Whips have been good to me.
They’ve allowed me appear on TV shows and to meet some of the finest people in the world. They evolved into more than a sport, to me — whips became my art and my philosophy. They’ve given me four Guinness World Records, made me both famous and notorious, loved by many and detested by people whose distaste I consider high praise.
But that time has finally arrived for me to let you peek behind the curtain.
In 2009, in England to promote a new Indiana Jones video game, I intended to break my own Guinness World Record of 254 cracks with a 6-foot bullwhip in 60 seconds. From inside the Museum of Natural Science, we were moved at the last minute outside, where the wind kept up a pretty stiff pace. I gave it my best shot, but in the end the count was 166 cracks — painfully short of my goal. A few weeks later I tried again in Ohio (you can see this attempt on Youtube), but again I came up short, cracking the whip only 166 times. This was too consistent. Something was wrong, obviously, but what it was, I did not know.
Jump ahead to 2014 where, after a long must Dark Night of the Soul, I announce my retirement from professional whipcracking.
The small problems I’d already started to experience inexorably grew and compounded until they finally become too difficult for me to conceal — and too true for me to deny:
“Adhesive capsulitis” (frozen shoulder) means the lubricating fluid in my shoulders dried up, forming painful adhesions requiring four surgeries (two in each shoulder). It continues to be tremendously painful.
“Lateral epicondylitis” (tennis elbow) affects both of my elbows and forearms — painfully.
I have “diabetic peripheral sensory neuropathy” in both arms. This means my finer muscles tremble, while both of my hands are numb on their outer halves. (Meanwhile, inside along the bone, the pain continues.)
My first angry question, of course, was, “How much did my whip cracking contribute to all this?”
Here’s what the doc says:
Frozen shoulders — not one bit.
Tennis elbows — repetitive motion has contributed to it.
Numb hands — not a bit.
If I had any doubts left, two more items clinched it for me: A “posterior vitreous detachment” means constant floaters, lightning flashes and decreased vision in one eye, so I see the world on my right side through a gray veil. And it has become harder to hide the fact that I am partially deaf, caused as much by motorcycle accidents and childhood illness as by cracking whips without protecting my hearing.
There is still so much undone, unexplored, undiscovered and unachieved. Whips, for decades, have been my life and my art, and sharing that passion has been a privilege and an honor.
I am open to going wherever this new freedom allows me to go. For the moment, I feel like I can walk up to the pavilion to drink my lemonade after some damned good innings.
Just don’t be surprised to hear that I’ve launched some new whip-related projects in the next few months. Old habits die hard.
Now, let’s get cracking!
Whips have been good to me.