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The best of Jacksonville


OK, it's time to fit the senior editor for his backless suit. Let's make it a two-week wake, huh? No crying, please.

Let the celebration begin. We'll call it the "Best of Vic" and will start with 10 things Vic likes about Jacksonville, in descending order for dramatic effect, of course.

Here we go.

10. Strip malls—Why do these places get such a bad rap? I love them. My dry cleaners is in a strip mall and so is my adult beverage store, coffee store, a couple of favorite restaurants, the place where I buy shoes, ties, hardware, water softener salt, golf balls, glasses, books, furnace filters, underwear, flowers, gasoline, pizza; I think I even got my driver's license in a strip mall. I love them.

9. A certain cigar they make here that I was ordered not to smoke any more—I've got a crate of them in the credenza in my study at home. After dinner, I go in there, open the credenza door and take a whiff. I haven't smoked one since I got nuclear heartburn on Christmas Day, 2009. I miss them.

8. The roads—Jacksonville has great roads. They don't even have holes in them. I wasn't sure they would ever finish the lane-widening project on Butler Blvd., but they eventually did and now I can drive to work at the height of rush hour and there's no traffic. When I lived in Pittsburgh, if you weren't at work by seven a.m., you had to wait until nine o'clock to leave home.

7. Winter—Not counting the last two, which have been lousy, Jacksonville winters are spectacular. Nothing beats a sunny, 65-degree day on the golf course. Give me a light jacket and the scent of somebody else's cigar and I'm in heaven.

6. The beach—I like it, but I like it when most people don't. I like the beach in winter, which is great because the beach is empty then. I like walking the beach on a Sunday afternoon in the winter, under a warm sun and wrapped in a warm jacket against a fresh wind that smells like the ocean. What a place!

5. Golf—Jacksonville, in my opinion, has the best selection of golf courses of any major city in America. I've been a Hampton Golf guy for a long time and I'm gonna miss the gang at South Hampton.

4. My doctors—They saved my life, twice. Dr. Robert Joyce at the Baptist Cancer Institute brewed up just the right mix of chemo juice and I'll never forget what he said to me the week of the 2003 draft. The following day was scheduled for my final chemo treatment and I had to call for my blood results to see if I had recovered enough to get the hose one more time. The bad news came: Yeah, I was a go. "Is this necessary?" I asked. There was a pause. "No, you're done," Dr. Joyce said. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. My heart doctor, Dr. Bernardo Utset, stuck a hose up my groin the day after Christmas, 2009, blew out some blockages in my heart arteries, told me not to eat red meat or white bread and to have a nice life, and I have. There's another guy, my neck doctor, who I love for what he did for me but I'll withhold his name because he once told me not to mention his name on the air. What I'll tell you about him is this: In January of 1999, I was sitting in the Giants Stadium press box, fighting through raging pain down my left arm as I watched the Jaguars lose to the Jets in the second round of the playoffs. A few days later, my neck doctor opened me up like a Pez dispenser and put another man's bone, a Titanium brace and four screws in my neck and the pain was instantly gone. Thanks, doc. These are only a few of the men who put Humpty Dumpty back together again and I think of them all the time and how I owe them more than I could ever repay them.

3. Bike rides through Nocatee—What a great place to ride a bike: no cars, only nice, wide bike lanes that meander through beautiful woods. I saw a mother boar and her little pigs one day. I have the feeling I'll return to Nocatee someday and there will be lots of cars.

2. Palm Valley—I love the place. We live just down the street from Downtown Palm Valley, the center of which is a chainsaw store. We have an ocean and a canal; the canal would be good for you. We got a new bridge a few years ago. Lots of people go there to walk across the bridge and back. If you want to ride your bike there, make sure you stay on the right side of the road or the bicycle mafia in their little helmets and panties will yell at you. I always yell back.

1. The "Ask Vic" golf tournament—It's been the "Ask Vic" social event of the year for the past several years. We fill it up every year with the same guys. We moved the tournament to its permanent home at Osprey Cove in Kingsland, Ga., a few years ago, and the early starting time and out-of-state location – it's on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River – provides a perfect excuse for guys to go up there the night before and turn the event into a road trip. Everything about the tournament is perfect. We tee off at eight in the morning, which means we finish before the afternoon storms roll in. Every golfer is given beverage tickets, which means "Ask Vic" knocks down a case before most men have had their morning coffee. The day concludes with an "Ask Vic Live." When we take off from JIA for road games, we almost always fly over Osprey Cove and I always look down at the four finishing holes, my favorite finishing holes in the world, and I smile. Every year as I leave Osprey Cove, I wonder if this will have been the last golf tournament. I guess nothing lasts forever.

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