NEW YORK -- By the time you read this I will have undergone heart surgery.
The operation should go well. All the numbers say so.
And numbers are very big things for a professional athelete. We pursue high numbers of RBIs, TDs, points and assists and low numbers in the tennis pro rankings.
And every now and then, we become the numbers. We have to put aside our quest for statistics and ask some personal questions. Like: What are the odds on my suffering permanent injury if I play one more season of pro football? Should I ask for a three- or a five-year contract?
Or, what are the odds on my coming through heart surgery?
My surgeon tells me that my numbers are very good.
First of all, the odds are 99 to 1 that I will survive the surgery, a bypass operation to elminate some fatty deposits in my heart arteries.
It's 30 to 1 that I won't have a heart attack on the operating table. It's 133 to 1 that I won't have a stroke during the operation. It's 250 to 1 that I won't experience excessive bleeding or develop an infection. And it's 10 to 1 against my developing ucontrollable arrhythmia (a wild heartbeat).
These figures are extrapolated from data accumulated since 1967, when they first started doing bypass operations. Such things as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol level, low-density lipoproteins, lifestyle, and family history of diabetes are also factored into the figures.
There were alternatives to surgery. One would have been a prolonged adherence to a strict diet, such as the one prescribed by Nathan Pritikin.
Most of the people who are helped by this procedure are undisciplined and cholesterol-laden, possibly overweight, sedentary and malnourished heavy smokers.
But pursuing such a course would take time. And in the meantime, I would worry.
Two weeks ago, for instance, I experienced heart palpitations in Jacksonville, Fla. I spent two days in a hospital having things checked out, and they told me that the palpitations were not related to my July heart attack.
But the experience scared me. I also worry if I find myself sweating. Is it because the room is warm, or am I having an attack?
So why prolong the uncertainty and anxiety? Surgery is a decisive step that should put things in order relatively quickly.
The odds are 99 to 1 in my favor. And, if all goes well, I'll be playing competitive tennis again by May. I'll take my chances.