There is a secret killer out there stalking us. I’m not talking about sexting while driving, eating a green salad in Germany or accidentally stepping between a Casey Anthony reporter and a camera, because everyone knows those things will kill you. No, I’m talking about things you wouldn’t expect – common, everyday activities thought to be truly harmless, things you might even think are beneficial, like playing golf, a vacation cruise or watching baseball.
I can’t tell you how many guys are out on golf courses right now bragging about their open-heart surgeries. They are all happy to tell me “I was technically dead for seven minutes” while I am in the middle of my backswing or “I just had my second quadruple bypass” in the middle of my putt or “My doctor can’t understand why I’m still alive,” which, after playing with him for a while, I wondered, too. An astounding number of golfers seem to suffer heart disease, as well as arthritis, lumbago, sciatica, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, in various combinations.
You may think it’s admirable that they still play, even though they suffer myriad medical problems. That may be, but it is also a fact that most of these men were perfectly healthy before they took up the sport. Now, after 50 or 60 years, it is taking its deadly toll. I’ve played golf for only 10 years, and already my doctor says I should lose weight and get my blood pressure under control – two problems I never had before I picked up a club. Each day I hear that another golfer has gone to that big clubhouse in the sky. Can any sport be more dangerous than golf? Rock climbing? Base jumping? Car racing? Ski jumping? Why was I not warned of the risks?
I told Sue I was thinking of giving up golf and taking up something safer and less strenuous. She said she didn’t think that would be possible.
“Besides, you wouldn’t like bass fishing. You should be doing something more strenuous, not less. Why don’t you stop taking the cart and walk the course.” What a bunch of crazy talk. Some are just too blind to see.
Taking her advice, however, I decided to become more active. In addition to playing golf, I started going to baseball games.
But it turns out that the activities even less strenuous than golf are also filled with danger. Most people would think it’s safe to sit in the stands and watch seven of nine guys do pretty much nothing for a few hours. So I’m at the game eating curly fries and nachos smothered in some cheese product and I hear the guy behind us telling his friend about his “zipper job” heart surgery. It hit me that most of the people in the stands were overweight in spite of all that seventh-inning stretching, in spite of walking from the parking lot to the ballpark, in spite of reaching to hand money to the beer guy. And I couldn’t help but notice there were rows of empty seats in the season-ticket holders’ boxes. The people who came most often were dead, killed by the sport they loved.
Someday a doctor will say to you, after months of expensive and painful tests, that there’s nothing more she can do, that you have six months to live. What a waste of time and energy. All she really had to do is ask a few simple questions, and the result would be the same. “You’re watching the Weather Channel 10 hours a day. You have six months to live.”
“You’re playing golf four days a week. Do you want me to call hospice?”
“I see you’re taking another cruise to Alaska. Have you made a living will?”