Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sun burned Tonsils and the Masters

I took up golf later in life. Through the influence of a good friend who was a great athlete and gifted golfer my wife gave me clubs for Christmas in 1984. I played HS football, basketball and baseball and was always good enough to make the squads and was always a starter, first team and decent player. The various sports I participated in came pretty easily to me. Later on, I took up racquetball through the influence of a friend who flew big jets for Air Florida. I beat him consistently from the very beginning. I could never determine whether I was that good at the sport or if he was that bad. I am pretty sure it was the latter.

That brings me to golf. At 38 years of age I picked up a club for the first time. I am right handed so of course my wife bought me left handed clubs. However, that was OK because I always batted left handed in baseball and softball.I went to the range with my friend and pounded a couple of hundred balls. Mostly, I hit them very badly. It seemed that strength, swinging hard and getting angry when you missed a ball were all things to be avoided. 33 years later I still have not progressed much beyond that. I have scored 80 four times in the 33 years I have played. I scored a 77 on one course, one time out of hundreds of rounds. The best my handicap ever got was a 12.

Golf is a very funny game. The harder you try at it the worse you get. You basically have to play the game and swing the club as if you don't care about the result. About ten years into playing I took five lessons from a local Pro who is a wonderful teacher. He tried to talk me  into playing rightie. It was not worth the effort to switch. I heard many sayings about golf over the years. Most of them are not repeatable in mixed company. The one that I heard that was the most amusing and I think applicable was: " Golf is like sex. You do not have to be an expert at either to enjoy them."

I earned my living within the pharmaceuticals industry working 30 years for DuPont. It was a wonderful career and I enjoyed every minute of it. I worked my way up from Sales Rep to Government Affairs manager. As the GAM I was responsible for lobbying 3 states and staying involved with Professional Associations in medicine and pharmacy. When an issue heated up I would hire consultants to help me work compromises that would protect our business. These consultant/lobbyists became my friends. The money we paid them was decent for 3 months work surrounding the legislative session.So renewing the contract year to year was a lifeline for them all.

That brings me to the point of my post today. One of the consultants I had hired invited me to attend the Masters with him in 1999. I jumped at the opportunity. We played a round of golf on the way up and spent the night in Macon and then on into Augusta the next morning. I was in love with the game of golf at this point. Here I was attending the Masters on a beautiful spring day in April. After all the blood letting to find a parking place we gained admittance and there I was standing on the most famous course in the world. The place was overwhelming. I was very much like a Muslim making a pilgrimage to Mecca and walking around just soaking it all in.

Everywhere you looked there was nothing but the greenest grass you have ever seen. Azaleas were in full bloom. There was not a weed anywhere in sight. The greens were absolutely magnificent and the most lovely you have ever seen anywhere. Surprisingly the food and keepsakes, ie: hats, shirts, balls, etc. were very affordable. After eating a hot dog and some chips I was advised that I should find a space along one of the par three holes and get ready to watch the par three tournament. I did so. Sat down and prepared to watch the tournament. The onions I had eaten on my hot dog were laying sort of hard on my palate. I decided that I wanted to spit and I turned my head to do so. However, before I did the thought entered my head that " this is hallowed ground. This is Augusta National. You cannot spit on this ground." I forewent spitting and sipped my Diet Coke and got ready for the tournament. Such is the effect that that place has on golfers.

I was not prepared. I knew that they played a 72 hole tournament, however, the fact that on the Wednesday practice round they played this little par three tourney that was mostly just fun had eluded me. The professionals had their families including their young children playing down the fairways with them. But it was the who's who of golf that caused me to revere the moment. There parading down the fairway were all the greats of golf. Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Crenshaw, Player, Singh, etc. I could have almost reached out and touched them.

I spent the day traipsing around the course. My mouth hanging open and savoring every moment. That is why I ended up with sun burned tonsils. I don't think I would ever go back. There are far too many people there nowadays and the parking is impossible. The best way to watch any golf tournament is on the television. However, that one day I sat in the presence of the demi-Gods who had perfected the game. It was a sight to behold.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tylenol and School shootings

It has been almost a month since the Parkland, Florida Stoneman Douglas school shooting. The fallout has been a game changer on numerous fronts. The assault rifle has found fewer and fewer friends. The 2018 legislative session was turned on its ear towards gun control leaving many important issues laying in it's wake that were never taken up. Acne scarred adolescents were propelled into the limelight by the event as long as they were to parrot the talking points of those on both the right and the left. You could see them lined up endlessly on either CNN or Fox News on the nightly shows. The NAR, which teeters on the cusp of being public enemy number one or the salvation of mankind with their far reaching stance on the second amendment was seen in an endless stream of public discourse. They have now launched a law suit against the state's efforts to raise the age for lawful gun purchase. Mental health advocacy has seen a bit of the spotlight since we do not seem to be able to adequately sift out these threats hiding in personalities too endless to inventory.

I have 7 grandchildren that attend the public schools here in Leon county. I have always felt that they were safe here. I had occasion to consult with a gentleman named John Hunkiar sometime back on the purchase of a home. He was recruited out of the Miami police department where he was in charge of surveillence and controlling the gangs. He assumed the job of chief of security for Leon County schools. The brief time I spoke with him I got the impression that he was a capable and tough cop. I see no other reason to doubt that he is well capable of protecting my grandchildren with the help of many well trained and capable people.

I also think  back to a time when I made my living as an executive in the pharmaceuticals business. In 1982, in Chicago, 7 innocent people died after ingesting Tylenol capsules. Tylenol is a trusted brand name for acetominophen (APAP). Millions of people, adults and children , have ingested hundreds of millions of doses for headache, muscle aches and fever over many, many years worldwide.

It was determined that some maniac had decided to substitute potassium cyanide in place of the APAP in several individual boxes of the drug and replaced on market shelves. 7 innocent people lost their lives because of this maniacal and mercenary act. A few years later the same thing happened with the gelatinous form of Tylenol. Three lives were lost from that episode. They never caught, arrested or prosecuted anyone in relation to this crime. They did elevate product tampering to a federal crime making it easier to prosecute anyone caught from then on.

Johnson and Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol reacted swiftly and capably. They immediately recalled the product at a cost of $100 million. They seized the day and saved other lives by their action. As a result of that and the reaction of the FDA today we have a tamper resistant seal on every consumer product that you can imagine. The problem was solved swiftly and effectively. There was no emotional argumentation about need to curtail the sale of headache medication. 36 years later more people are swallowing Tylenol than ever before.

Ironically we also see an opiate bill coming out of this recent Florida legislative session that makes it illegal for you to have pain for more than 7 days. The wisdom of the legislators took on this issue with less debate. All focus shifted in the direction of  the school shootings. .

There is a plausible and practical solution to making our schools safer. Much like we made our airports safer post 9/11. School marshals alla Sky marshals could be a good approach. Taking politics off the table and emotion off the street we could fix this problem. If Johnson and Johnson made firearms they would solve the problem for us. The manufacturers of firearms, all represented by NRA, are unwilling to step up to the plate.

Do you think it has anything to do with the realm in which these two businesses are active? The pharmaceuticals business is directed towards extending and enhancing life. The gun business is mostly about protecting people from one another to the extent of taking life.

One thing for sure honesty and law abidedness has certainly not been attained by the passing of any bill, law or ordinance at any level so far.