Envision yourself a skinny lad, perhaps 13, with an immense golf bag over your shoulder, walking for 18 holes in the sweltering midsummer heat in Chicago.
You have done this before and will do it again many times for grown men angrily whacking at little white balls, paying you a pittance for your labor.
Sometimes you’ll have two of those gargantuan crosses to carry, their straps denting your weary back like twin yokes on a burro.
Your name is Rick Morrissey, and you’re a youth caddie by trade, making money so that you can pay to go to — hold on — the high school of your dreams. That would be Fenwick in Oak Park.
Well, it’s a prestigious Catholic school, it’s nickname is the Friars and you’re a devoted Catholic youth who thinks friars are cool. But the real reason? (And I just found this out last week, after much grilling.) Because you are in love with Fenwick’s glossy black basketball floor!
Young Rick M. was a hoops nut, you see. (As was I in my hometown of Peoria.) And he still is. (As am I.) But now we watch and pontificate rather than play. He’s younger than I, but there’s still something about knees, backs, ankles, etc.
But the real lesson my podcast buddy learned during those hard days as a looper — if I may be so bold as to venture into that sweaty little noggin of his — was that he needed a career that didn’t entail working like a beast of burden.
His caddying (and some well-disguised intellect) enabled him to become an Evans Scholar and get a 100 percent scholarship to Northwestern. Despite not knowing how to type (sort of necessary in journalism, you know), nor caring, he graduated in four years.
Then he ventured off to write about golfers rather than carry their bags. Of course, he wrote about all the other sports, too, and when he came to the Sun-Times from the Tribune in 2009, I was the happiest man around.
Not only had we long been friends and competing columnists, but I often had broken into guffaws over a Morrissey line or simile, many of them wittily tinged with an element of the wicked. I liked that. Still do.
But more important than words was that now I had somebody near at hand to explain the arcana of technology to me, things such as deadlines and expense reports and — most monstrous of all — passwords for Internet connections in other states and even foreign countries. I knew he also could be counted on to make hotel and rental-car reservations on time and remember to call my room to rouse me for noon games.
I don’t want to say Rick M. is more dependable and businesslike than I, but do the math. Whereas I will gobble a junk-food meal or two and prefer corn liquor to weaker stuff, he eats well, goes to bed early and drinks white wine.
That he is so dismayed by the sparkly, often ridiculous costumes of male figure skaters — He once wrote of a tumbling skater: ‘‘Down goes Errol Flynn!’’ — I do not understand.
But he’s a good chap, all and all, despite a high-minded sense of ethics and near-biblical morality. He already has busted my chops for mercilessly beating a 3-year-old golfer (who was not Tiger Woods), for example, and he thinks it’s a laugh riot that I cut my own hair. (I read an article about it in Esquire.)
Plus, he often calls me a Luddite. I looked it up, and he’s wrong. I don’t think the NSA watches me all the time or the CIA has a bug-shaped drone outside my window. But the FBI might.
One thing we’ll do on our ‘‘The Two Ricks: Unfiltered’’ show is digress. Morrissey always tries to pull me back, like a school marm in disgust, but we’ll start out on, say, great Masters tournaments we’ve attended, and I know at some point we’ll bring up Stevie Williams and obnoxious caddies.
And then, bless his little soul, I’ll demand to know all the lessons Rick M. himself learned while suffering on the links to become the great scribe he has become. I might even throw him a tip.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.
Legendary Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their gritty, no-holds-barred take on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. And it’s free. Subscribe to “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, or via RSS.