June 11, 2015
How Workers’ Comp Is Like Golf
by Bob Wilson
The workers' comp process is like my golf game. Both start out well enough but then go sour, and every "fix" just makes things worse.
Last Thursday, I snuck off early for a round of golf before heading into the office. We teed off at 6:45AM and were done by 9:40. A quick jaunt by the house for a shower and a change of clothes, and I was in the office by 10:30, with few the wiser regarding my absence. We’ve had a fairly low-humidity summer thus far, and it was a beautiful morning for golf, just a perfect day. At least it was until we teed off.
I know this will be a shock, given my stunning physique, but I am not a very athletic person. I’ve never experienced runner’s high. I get winded driving a four-minute mile. I’ve broken a leg playing soccer. I’ve broken my other leg ice skating. I once asked a kick boxing instructor if there would be doughnuts served after class.
Needless to say, I am not a good golfer. My golf bag holds a chainsaw. My golf cart has four-wheel drive and big knobby tires. My Garmin watch occasionally asks me if I’ve stopped golfing, because it has detected that I’ve left the course. I use my Mulligan early, and then use a Poblaski, Heinrich, Gonzales, Ming and Schwartz — all Mulligans of different ethnicities. The only birdie I’ve ever shot flew away unharmed after my ball hit it. The only time I’ve ever hit two good balls in a round is when I stepped on a rake (okay, you knew I had to put that one in). I asked my instructor how I could shave 10 strokes off my game. He told me to skip the 18th hole. He once looked at my scorecard and said, “Congratulations, you bowled a perfect game!”
Yes, I generally suck at golf.
Workers’ compensation is a lot like my golf game when you think about it. You enter with the greatest of hopes and expectations, and by the end you are just glad to be done with it – and you might be missing an arm.
The game starts off okay. As it progresses, and more shots go astray, people start to help and try to “fix” my game. You’re hitting behind it. You’re hitting in front of it. You’re pushing through it. You’re topping it. You’re hitting across it. You’re teeing it too high. You’re teeing it too low. You’re not hitting it. You’re trying to kill it. Center the ball in your stance. Keep your head down. Bend your knees. Watch your alignment. Choke up on the club. Swing with your hips. Stand on one leg. Place your left elbow behind your ear. Pull your head out of your behind (just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention). Open your stance. Close your stance.
Put the gun down, I’m only trying to help!
With each “fix,” the results get progressively more convoluted; to the point where, by the 14th hole, I find myself playing through some family’s dining room while apologizing for their plate glass window. I also comment that I love the new curtains. They are much nicer than the ones there the last time I played this house.
By the 16th hole, my shots are being independently reviewed, and the ranger is telling us to move it along.
By the 17th hole, I have a lawyer.
By the 18th hole, after all the reforms, all the fixes, every legislative tweak, you can’t even recognize what I am doing as golf anymore. My lawyer must first clear my intended shot with the golf committee, with everyone weighing in on club, stance, approach and strategy. My stance has transformed to one that most closely resembles a crushed aluminum can, and I am facing the wrong direction. I no longer remember what the front nine looked like. By the time I’m done I wonder why I wanted to try this in the first place.
Duffers from the industry will understand this comparison. We continually reform and attempt to improve workers’ comp but see wilder and more inconsistent results in return for the effort.
Perhaps it is time to return to the first tee, in a new round, so that we can remember why we are there in the first place.