Volume 2, Number 5 -- May, 1997
by The Professor
People often comment to the Professor about how wonderful it must be to be a sports writer. Being able to hang out at the ballpark all day long, rubbing elbows with the players, hanging out with fellow colleagues, talking sports all day while drinking scotch and puffing on a fat cigar. Ah, the good life. And it would be. too, if not for two inescapable facts:
A) Athletes hate Sports writers,
B) Sports writers are dorks.
Sorry, but its true. I came to this startling realization while covering the Giants' spring training down in Scottsdale Arizona last month. I had always known that the ballplayers hated us, had grown used to it in fact. I had long assumed that it was because they were merely egostistical *ssh*les who couldn't be bothered to be civil.
But then one day I looked around the press box at my fellow scribes and eavesdropped on their conversations a bit and it struck me. These people were all dorks! It occurred to me, in fact, that I was the only non-dork in the entire room. For a moment I revelled in this sudden social superiority that had been thrust upon me.
Then the second realization hit me.
I sat quietly for a long time, just letting the thought sink in. As with most great realizations, I felt it best not to rush things, lest the magic of the moment be lost. After a while I leaned over to my colleague, a well-meaning dork whom I will refer to as "my colleague", and asked him a question. "Look at that guy in the bermuda shorts." I said.
My colleague looked and, in the snooty and aloof manner that is his alone, snorted and said, "Yeah. What a dork." My colleague then went back to reading his paper.
Feeling as though I was on to something, I then rose and meandered my way over to the guy in the Bermuda shorts and stood next to him for a few moments watching the game. After a while I nudged him and directed his attention to my colleague.
"Check this guy out." I said, trying to keep my voice neutral.
Bermuda looked over and said, "The guy with the cheesy goatee?"
"Yeah." I said.
"What a dork." observed Bermuda as he turned his attention back to the game.
I did this for the rest of the game, going around the room and subtly interviewing each of my fellow sportswriters. What I found was that every reporter in the room viewed every other reporter as a dork, or worse. Now, if our own peers held each other in such low regard, I surmised, how could a highly-compensated, wildly-adored superstar-to-the-masses possibly view us as anything other than a slobbering pack of spotlight chasers trying to usurp the fame and celebrity of the stars that we cannot attain for ourselves.
The time had come to carry my theory to the next level. When the game ended, I made my way down to the locker room. The first player I encountered was Barry Bonds, who was (as usual) less than thrilled to see a member of the press. In fact, on behalf of the entire media, I would like to thank Barry for not acting on the impulse which is clearly reflected on his face every time a reporter enters his presence, which is to beat the living starch out the first person he sees with press credentials.
Anyway, for the purposes of this particular project, I opted to pass on Mr. Bonds and moved on to the next ballplayer in the room, Mark Lewis. Now, Mark Lewis is no superstar. He is, at best, a quality platoon player and pinch hitter who will probably have a nice career someday as a PE teacher. Certainly this was not the type of person whom you would expect to be lugging around a sizeable set of luggage in which to stow his excess ego for those long road trips.
Perhaps he wasn't feeling well or had been having a bad day and would, at any other time have been a showcase of personality and charm. But on this day Mr. Lewis could not have been troubled to expend the energy neccessary to lift his head enough to spit in the Professor's direction. On to the next subject.
Glenallen Hill was, if not cooperative. at least gracious enough to be be evasive. Mr. Hill gave a lame excuse and slipped out the back door before I could corner him for any sort of an interview. No hard feelings, at least he respected me enough to blow me off.
Finally I settled on my subject. I agreed not to use this ballplayer's real name, as he was worried he might be shunned by his fellow ballplayers should it come to light that he actually cooperated with a member of the media. I shall refer to him as "Buffy".
I sat down with Buffy and asked him, in as somber a voice as I could muster, "You don't like me, do you?"
"What do you mean?" said he, "I don't even know you."
"I mean," I pressed on, "the media. Reporters. You hate me because I'm a reporter."
"Oh, well I think 'hate' is a strong word," he temporized, "I wouldn't say that I hate you. I know that many of us don't trust the media, and for good reason, I think."
"Do you feel like we're out to get you." I said.
"No." he said, trying to think, "No, I think you're just trying to do your job, and that is to dig up dirt. If there is no dirt, sometimes you invent it."
"I see." I said, then paused. "Do you think I'm a dork?"
"Excuse me?" he said, then started to chuckle.
"Do you," I repeated, "think I'm a dork?"
By now he was laughing out loud, rolling back against the locker.
"It's OK," I said, "because today I realized that..."
I tried to continue, but around that time Buffy's laughter had drawn the attention of some of the other ballplayers, who came over to see what all the fuss was about. Buffy explained to them that I was a dork, at which point they gave me a wedgie, wrapped me in athletic tape, dunked my head in the toilet, and stuffed me in a locker. Just like in high school.
I had never felt so accepted in all my professional life.