|These are the times we root in ...
Bitter tears fill the mildewed crannies of your rubber dog mask as you
watch your beloved hometown team pack up and move.
An extra $24 gets tacked on to your water bill, so a billionaire owner can
catch a free ride on a state-of-the-art crib with enough luxury box profits
to engorge his throbbing wallet like green Viagra.
You watch the salary cap give your GM a way out, and greed dress your
favorite player in the uniform of the highest bidder.
You watch union reps pull up to negotiations in limos the size of your
apartment, and owners cancel a World Series. In a year, you may even get to
watch the sequel.
Yet you still do your part.
You shell out the $42.50 for a seat in the bleachers.
You toss another $20 at parking, and another $30 for a watered-down brew to
chase down a water-wrinkled weenie. Mind you, these numbers only account for
a misfit loner who goes to the game alone, or with his imaginary friend.
You suffer the tangy odor of your seat neighbor, and swat away the halo of
flies that sizzles around his head.
But with a crack of the bat, some high elbows, and soft hands, it is
That's right -- you just caught a milestone ball.
Someone's 60th, 70th, 500th, and coming soon, 750th!
Hell, every week this year, Barry Bonds knocks another pill off a scuba diver
in McCovey Cove, and passes another legend on the all-timer charts. Get there
first, and the tables have turned with a vengeance.
For the first time since players kicked it old school and sold suits in the
offseason, or the days when owners made their living off the team, you have the power.
Of course, the world still expects you to handle the situation like a purist. If it's a visitor's slam, toss it back. If it's your hometown hero, who
arrived as a free agent two weeks ago, hand it to him with a handshake and a
Or even worse, wait around four hours while he takes a whirlpool, loses 10
grand in a clubhouse game of Go Fish, then sends a trainer out to swap your
ball for a signed bat personally forged by the team's traveling secretary.
Everybody wants you to surrender a milestone, or as I see it, The Great
Equalizer. I say, Why? It's the only time a fan has power over the game.
Normally, the baseball memorabilia market makes me wretch, but here's the
exception to the rule -- a "collectible" that means something in the only coin
of the realm: Power. You're supposed to surrender and show your belly?
I say, How bad do they want it?
You could put your own tour together, barnstorming the country with the
ball, some of Bob Crane's home movies, and the real live Bob Denver.
You could get a superstar to drive you to Sizzler ... and pay!
You could ask Albert Belle to sit in the stands and let you throw it at his
Get a big leaguer to name an illegitimate kid after your late, beloved Uncle Chappy.
Or take the game to task and demand that the commissioner force George Steinbrenner into revenue sharing.
Trust me, a player will think about that the next time he sits for a paid
autograph-signing making zero eye contact. And if he refuses? Well, isn't
that why the good Lord created E-bay?
Humorist Nick Bakay, currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. He has a website at http://nickbakay.com.
Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
|When baseballs drop from the sky into your overpriced seat or your overpriced brew, think of it as payback time.||