Volume 2, Number 4 -- April, 1997

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Sympathy for the Devil - Book I

by Dean Shutt

 We were flying down I-5 with a head full of dangerous drugs...no...no...no... This is the nineties and you can't get away with Thompsonesque excesses such as that anymore. Besides, life has gotten strange enough these days that the use of hallucinogenics has become somewhat pointless. We were flying down the I-5 though, on our way to find the long lost soul of modern Major League baseball. After years of labor unrest, puppet commissioners, fan abuse and general dishevelment. We wanted to find out if there was any hope at all for this refugee sport from the 19th century.
 It had all started simply enough, back in the wood paneled confines of the BBC. We would get press passes, my associate and I, and cover Spring Training. Baseball in it's purest form, if there was a soul to be found, it would be on the fiendishly hot playing fields of Arizona. My associate often waxes poetic about Spring Training, and baseball in general. He believes in the sport, though he despises those who run it and most of those who play it. He is like a junkie that way, no matter how much pain and abuse is heaped upon his brow he comes back for more. Oh, he will claim that he is giving it up, even go so far as to stop watching altogether for a week or so. He always comes back though, flinging money at the Lords of the Diamond and hoping that maybe, just maybe this time they will treat him right.
 I, on the other hand, held no such illusions. I have never cared much for the sport one way or the other. It is a fine enough way to spend an afternoon in the sun, that much I will grant you. But, I've found that the sun shines just as brightly over the local Minor League parks and it doesn't cost as much to get there. No, I was traveling to Phoenix for a different reason than my associate, though I couldn't let on why just yet. You see, I already knew that baseball's soul lay dead and withered in an alley somewhere in the Bronx. Stomped to death by silly little owners and great greedy players and pack of dithering half-wits called the sporting press. I held no hope for finding the soul of baseball in Arizona. I figured we would come face to face with the true venal countenance of America's pastime inside of twenty four hours of hitting town.
 No, the reason I was traveling at high speed in the ÜberGeo towards the desert was as different as different could be from my associate's. I wanted to be brutalized by the sport, I wanted to come face to face the greedy bastards in their lair. Most of all I wanted to watch as my associate had his dreams crushed and turn into the raging psychopath I knew he could be. I wanted to watch him wade through their ranks like the Right Hand of God and bring agony and pain to the souls of these pinheads. Lord knows he'd showed the signs often enough, it was just a matter of finding the catalyst. In baseball I figured to have just the thing. I even hummed a happy tune at the thought of it, this might be more fun than I had ever imagined.
 As we headed South we were in fine spirits, he for his reasons and I for mine. We scanned the radio dial for the right-wing crazies that California's central valley seems to breed and talked sports. We were two guys on the road with a full tank of gas, a thousand dollars between us and press passes waiting for us at the gate of Scottsdale Muni Stadium. We were journalists, by God! and we were going to get the story, even if it meant throttling it to the ground and beating the life out of it in the process. I was keeping a wary eye on my associate, he has a tendency to get excited in these situations and let his true self through. There wasn't anything overly strange about his behavior as yet, but there were encouraging signs. A little too severe head bob during "Smells Like Teen Spirit", a bit too quick to scream at the crazies on the radio. All in all he was keeping it together fairly well, but to a highly trained observer like myself? Well let's just say that I'm still around because I see things that others don't. Some might call it rampant paranoia, but I prefer to call it journalism.
 Things went fairly smoothly for the first part of our journey. I was doing the driving, you don't turn reins of the ÜberGeo over to a half-mad baseball fan on a whim, after all. We were making good time and planned to be in Phoenix by midnight. It was just outside of San Bernadino that we caught the act of yet another right-wing radio pinhead. It was to be my associate's first public performance. The crazy was going on about a law before the state legislature reaffirming a woman's right to breast feed in public. To the loon, this of course signaled the end of civilized society as we knew it. In his mind, it was only a matter of time before this led to random sex in the streets and the breakdown of our very moral fiber.
 I, of course, laughed this whole sorry rant off to an advanced case of stupidity. After all, we live in a country where most of the people who voted for the president feel he is a twisted half-wit who conducts satanic sex orgies in the Rose Garden. Yet these same people are firmly convinced that a broken down ex-athlete is incapable of committing double homicide because he seems so nice on TV. This is not the Renaissance, folks, and we are not DaVinci. I, for one, could not care less if a woman breast feeds her child in the middle of Times Square while singing the Star Spangled Banner, but then not everyone is me. My associate meanwhile, was becoming clearly agitated, muttering various oaths and insults at the radio. I naturally egged him on and even suggested he give the moron a good talking to on the cellphone. After all, it wasn't my phone and we had brought it along for emergencies.
 He dialed the number and told the producer that he "had a few words for that pinhead". Surprisingly enough he was told to wait while they went to commercial and that he would be going on the air. I was surprised at this turn of events to say the least. I had to give credit to the loon on the radio, at least they were taking dissenting viewpoints. When my associate finally got on the air he was amazingly calm. He presented his points rationally and never once used the word pinhead (though I really wanted him to). It wasn't until the host responded that the trouble began. He made the mistake of not taking my associate's points seriously. If there is one thing I have learned in this life it's that you always take seriously the views of someone willing to wait on hold for five minutes just to talk on the radio. I myself would lose interest after the third ring and most people wouldn't even get to the phone. My associate l