Quick! What’s the most frightening two-word sentence you can think of?
- “Behind you!”
- “I’m pregnant.”
- “Please hold.”
Those are all very troubling, but incorrect.
No, the most frightening two-word sentence is:
This isn’t actually a How Is Frank Not Dead story. Instead, this is a How Did Frank Not Make Someone Else Dead story. In a way, that’s worse.
Before we get to it, let me first tell you about Nolan Ryan.
When I was a kid growing up in Orange County, Calif., I had plenty of baseball heroes – Steve Garvey, Rod Carew, Don Sutton. But they were just baseball players. Nolan Ryan was something else. You talked about Ryan as if he were a superhero, some kind of earthbound god with spikes and a mitt. The guy even had his picture in the Guinness Book of World Records, for throwing the fastest fastball.
More than a dozen years later, Ryan was still playing, and I got to see him in the Texas Rangers locker room from my privileged spot as a sportswriter. Dude was richer than God at that point (he owned banks, for Chrissakes), and yet he was still playing, and was still a solid block of muscle. He finished each game with an hour on an exercise bike to loosen up his legs, and said the secret to his pitching longevity was the power he could still get out of his “great big ass.”
But I digress.
Now, I’m no Nolan Ryan. Never have been. Throwing, hurling and chucking stuff is not a core competency. Instead, I have delusions of grandeur that lead me straight into danger. If I pick up a small object and say “Watch this,” expect bad things to happen.
Bad things, man. Bad. Things.
- At age 7, I shattered a sliding glass door with a metal-tipped dart. Did you know that one dart could make the entire pane of tempered glass explode? Yeah, neither did I. You’d think I would’ve remembered this lesson, but I refer you to the name of this blog.
- I hit a kid square in the forehead with a curveball that didn’t curve. I don’t remember his real name, but I know that I nicknamed him “Lumpy.”
- I tagged poor Larry Kaml in the temple with a bamboo spear during some Jungle Cruise shenanigans. I was pretending to be one of the animatronic jungle natives. Nearly knocked Larry out of the boat he was standing in. In retaliation, he left me stranded on one of the ride’s two islands for an hour — I couldn’t work up the courage to jump into a passing boat loaded with tourists.
And then there was the dart.
Let’s focus on two important lessons here.
- First off, don’t give teenage boys cheap champagne. It goes straight to their heads.
- Second, don’t give teenage boys that have had cheap champagne access to metal-tipped darts. Or metal-tipped anything, really.
So, there we were — Eric, Steve and I — in Steve’s garage, generally screwing around, drinking the aforementioned cheap champagne from plastic cups and playing darts.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
We were throwing darts, moving farther and farther back from the dartboard. How far back could we stand and still hit the dartboard? With each shot, we heard the thunk of dart into dartboard.
10 feet? Thunk! 15 feet? Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!
“Watch this,” I said.
Eric and Steve stepped aside, and I walked back as far as I could go, back to the wall. In my altered state, I was Nolan Ryan. I held the dart in what I thought was an elegant grip, index finger extended along the shaft. I would up with a major-league leg kick and let fly with all my might.
No thunk. What happened?
Eric and I inspected the wall. No dart. Where’d the dart go?
“Umm … hey … guys?” said Steve.
The dart was sunk into the inside of Steve’s thigh.
Straight through his jeans. I really pinned him, so to speak. The metal dart had gone in about 1 inch, with the plastic fin body sticking out like a tiny Comanche arrow.
“Umm … ouch?” said Steve. More bewildered than in pain. That came later.
We spent a few seconds debating what to do, while blood started to stain his jeans. Pulling on it didn’t work. Gingerly, Steve had to twist the dart in its thigh hole before it could come straight out. The self-surgery was complicated by the fabric on the jeans pulling away with it, and Eric and I standing over his shoulder offering color commentary, which consisted mostly of Eric and me saying, “Dude. No way! Dude. DUUUUDE.”
Steve’s long since forgiven me for this. Although, he has tried to kill me, too, so maybe not. But we look back on this now and laugh. He offered to send me pictures of the scar, which he says is still visible. But in my book, a dart to the thigh is a blessing. I had no idea where that dart was going to go. I could have just as easily buried that dart in his skull.
Trust me, I never tried to imitate Nolan Ryan again.