Dr. Don Newbury

Fans of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team sport t-shirts with “MFFL” lettering. Attempts to pronounce it wad the tongue; remember, “MFFL” is a long putt from an acronym. (Owner Mark Cuban came up with the designation: Mavericks Fans For Life.)

In Burleson, Texas, a rabid sports fan says his shirt letters mean: “Mickelson Fan For Life.”

The fan is Greg Ryan, a Chick-fil-A franchisee. Actually, he and his golfing hero have much in common. They’re both 39 this year, both left-handed and both have wicked swings. Ryan’s talked-about swing—the buzz of Burleson—was NOT on the links. Friends there say his swings are like barroom doors; if his golf game were a prize fight, they’d stop it…

Other comparisons drop off considerably.

In 2007, for example, Mickelson earned about 50 million dollars in tournaments and endorsements, not far behind Tiger Woods, who set the pace for income among the world’s athletes. Ryan that year sold tons of chicken, but earned zilch for endorsements.

For years on the PGA Tour, Mickelson was labeled “the best golfer never to win a major tournament.” On one of several “near misses,” he called himself “an idiot.” This is one of the kinder things said of Ryan after his vicious swing referenced above.

OK, so back-tracking is a “must.” Rain delayed the US Open final round until Monday. Mickelson, runner-up in four earlier opens, was in the chase. With four holes to play, though, his chances faded quickly. He had a chance to tie or win until he bogeyed 17 and the winner birdied 16.

Ryan, at work prepping for the noon rush of chicken-eaters, claims that he “kept his shoulder to the wheel during the onslaught of patrons. Still, he cast frequent glances to the TV screen on his I-phone. His hero was “in the hunt!”

Customers placing orders from Ryan while Mickelson was on TV did so at their peril…

I feel particularly sorry for the diner at his station when Mickelson’s t-shot faded into the rough on 14. Then he smashed a 201-yard approach shot to the back of the green. A 20-foot putt meant a birdie; three putts bore the blight of a bogey.

Alas, Mickelson missed his birdie attempt. He took a deep breath, figuring the par putt a scant yardstick from the pin was a tap-in. But, he missed!

He handled the misfortune like a pro. Ryan, a golfing hacker at best, didn’t. He swung his left arm violently, his hand crashing into a steel key box…

The blow smarted. Trouper that he is, Ryan stayed the course through the mealtime rush. Near shift’s end, his hand continued to throb, so he went to an emergency clinic.

Sure enough, X-rays revealed a fracture.

Slowly, he drove home, awkwardly steering with his right hand. He had time to concoct a story, but to his credit, he decided to tell wife Lori, and daughters Kylie, 12, and Riley, 4, the unvarnished truth. He explained that he faced surgery four days later, and that two pins would be inserted for a time. Later, there’d be a hard cast. With any luck, as the surgeon put it, he’ll be “good as new” for the fall football kickoff.

Lori “heard him out,” then spoke. “You handle the surgery thing, and I’ll schedule the therapy,” she dictated, “and I’m NOT talking about the physical kind.”…

Greg is actually enjoying his misery. Pain pills are but memories. He is luxuriating in the pampering provided by the women in his life. They fluff his pillows, bring him sustenance and give him sales reports from the store. The youngsters have made two signs, one for the store, and one to slap on their dad’s forehead. They read: “Chill Out on Using Phones at Work.”

Dedicated to fostering absolute quiet for Greg’s convalescence, they are quick to “shush” the dogs if they bark during his naptime. “Those mutts are driving me crazy,” he moaned.

“That’s not a drive, it’s a putt,” Lori purred…

He has notified Chick-fil-A honchos in Georgia that for the next few days, he can be reached on the home phone.

Greg is determined to return to work ASAP, with genuine efforts to - as old farmers used to say - “make a hand,” albeit a tough assignment to serve up chicken with a right hand rarely used for such. Nowadays, with lots of time to think, he’s vowed never again to take a game so seriously, unless, of course, he is a participant.

Maybe he can go to school on the Mickelson family’s new perspectives gleaned from the recent diagnosis of his wife’s cancer. Maybe you noticed pink accents on his attire at the Open. He was acknowledging the fight against cancer. Amy Mickelson’s surgery was performed on July 1. Her husband, (on leave from the PGA Tour indefinitely), as well as other family members and close friends, stood vigil at the hospital. On the same day, Lori made Greg a pink sling, with enough material left over for matching boxers…

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send e-mail to newbury@speakerdoc.com or call 817-447-3872. Visit his Web site at www.speakerdoc.com.