Tag Archives: baseball

Fiction: A Short Story

More than a decade ago, one of the only real fights The Curmudgeon had with his then-girlfriend came when he observed that he would gladly give ten years off the end of his life to play major league baseball for just one year.  The woman was furious; even though she was a sports fan, we were close enough at the time for her to think those ten years would come at her expense, and she took the observation very personally.  After absorbing a few minutes of her abuse, The Curmudgeon made a simple request:  present the proposition – one year as a major league baseball player in exchange for the last ten years of your life – to a few men you know who love baseball and see what they say.  She said she would – and The Curmudgeon never heard from her about the matter again.

Flash forward ten years.  The Curmudgeon was working on a satirical novel about urban politics, and after laboring for about a year, he knew he needed a break.  Somehow, the conversation with his ex came to mind, and before he knew it, he wrote the first draft of the following story in three sessions of about ninety minutes each over the course of three days.  The story required a great deal of reworking, editing, refining, and polishing, of course – first drafts of The Curmudgeon’s short stories are always a bit of a mess – but when he was finished, he was pleased with the final product.

He hopes you are, too.

“The Devil and Johnny Kimball”

 The old, refurbished Greyhound pulled alongside the ballpark shortly before 2:00 a.m., belching diesel fumes even after the driver turned off the engine.  Almost immediately about thirty men, most of them young and fuzzy-cheeked, climbed down the steps and stopped only long enough to retrieve their duffel bags from the storage area in the bus’s belly.  They then walked off in several directions to their cars – almost all of them older automobiles that they fervently hoped would start after sitting idle for nine days.  Among them were Johnny Kimball, a twenty-five-year-old infielder for the Reading Phillies, and his roommate, twenty-year-old outfielder Byron Williams.  They walked about thirty yards to Kimball’s 1961 Comet station wagon, a hand-me-down from Kimball’s father, who had recently purchased a brand-new 1970 Buick Electra.  Business was good, and dad had shared his good fortune with his son.

The two young men were hungry, so they headed off to the twenty-four-hour diner a few blocks from the furnished studio apartment they had shared since April.  Kimball’s name was on the apartment lease, and at times that worried him:  Williams was the real deal, a genuine major league prospect, and a lot of people thought the Phillies might promote him from their AA team in Reading to their AAA team in Eugene, Oregon in the next few weeks.  If they did, Kimball would lose his roommate and half of the rent payment.

At twenty-five, Kimball was in his third year as a player in the minor league system of the Philadelphia Phillies, joining them from the University of Delaware.  Players who actually graduated from college, as Kimball did – with a 3.8 average and a degree in accounting – were still fairly rare in baseball, and this set him apart from his teammates.  He was the oldest player on the team by three years, and only recently had he come to the conclusion that unlike his talented roommate, he was no longer viewed as a potential major league player by the Phillies.

For his first two years, Kimball had every reason to believe that he, too, was a real prospect.  A sure-handed fielder with a strong throwing arm but just average running speed, he could play solidly, if unspectacularly, at second base, shortstop, and third base.  During his first minor league season, at A-level Spartanburg, he played every day, performed well, and earned a promotion to AA-level Reading the following year.  While his performance at Reading had been almost identical to his year in Spartanburg, it did not earn him another promotion:  he was now in Reading for a second year, the first sign that his progress had stalled and that the Phillies now questioned his potential.  The second sign, however, was far more ominous:  he did not have a regular position in his second year in Reading, which meant that other players had leap-frogged ahead of him in the organization’s view.  Now, he played only when someone was injured; otherwise, he just watched the games from the bench.  As spring turned into summer and sweltering August began, he was finally beginning to comprehend, and even accept, that he had no future in baseball.  Meanwhile, back home in Florida, his family tried to be supportive:  they, too, understood his situation, but their willingness to indulge his baseball dream was growing thin.  His wife made no secret of her desire for him to come home; a few of the players on the team were married and their wives lived with them during the season, but she had a career of her own and could not pick and move from small town to small town while her husband learned to master the unlikely skill of striking a fast-moving orb with a two-pound stick.  Kimball’s father, who owned five tire, muffler, and transmission shops in the greater Tampa area, was skeptical of the very notion of a grown man playing baseball for a living and wanted his son to return home and take over financial management of his fast-growing business interests.

Kimball and Williams pulled into the parking lot of the all-night diner and entered the almost-deserted eatery; the only other patron was an old man who sat slumped, and possibly asleep, at a table.  The two men took a booth and the only waitress on duty approached them with menus but the players waved them off:  they both knew what they wanted and ordered as soon as they took their seats.  They exchanged small talk with her; they were regulars and treated well.  When she returned a minute later with their large glasses of orange juice, she also brought two large, opaque mugs of something they had not ordered:  ice cold Rolling Rock, which was not on the menu because the establishment did not have a liquor license.  This was one of the privileges of being a member of the Reading Phillies and one of the benefits of eating at a time of day when there was no one around to see what they were being served.

As soon as the waitress left, Kimball excused himself and went off to call his wife from the pay phone outside the rest rooms.  This was their ritual:  when the bus returned to Reading, he called her as soon as he could to report on the game’s outcome and on his own performance and to say goodnight and that he loved her.  They spoke for about five minutes, after which Kimball returned to his table.

“You had a great night tonight, By,” he told his roommate.  “That ball you hit in the gap was a rope, and when you turned on the jets and stretched it into a triple, well, it was just gorgeous.”

“I don’t hear people telling me I’m gorgeous very often,” Williams said, laughing.

“I guess not.  But I’m guessing you’re hearing more people talk about Eugene now, too.”

“Don’t you start, too.”

“Why not?  The Phillies were awful this year, so it stands to reason that on September 1, they’re gonna call up some guys.  When they do, they’re going to need bodies at Eugene to take their place.  If you’re not at the top of the list, you have to be pretty close.”

Williams smiled.

“I don’t want to get my hopes up, but if I do go, maybe we’ll both go.”

Kimball shook his head.

“Now we both know that’s not going to happen.”

The waitress came and set food in front of them – along with another mug of beer.

“Why not?  You’re having a good year.”

“C’mon, I’m a sub.  Utility guys at double A don’t go to triple A.  You’re ticketed for bigger things, you’re gonna get a taste, a chance to show what you can do.  I don’t even have a regular job here anymore.”

“Hey, you’re getting a shot, what with Freddy out.  You’re doing well.”

“I am, I know, but when Freddy’s knee’s better, he goes back to third and I go back to the bench.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yeah, I do.

“Look, remember when you were at Spartanburg last year and you looked around at your teammates and wondered what some of them were even doing there?”

“What do you mean?” Williams asked.  He knew exactly what Kimball meant.

“You know:  the guys who were no better than half the players on your high school team and you knew they didn’t have a chance in the world of playing major league baseball.”

“Yeah, sure.  I still don’t get it.”

“Well, listen, here’s what that’s all about.  On every minor league team there are only five or six players who really matter.  They’re the prospects:  the guys who the big league club thinks have a chance to play in the majors.  The rest of the guys on the team, including the ones you know can’t really play, they’re only around so that each team has enough players to play games every day.  Like if two of those five or six real prospects are starting pitchers, they can’t pitch every day, so you need some warm bodies to throw some innings between the turns of the guys who really do matter.  The same thing is true up and down the lineup.  Maybe a team doesn’t have a real shortstop prospect at double A, so they use another warm body to play short because you can’t play a game without a shortstop.”

“I think you had a point to make somewhere.”

“Yeah, here’s my point:  you’re one of the five or six.  I’m one of the warm bodies.  The Phillies think you have a chance to be a major league player someday.  Last year when I came to Reading, I was one of the five or six, too, but they saw enough of me to decide that it’s not going to happen for me, so now I’m one of the warm bodies.”

“No.”

“C’mon.  Of course I am.  Two years ago I played every day at Spartanburg and did well enough to earn a promotion to Reading.  Last year I played every day here in Reading, but not only didn’t I get promoted to Eugene, but I also lost my job as an everyday player.”

“You’ve played plenty this year.”

“Only when someone’s hurt, or like when they called up Jerry to Eugene and it took them nearly two weeks to decide who to promote to take his place.  And they did promote someone else instead of giving me the job.”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Yeah.  I didn’t realize it at first, but I figured it out when they sent Hector to replace Jerry.  Last year I was ahead of both of those guys.  Now they’re both ahead of me, and the only time I get to play is when somebody else can’t.

“You know, Carol keeps telling me that she wants me to come home, and my dad still wants me in his business, and for the first time, they’re starting to make sense to me.  I’ve got a college degree and a great wife and a good job waiting for me, but it seemed worth investing some time in this to see if I might be able to make it to the bigs, but I think my opportunity has passed.  It’s too bad, too:  I want it so much I can taste it.  I’d sell my soul for it.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“No, not literally, but I’ll tell you this:  I’d give ten years – no, fifteen years – off the end of my life for one year in the majors.  Just one year, that’s all.”

“For real?”

“For real.”

Byron looked at his roommate for a few seconds before speaking.

“Those beers went right through me.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

Williams rose and set off for the men’s room.  Kimball was putting the last bite of pie into his mouth when someone slid into Williams’s seat across from him in the booth.  It was the old man who had appeared to be sleeping when the two ballplayers entered the diner.

“Ken Overton,” the old man said, extending his hand.

“John Kimball,” Kimball replied, extending his own.  He looked at the old man:  he appeared to be seventy years old, maybe seventy-five, with gray hair, and in need of both a shave and a haircut – and perhaps some fresh, clean clothes and a bath as well.

“Yes, of the Phillies.  I’ve seen you play.  You’re a nice little player.”

“Thank you,” Kimball replied.  Reading was a small town and the players were accustomed to being recognized and approached by fans.  Most of them enjoyed it, Kimball among them.

“I couldn’t help overhearing you,” the man explained, “when you said you’d give fifteen years off the end of your life for one year in the majors.  Were you serious when you said that or were you just kidding?”

“For the chance to play big league baseball?  Only every boy’s dream growing up?  You bet I was serious.”

“I thought so.  I could tell by your tone of voice, the passion I heard.

“So what if I told you I could make it happen?”

“Make what happen?” Kimball asked.

“One year in the majors in exchange for fifteen years off the end of your life.”

Kimball laughed.

“Who’re you, the devil?”

Now Overton laughed.

“Of course I’m not the devil.  The devil only engages in wholesale mayhem on earth:  bringing insane dictators into power, spreading disease, wiping out crops and causing famine, that kind of thing.  I’m one of the devil’s emissaries:  I work the retail end of the business, you might say.”

“Yeah, right.”

“You don’t believe in the devil?”

“Should I?” Kimball asked.

“How else would you explain the resurrection of Richard Nixon?”

Kimball laughed.

“That’s almost a plausible explanation.  But then, he is president, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, well, there’s a price yet to be paid for his resurrection,” Overton said, “and we haven’t seen the last of his dark side.”

“I see.”

“So, are you serious about one year in the major leagues in exchange for fifteen years at the end of your life?”

“How can you possibly make that happen?”

“That’s none of your concern,” Overton said. “Leave the details to me.  If you do what I tell you, you’ll get your one year in the major leagues:  not next year but the year after.  It’ll be one year and one year only, with no chance for a second.”

“What do I have to do – mug a little old lady or something?”

“You’re not taking me seriously, young man.  Are you interested or not?”

“I’m still talking to you, aren’t I?”

“So then no more smart mouth.

“Your catcher got hurt tonight, right?”

Kimball was stunned.

“How did you know that?”  Kimball knew the game had not been broadcast on the radio and that the newspapers would not be out for a few hours yet.

“I…know things.”

“Yeah, he tweaked his hamstring.  He’ll be out for a few days, but they think he’ll be fine.”

“He will.”

“You know that for a fact, do you?”

“Yes.”

“So, what about it?”

“Tomorrow, when you go to the clubhouse, you go up to coach Seminick and tell him that if he needs an emergency catcher, you’re game.  Ask if he can give you some pointers, just in case.  He’s an old catcher himself, you know, so he’ll really like that.”

“For real?”

“For real.”

“Your catcher will recover, but in a few weeks, your team will be getting clobbered in a game and they’ll put you in to catch the last inning.  You’ll catch a few more times before the season is over, and when the season ends, the Phillies will tell you that they’re going to give you some serious instruction in how to be a catcher in the spring.  You can use that to justify to your family giving your baseball dream another year.”

“Justify to my family?”

“Well, they’re not coming right out and saying it, but you know they want you to give up baseball and come home, right?”

“Yeah, but…hey, how’d you know that?”

“Like I said, I know things.  Maybe now you’ll take me a little more seriously.

“Anyhow, you’re not going to get promoted next year, so you’ll be here again in Reading.  You won’t have a regular position again, but between all of the positions you play, now including catcher, you’ll see plenty of action.  You’ll take to catching pretty well, and because big league teams always need a lot of catchers in spring training to work with all of their pitchers, you’ll be invited to spring training with the big team the following year.  That’ll buy you another year with your family.  If you work hard you’ll make the team, play just a little, do only fair, stay with the team the entire season, and that’ll be your year in the big leagues.  There won’t be a second year.”

“So all I have to do to get it started is go to the manager tomorrow and volunteer to be the emergency catcher?”

“That’s all – that and never tell a soul about any of this.  You do and all deals are off, plus there’ll be serious consequences.”

Kimball paused for a moment before speaking.

“So now that I know what to do, what’s to stop me from going ahead and doing it without agreeing to your terms?”

Overton laughed.

“It won’t work, that’s all.”

“No?”

“You really think you can mess with the devil and get away with it?”

“Gotcha.”

“So, do we have a deal?”

Kimball shook his head in the affirmative.

“I don’t see why not.  I don’t believe any of this, but then I don’t have anything to lose, do I?”

Overton arched his right eyebrow.

“Yes you do.”

“What?” Kimball asked.

“The last fifteen years of your life.  One day, at some point in the future, I’m going to show up unexpected and unannounced and tell you that you’re down to your last three days.  And I’m not going to tell you how you’re going to go, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“So, do we have a deal?” Overton asked.

“Yeah, we have a deal.”

Overton extended his hand and smiled.  Kimball shook it.

Just as their hands parted, Byron Williams returned.  Kimball was flustered for a moment but quickly regained his composure.

“Hey, By, this is…”

“Ken Overton,” Overton said.  “I’m a big fan of you, Johnny, and the team and just wanted to come over and say hello.”

He extended his hand and Williams took it.

“You gentlemen have a good evening,” Overton said as he turned and departed.

*        *        *

Kimball did as he was told and was rewarded as promised.  He spent all of 1972 in the major leagues as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies that year were the worst team in baseball and one of the worst teams in the history of baseball and Kimball was just another bad player on a very bad team.  Despite the misery of knowing they would probably lose nearly two games out of every three, Kimball managed to squeeze an enormous amount of joy out of the experience.  He reveled in the large crowds that came out to cheer for the team in its still-new stadium; in the fans who – despite the booing for which Philadelphia was so well known – really did love their team; in the travel from major league city to major league city – traveling on airplanes instead of buses, staying at first-class hotels, seeing places he might never otherwise have seen, and eating at first-class restaurants with the help of generous meal money handed to the players in bulging envelopes every time they traveled; and the luxury of having his equipment and luggage taken care of for him and his pre-game and post-game food provided by members of the team’s staff for whom such work was their full-time job.

He also took great pleasure in playing major league baseball in major league stadiums.  Every time he climbed the dugout stairs and stepped onto the playing field or looked into the stands or up at the lights he felt a genuine thrill that never dimmed or grew old as the season progressed.  He did not, however, get to experience these thrills very often:  over the course of the six-month, 162-game season, Kimball played in just fifty-eight games, and the baseball encyclopedia summarized his career succinctly:  he hit .238 with six RBIs in forty-eight at bats, hit two doubles, and scored six runs.  What it failed to capture was what would remain with Kimball for the rest of his life:  in his last game, on the last day of the season, he started for the first and only time in his major league career, playing second base, and in his last at-bat, he hit a home run over the left-field wall and trotted casually around the bases, reveling in every moment because he knew he would never do it again.

By then, Kimball knew that his major league career was over – knew not because of Ken Overton’s warning but because the team’s general manager, who also managed the team for the last part of the season, had told him the previous week that he no longer fit into the team’s plans and would be released after the season’s end.  The general manager also said that he liked Kimball very much and offered him a job coaching in the team’s minor league system.  Kimball told the man that he had a much better offer back home, helping to run the family business, declined the offer, and asked, as a final wish, if he could play in the team’s last game of the season.  The general manager was pleased to grant this reasonable request; by this time, most of the team’s players only wanted to go home and put the disastrous season behind them, and he therefore was happy to be able to give an opportunity to a fine young man who clearly wanted to treat this meaningless game as the most important of his life.  When the season ended, Kimball – not unhappily and without regret – packed up his 1972 Chevrolet Impala that still had a hint of new car smell and drove the 1000 miles back home, to Plant City, Florida, where his wife, his family, and his new job as controller of Kimball Enterprises awaited him.

For the next thirty years Kimball worked in various capacities in the family business:  controller, vice president of human resources, vice president of marketing, chief financial officer, and – after his father’s retirement – president and chief executive officer.  Over the years the company grew and grew, expanding to forty tire, muffler, and repair shops; Toyota and Honda dealerships; three storage rental facilities; and a company that operated shuttle bus services between the airport and the region’s many hotels and motels along the Gulf of Mexico and near Busch Gardens.  Kimball also became a prominent member of the community and a tireless cheerleader for his fast-growing hometown.  He had been the driving force behind the town’s successful effort to attract a major league baseball team to train in the city each spring, served four terms as president of the chamber of commerce and two terms as a city commissioner, ten years as commissioner of its Babe Ruth little league, and on the board of directors of the major bank in town, the United Way, the American Red Cross, and the community college.

Although Kimball’s father retired in 1992, he stayed active in the business in one way or another until his death in 2002 at the age of eighty-two.  One month after the funeral, Kimball, now fifty-seven himself, told his wife that he thought the time had come to sell the business and retire.  She was pleased:  her husband had worked very hard for many years, none of their four children worked for the company, and he deserved the opportunity to sit back and enjoy life and everything he had accomplished while he was still young and vigorous and able to enjoy retirement.

Retirement, however, did not agree with Kimball.  For the first year after he sold the last of his businesses he and his wife traveled the world, including visits to all four of their children, who were scattered around the country, each taking up permanent residence near where they had attended college.  Once they returned home, though, Kimball found himself restless:  other than playing a great deal of golf and reducing his handicap to just six strokes, he felt he had nothing constructive to do.  To fill this hole in his life he decided to launch a new business:  a sports bar.

For a year he plunged into his new venture:  finding the right location, working with a designer, developing a menu and the sports themes, furnishing and equipping it, hiring a staff, promoting it, and getting the business off the ground.  The sports bar was successful from day one, and because he had done such a good job hiring staff, Kimball again found himself with relatively little to do.  He would come to the bar most mornings around 11:30 and stay through the lunch hour and come again for dinner, or right after dinner, but he did little more than greet customers and watch his employees go about their business.

One of his favorite activities at the bar was watching Tampa Bay Bucs football games with his customers.  Come Sunday afternoon in the fall, every one of the twenty-four large-screen televisions in the restaurant was tuned to the Bucs game while patrons watched, ate, drank, and cheered together.  Kimball always set himself up at a table in the middle of the bar area, surrounded by friends and a never-ending parade of people who came by to say hello.

One Sunday afternoon in mid-November the Bucs were engaged in a particularly tight game with division rival Atlanta.  Kimball was anxious, but not because of the game:  he was expecting a call from his son in-law, who he expected would tell him that his daughter had just delivered his first grandchild.  Many of the patrons knew about the imminent call and stopped by his table to wish him well.

During the third quarter, the bartender called across the noisy room.

“John, it’s Ron.”

Heads turned as Kimball rose, walked to the bar, and took the phone from his bartender.

“Hey, Ron.”

He listened for a moment before speaking again.

“Yes.  Six pounds, nine ounces, healthy.  Kathleen.  Wonderful.  And Jeannie?”

A pause.

“Great.  Congratulations, son.”

Another pause.

“Okay, so like we planned, Carol and I will fly up in a week.  I’m so happy for you, son.  Tell Jeannie I’ll talk to her tonight and see her in a week.  Bye.”

Kimball looked up, a tear in his eye, toward the many people who had momentarily turned away from the game to watch the proprietor.

“It’s a girl,” he announced.  “Kathleen.  Ten fingers, ten toes, healthy.  I’m a grandfather!”

A roar went up, people applauded, and Kimball called for a round of beer on the house and spent the next ten minutes circulating throughout the bar, handing out cigars and unable to wipe the smile from his face.

About forty-five minutes later the game ended and most of the patrons departed, with many of them stopping by Kimball’s table to offer their congratulations again.  Once most of the people were gone, the manager joined Kimball and they discussed a few matters related to that night’s dinner service.

As the manager departed, a voice called out from behind Kimball.

“Congratulations on your granddaughter.  You must be very happy and proud.  Your first, I understand.”

“Thank you, thank you,” Kimball replied as the man circled the table to face him.  Kimball thought the elderly, gray-haired man looked vaguely familiar but could not place him.

The man extended his hand.

“Ken Overton,” he said.

Kimball turned white.  He did not take the outstretched hand.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“That’s not possible.  You were ancient back in 1970, you couldn’t possibly…”

“Yes, it’s me, and this is my perpetual age.  Back in my real life I was unkind to the elderly, so my punishment is to live forever as one of them.

“I’ve come to tell you that it’s time.”

“Time?” Kimball asked.

“Yes.  As we agreed in that diner in Reading, Pennsylvania thirty-four years ago.”

“But…”

“I delivered on my promise.  You did as I told you and enjoyed a season as a major league baseball player.  I have to tell you, people sell their souls for much less, even for silly things, but you appeared to enjoy your wish as much as anyone I’ve ever dealt with.

“And you did enjoy it, didn’t you?”

Kimball said nothing.

“Didn’t you?” Overton repeated.

“Yes,” Kimball finally whispered.

“And now I’ve come to collect, as I told you I would.  I also promised you three days’ notice.  The clock starts now.”

“But…my daughter…my granddaughter…my wife and I are flying to see my granddaughter, our first, next week.”

“I can’t speak for your wife, but I know you will definitely not be accompanying her.  Of that I’m certain.”

“But…”

“You knew there would be a price to be paid, Mr. Kimball, and you agreed to pay it.”

“Yes, but…”

“But you never entirely believed it.  I know.  That’s how it usually goes.  People want what they want, they make sacrifices to achieve their goals, they compromise to get what they want, but they think there’ll be no consequences, no day of reckoning.  But you knew exactly what the consequences would be thirty-four years ago.

“By the way, By Williams turned out to be a brilliant ballplayer, didn’t he?  I was truly touched to see you sitting with his family at the hall of fame induction ceremony.  I can also tell you, if it’s any consolation, that he’ll drop what he’s doing to come to your funeral.”

“Yes, but…”

“But you have more important things to think about right now.  Like your last three days.”

Kimball paused for a moment, thinking.

“Three days?  I couldn’t have another week, just long enough to see my granddaughter?”

“I’m afraid not.  The devil has an ironic streak a mile long.  You have three days and there’s no way around it.  We made a deal, I lived up to my end, and now it’s your turn to live up to yours.”

“Yes, but…”

Kimball did not have a chance to finish the thought.  The bar’s fire alarm sounded and the manager came running out of the kitchen.

“Fire,” he shouted.  “Everyone out.  Fire department’s on the way.”

The few remaining customers made their way quickly to the door.

“What happened?” Kimball asked.

“Grease fire, we have them once in a while, but this one spread too fast for us to put it out.  The whole kitchen’s ablaze.  Let’s go.”

They all headed for the door and stood in the mostly empty parking lot.  Overton remained by Kimball’s side, with the manager standing with them.

“Is everyone out?” Kimball asked.

“I’m thinking,” the manager replied.  He was running through a mental list of all of the employees on duty at the time.  Meanwhile, the kitchen’s exterior wall began to burn.

A woman came running out the door.

“Pablo’s still in there,” she said breathlessly.  “He fell.  I think he broke his ankle.  I tried to drag him but he’s too big for me.  He’s trying to crawl.”

Overton touched Kimball’s arm.

“Mr. Kimball?” he asked.

“Yes?” Kimball replied.

Kimball paused for a moment.

“Did you do this?” Kimball finally asked.

“No.  I said you had three days and I meant it.  Still, if one has to go…”  He did not finish the thought.

Kimball said nothing.  He just looked skyward for a moment, sighed deeply, and then dashed back into the restaurant and into the fire in search of Pablo.

Mini-Rumination: Are Baseball Players Too Blasé?

Anyone who thinks that because professional athletes make so much money they are completely jaded and blasé and don’t really care whether their team wins or loses needs to watch what happens when a baseball team comes from behind and wins a game in the bottom of the ninth inning:  the players run out onto the field and jump up and down and hug and pound each other like they’re little leaguers.

Too blasé?  Too cool to show excitement?  Hardly.