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August 2001


by Fine Diner

May I have the number to rotisserie anonymous, please?

It finally happened, according to the unanimous consensus of my family, friends and coworkers. I've cracked. I've gone over the edge. I've forgotten my true purpose in life, which as an improper Bostonian - and Boston area sports editor - is to agitate at Red Sox games, every now and then cursing those Damn Yankees using George Steinbrenner's money to become the east coach version of the Mounties: they always get their man.

It started, I am told, when I got into my first rotisserie baseball league, and I have degenerated ever since. Well, my girlfriend did call me a degenerate a few years prior to that, but I guess that should come with an asterisk. Anyway, a buddy at work got me into his rotisserie league about 15 years ago, and I have been in one league or another ever since. I know I can quit any time; however, I did suffer withdrawal symptoms when baseball went on
strike in 1994. Friends did not consider it an exercise in curiosity as I tried to convince them when I suggested forming an alternate rotisserie league that year based on the outcome of the Sunday afternoon slow-pitch softball league we were involved in. Being a sportsman, I thought I would bring it up to the opponents during a game when I pulled my spikes out of the shortstop's big toe. "It ruins the competitiveness of the league," declared third baseman Bob Haslick, who usually played with a glove partially on his right hand and a Coors firmly clutched in his left hand. Okay, so maybe that was a sign, and one not to ignore signs on the bases, I hit Bob and ran home.

As the years went by, the other league owners and myself got a little more involved in our passion. We all had our own technique, bringing different levels of success. Randy, who always felt he had to live up to his name, got a lot of his inside information after picking up players' wives post-game. He dropped out of the league after hitting on Albert Belle's girlfriend and, come to think of it, we haven't heard from him since. Ralph decided to subscribe to every single magazine covering every organization from Rookie League on up to the majors. Ever acutely aware that he might need some bit of information from an 1989 Dunedin Wolves Journal well into the next century he decided not to part with it, or any of them for that matter. When his ex-wife set fire to his home, it went up in record time, but he didn't notice as he recorded the foot speed of all fire fighters attempting to put out the blaze.

Since I went back into sports writing, my strategy was more logical. I would call the ballpark in an attempt to gain an interview, then slyly turned the conversation in an effort to gain more important information, namely that which would give me the ultimate edge in my league.

"Hi, Joe? Is Carl Everett in the clubhouse?"
"Yeah, I'll get he is. Carl, take the phone."
"Hiya, Carl. How does it feel to be back on the field after the long layoff?"
"Pretty good. I'm glad to be back, Trot Nixon and I were just talking about it."
"Tell me. Do you hit better when you are talking to reporters, or when you are ignoring them. Carl? Carl?"

Okay, so I didn't get the ultimate edge.

My interest in winning the league grew, and so did my efforts. I mean, one has to try, right? It didn't go over well with those who knew me. I took too long in the men's rooms of our sports bars they say, because they conveniently put the daily sports pages on the walls. I was sued by a waitress for hitting her in a pool hall with the cue ball. Is it my fault that Cal Ripken hit a grand slam while I was breaking? And I was kicked out of the church choir for using a transistor radio with an earplug. The music director emphatically informed me that the words to Hymn number 73 are not "Holy, Holy, Holy smoke, Troy Percival has not blown a save all year!" And some don't like my apartment layout either. I thought it was rather ingenious how I laid out the three television sets, in a sort of pinstriped pyramid. The base is the largest telly, with the Red Sox station glued in place. Then in ascending order is the middle television with the Braves on TNT, and the top television with ESPN's Baseball Tonight. On top of that are the baseball caps of every team of which I have a player.

At the behest of my family, I looked into a 12-slidestep program, specifically for baseball and rotisserie junkies. I had started breaking out into cold sweats when Red Sox closer Derek Lowe allowed a base runner to reach third. I was not able to sleep on the final night of the major league mid-season trading deadline in fear that the White Sox would once again trade everyone making more than the minimum salary. But I found the 12 steps too difficult to adhere to. I had to admit that I was powerless over rotisserie, that I could not control the urge to call co-owners at work and gloat over their players' injuries, and that I could not turn off the television once the national anthem had been sung. Except, of course, the time Roseanne Barr sang it at the All-Star game.

What I really found difficult was having to call other owners who I fleeced with an injured player in a trade, using their lack of knowledge to keep my team in first place. I just couldn't do that. Every time I tried to take a personal inventory, I always ended up comparing my winning seasons to my losing seasons. My first step at the 12-step meeting was out the door. I couldn't handle it. But I got worse. I cheered at Fenway Park when Angels' outfielder Tim Salmon hit a homer off Hideo Nomo. I traded for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, and kept cheering when another run went up for the Yankees on the Fenway scoreboard. I suddenly discovered that I had the section to myself. I also discovered that I committed the cardinal sin as a Red Sox fan - I hoped fervently that Clemens would beat them face to face. Then, I knew I needed help. So now I am finally taking that first step to recovery. - I am checking myself into the Whitey Ford Clinic.

After the season, that is.