. Furthermore, there was the added weight of the Spygate (2007) and Deflategate (2014) "scandals" that gave me even more reasons to dislike him. Cheater.

And yet, here he was, appearing in Super Bowls year after year as if they were part of the Patriots regular-season schedule. I kept thinking about some of the quality quarterbacks of the past, like Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton or Buffalo's Jim Kelly, who appeared in multiple Super Bowls and never won. Kelly, in fact, appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls and lost all four. Consecutively. I don't think I ever rooted as hard for a player to win a Super Bowl as I did for Kelly. Maybe I jinxed him. I have that power sometimes.

A ray of hope happened in the offseason when the Patriots traded Brady to Tampa Bay, a so-so franchise that last appeared in the Super Bowl in 2002. Maybe, just maybe, Brady would finally vanish.

Which brings us to today and Super Bowl LV. 

(What's with the Roman numerals anyway? I need my Roman numeral translator and I can't find it. It's like converting kilometers into miles or Celsius into Fahrenheit). I think in normal language, this is Super Bowl 55. Wait. That Arabic numeral actually doesn't look too regal, does it? Maybe Roman numerals work after all. Deal with it.

(Wait. I've seen 55 Super Bowls?).

Brady is 43 years old and would already be in the Football Hall of Fame if he had retired five years ago like a normal person. Somehow, he has the Bucs in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs and their stellar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is 25.

Mahomes could be Brady's son, age-wise, if you think about it.

Usually, it takes a quarterback a season or two to get to know his teammates – their strengths, their weaknesses, their idiosyncrasies. Not only that, how about simply learning the playbook?

None of that mattered to Brady. He's in his 10th Super Bowl. If he wins tonight, he will have won 70 percent of the Super Bowls he's appeared in. That's outrageously phenomenal. It's enough to make me, ummm, respect him. Maybe even pull for him, like I once did. There, I said it.

Mahomes is coming off last year's Super Bowl victory over San Francisco. He's a scrambler, with incredible vision of the field. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm and youthful quickness in his legs. He's in his athletic prime, he's the future of the game, and I like him a lot. Plus, he plays for coach Andy Reid, who once coached the Philadelphia Eagles, the team I've pulled for since 1964.

But back to Brady. He owns all kinds of NFL quarterback records, and almost all the Super Bowl quarterback records. Like him or not, we've been blessed in our lifetimes to see the greatest quarterback who has ever played the game. Period. No argument. It's like having been alive to see Babe Ruth play. Or Hank Aaron.

So who's going to win?

My brain says Kansas City. The Chiefs are clearly the best team, position by position – maybe even at quarterback.

But how can you bet against Brady? The history. The legacy. The experience. The karma.

I don't know. I'm going to say Chiefs 24-17. But my heart says watch out for Brady.