Flier Lies

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You couldn’t get me on a
roller coaster with a cattle prod,
but I started the week of the
PGA Championship with a
flight in an F-16, courtesy of
Class A PGA Professional and Oklahoma
Air National Guard member Capt. Dan
“Noonan” Rooney.

The ratbag Rick Reilly
had been up a few years back and wrote a
hilarious piece for Sports Illustrated about it,
but my jaunt was to promote the Fallen
Heroes Fund, started by Capt. Dan just a
year ago. The fund benefits the families of
those who have been impacted by the war,
so I immediately put my hand in the air.

Everyone who gets the privilege is given
a call sign, and I remembered that Reilly’s
was “Two Bags” for the velocity and capacity
of his hurlage, so I reckoned all I needed was
“One Bag” to be one up on my more widely
read hero.

The flight and subsequent piece that
aired on CBS created public awareness about Patriot
Day, Sept. 1, when participating public golf clubs
around the country donated $1 from every green fee
and members of private clubs were encouraged to
donate whatever they wished.

My day started with three hours of rigorous
training on how to get in and out of the jet and how
to kiss my ass goodbye if anything went wrong.
Reilly had been advised to eat a preflight banana, but
lunch for me was a double sweaty Jalepeno cheeseburger,
fries and a large chocolate malt because I hate
throwing up on an empty stomach.

The plane, baking on the hot tarmac, looked like
a hypodermic needle with razor blades for wings and
a rocket for a plunger. Before I knew it I was strapped
in, lit up, and screaming for my mommy as Desperate
Dan launched down the runway, pointed the nose
vertical, and shot to 15,000 feet in 30 seconds. I felt
like I’d been fired out of a cannon with an elephant
sitting in my lap. Then we leveled out, flew into
Kansas, and Dan really started to tie my bowels into
a sheepshank. Thank God for the G-suit, a plumcrushing
harness, and a pilot who knew what he
was doing, or at least made me think he did.

We did aileron rolls (whatever the hell they
are, I think I’ve had them with red
beans and rice), vertical swoopy
things and plunging necklines
before Dan gave me a few gut-churning
banked dives that almost
made me release a chocolate
hostage I didn’t know was a captive.

It was an unbelievable rush, and
I wanted to go again right after we
landed. I’d made it through 9g, with
no leakage, north or south! Four
hours later, still elated, and in 102
degrees, I took an ill-advised bike
ride, during which two idiots
speeding downhill around a blind
corner on the wrong side of the path
took me out, knocking me 20 yards
down the hill and out cold, separating my
shoulder and covering me in enough cuts
and bruises that the next morning I had to
wear my bedsheets into the shower to soak them off
my oozing wounds. The front desk had to be
informed that no murder had taken place in Room
506.

For the four days of the tournament, the average
temperature was about 2 degrees colder than hell.
Despite a strong challenge from “Woodrow the
Weird” Austin, whose wheel is still spinning even
though the gerbil has clearly left his cage, Tiger put
his foot on the gas when it came to the crunch.

You’ve got to love Woody, though. He’d make a cup
of coffee nervous, but late in his career, he’s taming
his demons.

The week was a disaster for the weak, and I was
weak all week. I decided to drive home to Dallas that
Sunday night, drenched in sweat and Gold Bond
powder. By the time I dropped my thunderbags in the
bathroom, my nads had turned to limestone, a sight
that gave She Who Must Be Obeyed quite a fit of the
giggles. She suggested a small tap with a hammer to
set the boys free.

But the important thing is this: Reilly can eat my
perfectly stainless shorts! The call sign Dan gave
me? “Spaulding!”

Wait a minute, didn’t he hurl into a Porsche?