I rolled over this morning and wished I’d had a mirror nearby. By all indications, I’d been in a car wreck, and I wanted to know how bad it had been. Had my beautiful face been mangled? Was I monster? Even if crippled, as I almost surely was, could I still woo the ladies with my dashing good looks and ample eyelashes?
Everything on the right side of my body hurt, The pain began on the right side of my neck, crossed over my shoulder blades, settled in hard in the lumbar region, then exploded down my right hip, right through the knee, and settled in my right big toe. I cried for a couple of minutes and lamented my terrible luck. Here I am in the prime of my life–at a time when I could be a master of the universe!–and I was lying in a bed, never again to walk with a manly swagger. Even the Hindenburg reporter couldn’t fully capture the tragedy.
After a few minutes of weeping (the heaving sobs hurt my back too much to continue), I managed to pull myself from the bed. I could walk, but not comfortably. I may not have been crippled, but it was close. I tried to recall the night before. Had I been drinking? Did I finally hop in the MMA ring like I’ve been threatening? Did I again pick a fight with a little person in a leather jacket (again)?
When the cobwebs cleared, I remembered.
It was the damned frisbee.
Purists of the game look down their nose at people who call it Frolf. It conjures up memories of George Costanza happily ignoring his responsibilities and hopping through Central Park with a giant Frisbee. The preferred name is “disc golf.” Though traditional athletes look upon the sport with no small amount of superciliousness, the game has been around since the late 60s. The game we think of today, the one in which custom discs are thrown into chain-topped baskets began about 30 years ago. Creator Steady Ed Headrick may be no Naismith, but you gotta give the guy some credit for developing a game that seems so ridiculous but has such a big following.
My friends and I, constant competitors, took up the game seven or eight years ago. For a couple of years, we did little else. It filled countless hours. We had a website, teams, a league, and superlatives. It was silly, considering, in retrospect, that we were not very good. Time, as is its wont, went by, and we gave up the game in favor of families, poker, and prop betting on who could eat the most wasabi in one sitting.
Last summer, my buddy G-Rob suggested we go back out for a game…you know, just to see what happens.
What happened? We’ve played 4-5 times a week for the past ten months. I have dozens of discs and a bag specifically designed to carry them. I actually spend late nights looking at training videos on You Tube. I have developed Gortex socks envy. I have a pair of shoes (Eccos, natch), that are used for little else but playing disc golf. How I play on any given day can affect my mood such that you don’t want to be around me if I’ve played badly. When the mailman delivered my 165g Monarch last Monday, I wondered just for a second if my infant son was so sick that I couldn’t fit in a quick round before we went to the hospital.
You know, a casual hobby.
I thought I had gout.
Dr. Google told me that an acute pain isolated in the big toe was symptom of the Disease of Kings (so named because kings were so wealthy, they could overindulge in everything and give themselves the illness). I limped around in embarrassment for weeks. I stared at my big toe and implored it to stop hurting. If I had to tell my friends I had gout, I would never hear the end of it. What’s worse, if I’d gone to a doctor, he would tell me to stop drinking beer and eating steak–my equivalent of prison or the ministry.
G-Rob were walking down to Hole #2 at Timmons Park several months ago when I finally confided in him.
“My right big toe is killing me,” I conceded.
His eyes lit up. “I’m so glad you said that!” he said, and then with a wash of relief told me how his left big toe had been keeping him awake at night, how he thought he had gout, and how he’d been afraid to tell anybody. We were like two young girls discussing their first menstrual cycle.
The more we talked, the more we realized that our overindulgence on the disc golf course was killing the strong sides of our bodies. Left-handed G-Rob was destroyed on his left side. Right-handed Otis was limping on the right.
We were frolf cripples and had no one to blame but ourselves and Steady Ed Headrick.
The incredulous reader might be asking himself right now, “How much effort really goes into throwing a damned frisbee? How can two grown men be hurting so bad from tossing a piece of plastic around?” There are two viable answers.
First, there is a lot more to the game than most casual observers recognize. Consider this: I’ve been playing for years and play five to seven hours per week. The pros–yes, there are sponsored professionals in this sport–routinely shoot 14 to 18 strokes better than me. I am a rank recreational player at best. The constant throwing, stopping, and snapping are like a thousand tiny car wrecks every week. It’s tough on a body.
Second, we’re old. Given, we’re not old by 40-something standards, but this kind of activity takes its toll on a 35-year-old body. If we play two rounds in one day, the next morning turns me into a 70 year old man.
When I limp downstairs, my wife will look at me sadly.
She calls it “Frolf body.”
She doesn’t mean it as a compliment.
G-Rob and I are taking a break. We’ve decided to focus more on taking care of our bodies for the longterm. There is much more to life than playing disc golf and tearing ourselves apart. It’s time, we’ve decided, to take on more healthy activities.
So, tomorrow he’s going on Phish tour.
I’ll be going to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.
After we finish up those weeks, frolf body will feel like a massage.