Such a shift in priorities probably won't happen anytime soon. As a people, we are so captivated by the cult of fame--Jackie Kennedy to Jackie Collins, Eddie Murphy to Eddie Murray--that a day hardly passes when the anonymous fan in the street doesn't fantasize a batting order containing Ruth, Mays, Bichette and himself, or conjure up late-night, world-saving Oval Office meetings with the chief executive of all major celebrities. Still don't believe it? Visit the edges of the syndrome for a minute. Ask John Hinckley about connecting with famous people. Ask the fellow in Omaha, Nebraska, who read a newspaper story about the "ten most eligible single women" in his city--instant celebrities in his disordered mind--and promptly set out to rape two of them, was chased off by a third and was caught by the cops only after accosting a fourth.
How distant in temperament or attitude is this guy from the woman who throws herself on Deion Sanders's car in the stadium parking lot, or the fellow obsessed with collecting the signatures--totems, talismans, signals of his own worth--of every member of the 1996 Colorado Rockies? How have we created a world in which Eddie Murray's home-run ball goes for half a million and Honus Wagner's miniature image on a flake of cardboard is now worth more than he earned in his entire career?
Wouldn't it be nice to think that the next time Dan Jones catches some player's 500th homer, he will hand the ball over to the nearest kid under twelve? So the kid can go home and do what anybody in his right mind is supposed to do with a baseball. Play catch.
Let us speak briefly now of the Texas Rangers, those running, hitting, sliding monuments to perennial frustration. After squandering big mid-July divisional leads in half a dozen seasons, the Rangers have for the first time in their quarter-century of existence reached the American League playoffs.
The question is whether anyone in Dallas has noticed. Big D and environs are Cowboy country--always have been, pardner--and for most of the Ranger years, the locals seemed to care as little about the team as they did a plate of cannelloni up in evil ol' New York or gay rights out in heathen San Francisco. What they do care about is fuh-ball. The peculiar irony of autumn 1996 is that just as Neon Deion, Emmitt and Troy-Boy have fallen on startling hard times, the dogged, long-suffering Rangers have finally risen up to fill the void.
Very good, we say. Baseball, a mysterious, contemplative game, nourishes the spirit in ways the rougher beauties of football cannot, and if the Rangers, October's children at last, succeed in imparting that to a new, expanded audience in Texas, so much the better. If the Rangers can knock off the New York Yankees of imperial legend, great. The precious few in the cheap seats at Arlington have waited long enough to cheer.
But please, all you diamond-studded Dallas folk. If your overdue dudes do go on--here's hoping they will--let's not hear y'all braggin' the thing up too much come Christmas in the lodge at Vail or on the daunting drops of Mary Jane. Do that, and we reckon the ski patrol will lasso your ass and confine ya for the rest of the off-season in a very small room decorated with nothing but H. Ross's dang flow charts.
Would there be time off for good behavior? Kind of. Just enough to watch the Packers take the Super Bowl.