From Bad to Far Worse

Let me just start off by saying this: losing the Ballynizzle Cup sucks. I probably wanted to win it back a little too much, to the detriment of my golf game and my team's chances. That said, there is absolutely no way I'd want to trade places with Jefe right now. In fact, I'm not sure anybody would.

The day after the Nizzle started innocently enough. The plan was to play two rounds of golf in the Denver area before taking a late-night flight home. Everything was going along swimmingly until the second round ended four holes early due to thunderstorms. A minor setback in an otherwise great golf trip.

Suddenly, we were faced with almost six hours to kill before our scheduled 9:44 PM flight. Luckily, we spotted our ol' friend Chili's (a golf-trip staple) on the way back to the Interstate and figured a bowl or three of bottomless chips and salsa would be a good way to kill time. Even if none of us were all that hungry. That morning, we met the "Milkshake Lady" at Castle Pines and had to try one of her world-famous milkshakes . It was one of those rare cases in today's world where something actually lives up to the hype. In fact, I ended up having two milkshakes (one chocolate after the round and one strawberry for the road). I felt like a lead balloon during the second round and really paid the price later that night (two milkshakes and Chili's...not a winning combination), but I will go on record that the second milkshake was worth it. It was that good.

We pulled up to the airport around 6:30 PM, over three hours ahead of time. At least that's what we thought. As we reached the kiosk to check our clubs, I received the first of seven text messages telling us that the departure time had been pushed back. From 9:44 to 10:15. then 10:30. 10:47. 11:15. 11:30. 11:50. Then ultimately 12:10 AM. Our flight didn't leave until 12:30 in the morning. We didn't land at O'Hare until 3:45 AM, sort of an unplanned red-eye flight.

I consider myself to be an extremely patient air traveler. Years of flying in and out of LaGuardia for work have conditioned me to hope for the best and expect the worst. But six hours at Denver International late at night has to be something similar to the survival training that our buddy Ben told us about from his days at the Air Force Academy. In the war for airport supremacy, the man with the most power outlets and gummy worms wins. I managed the battery-life remaining percentage on my iPhone like it was a ticking timebomb. If it had gone down to zero, I would've certainly gone insane. Poor Jimbo was losing that battle - he spent his time trying to be the first person to discover how to comfortably sit in those blue vinyl and metal airport chairs. He gave that up and switched to the rock-hard floor. I knew his brain was turning to mush when he said, "If I ever build my own airport, the floors will be made entirely out of mattresses." It was getting ugly.

The long wait was bad, but it gets worse. After running out of better ideas, Jefe and I decided to scavenge for food. We slumped our dead tired bodies against the sides of the long people movers at DIA and headed towards the center of the B concourse. Along the way, I did what most golfers do in that situation, I simulated an air golf swing -- the same one that led to so many duck hooks and conceded holes over the weekend. Jefe stared at it with a certain glint of satisfaction. You could practically see the thought bubble above his head saying, "Ha! With that swing, I'm going to own the Cup until the day I die!" Suddenly, however, his focus shifted to two kids who were sprinting down the people movers and quickly coming our way. I was blocking the entire walkway with my swing. Jefe warned me to move to the side.

Jefe and I watched as the two kids sprinted past us. Instead, what he should've been watching was the end of the moving walkway. In what now seems like a move out of a bad romantic (or bromantic) comedy, Jefe flailed off the end of the people mover, flung his arms in order to catch his balance and with a mean right-hook PUNCHED ME SQUARE IN THE MOUTH. The worst part is he didn't even know he had done it. He kept on walking as if nothing had happened. I had to stop him with a "Dude, you punch me in the lip," holding my hand up to my mouth to find out that my lip was cut and I was now bleeding profusely from the swinging hand of my former best friend.

Thankfully, the mens bathroom was one of the only things that was open at that hour, and I was able to rinse out my mouth and stop the bleeding with a handful of paper towels. Jefe waited outside, probably wondering if I was going to hit him back. Once out of the bathroom, I jokingly asked everybody within earshot the following rhetorical question: "I just lost the Ballynizzle Cup, my golf game stinks, we've been waiting in this airport for five hours and now my best friend just punched me in the face. Could this night get any worse?"

The answer was yes. Yes, it could.

The flight, once it finally left, went relatively smoothly. Jefe and I got upgraded to first class while Jimbo, a.k.a. the Unstoppable One (only when it comes to matters involving match-play matches), got stuck in chattle class where he rightfully belongs. It was the second time in a row we had been upgraded -- I honestly think United is trying to make up for the customer-service fiasco that occurred during the golf marathon (I'm still not taking down the rant until they donate $280 to the Ben Cox fundraiser). On the way out to Denver, all was fun and giggles. It was Jefe's first time in first class and we used the opportunity to take some pictures of him and the Cup, much to the chagrin to the staff and the rest of the cabin. On the way back to Chicago, however, we were both zombies. I used an impossibly small and thin United-issued blanket and tried to get some sleep. Jefe curled up like a baby with a blanket twice the size and thickness as mine. I just can't beat this guy in anything.

In fact, I don't think we said a single word to each other for the first 98% of the trip. I woke up just as the pilot said we'd be making our final descent. I looked over at Jefe and he was awake. But his face was pale and he looked troubled. If you've followed these golf adventures closely, then you know Jefe has a moderate fear of flying. I half-jokingly hold his hand on take offs and landings, which is always worth a chuckle but I'm beginning to sense that he actually needs it. So when I saw his ghost face I just figured he was frightened by the turbulence as we approach the runway. So I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to comfort him. That's when Jefe said literally his first words to me on the entire flight:

"My left nut is killing me," he said with a grunt and a grimace.

"Well, I'm afraid there's nothing I can do for you on that one," I replied.

Jefe continued to toss and turn and grimace as we landed and waited to de-plane. He limped around after we met up with Jimbo and started heading to the Terminal. Jimbo and I didn't really think it was all that serious, until we reached the baggage area and turned left to find our golf bags. Jefe was lagging behind, called to get our attention and said, "Here, you guys just bring my bags home. I'm going to get a cab to Geneva, then go to the Emergency Room."

At that point, Jefe looked like a dog that was going to go lay down in the forest and die. He didn't want us helping him. He snarled when we tried to get near him. But obviously we weren't going to just put him in a cab with a hardy handshake and a "best of luck, keep us posted". Our golf bags came out relatively quickly and we convinced him to head back with us, where his wife could meet us at the ER at the hospital five minutes from my house (twenty-five minutes from his). I can only imagine what his wife was thinking when the phone rang at 4:00 AM. We figured it might've been a hernia. Certainly after watching Jefe's violent full swing approximately 400 times over six days, it seemed like a plausible explanation.

During the 30-minute cab ride, Jefe made the leap from a '5' to a full-fledged unhappy face on the pain scale. Suddenly thrust into a position we had never been in before, Jimbo and I tried to offer words of encouragement and advice, but otherwise sat their helpless. About 10 minutes into the drive, I asked Jefe if he just wanted to find the nearest hospital and he said yes. I struggled to find one close by on Google Maps and thankfully the pain subsided just enough for us to make it out to the one by my house. Even if it did take me convincing the cab driver to make about six different moving violations to get there quicker.

Jimbo stayed with his brother at the ER as I took the bags and clubs back to my house. I paid the cabbie $100 to cover any eventual court costs and instantly jumped in my car and headed back to the hospital. I pulled up to the ER desk and said, "My brother Jeff Tang was just dropped off here about 10 minutes ago," figuring there was enough truth in that statement that they'd let me see him. A nurse took me back through a maze of construction back to room C-10, where my best friend and golf buddy laid on a hospital bed helpless, with Natalie there by his side. I'll admit, I was a little freaked out.

I stuck around and made small talk just long enough for the ER doctor to arrive. He started to do his, umm, examination and that my cue to get the heck out of dodge. I ran into Jimbo, who had been looking for me, on the way out and I gave him a lift back to my house so he could take Jefe's car home. It wasn't until a couple hours later that I found out the diagnosis from Natalie: "Kidney stone. 3mm." I cringed when I heard the news, just like you are cringing right now. The hospital sent Jefe home with a hardy handshake and a "best of luck, keep us posted", plus some painkillers and some FloMax to help him pass the stone. Thankfully, Jefe was in good enough spirits to make the obvious FloMax joke: "Natalie and I had the windows down on the way home, high-fiving and singing some songs." Almost 36 hours later, we're still waiting for the inevitable...

Suddenly, losing the Ballynizzle Cup doesn't seem so bad.

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  1. Harris said...:

    Awesome post. Just keep Jefe out of any circus's or trapeze shows in case the inevitable happens at the wrong time ala Cosmo Kramer.

  1. bradf said...:

    I feel his pain .. Still doesnt have my 7mm one beat nor my second place 5mm. Hey at least now he can say he knows what its like to be pregnant

  1. Kyle said...:

    At least he didn't have a torsion (look it up).

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