God knows the world of sports could use a shot in the arm, couldn't it? I bought a newspaper the other day, I was gonna flip to the Sports section when I realized - I just can't make the Mark Belanger-like throw from the hole anymore. I...I just don't want to read about vicious brawls, random drug testing, salary squabbles or venomous court proceedings. For Christ's sake, it's enough to make you want to turn to the front page. You know, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but I can remember as a kid thinking sports were played by heroes on a field of honor. We played on our little neighborhood sandlots in hopes of someday becoming the noblest of all warriors - a ballplayer. Today, I can see ballplayers for what they are just young men with a bag of faults covering the whole spectrum of human frailty.

On the baseball cards of my youth (collected assiduously and filed in an empty Converse sneaker box) the "boys of summer" smiled white smiles, their eyes clear and happy with the sense of purpose that comes from honorable pursuits. They were our team. They stayed with us through good and bad, and they didn't hold out for more money, and we didn't withhold our adulation.

There was a predictability then that was in one word, comforting. The plotline read as simply as a Spy vs. Spy comic strip: young man works hard, plays fair, becomes hero, gives back to fans and rides off into the sunset. Nowadays, young man squirts bleach at reporters, throws firecrackers at kids, becomes felon, and drives Porsche off into sunset.

You know, the equation doesn't work anymore. The math now dictates that Bonnie Blair trains hard, keeps her mouth shut, wins five gold medals, FIVE... and she can't get a headband endorsement. Nancy Kerrigan comes in second - once, tells Mickey Mouse to go fuck himself, and she strikes the mother lode. You know, just like in all other walks of society, sports fame has become a matter of smile over substance, and you know it's all sports: in football it's Jerry Jones' swelled head, in basketball it's Dennis Rodman's "mood ring head", in boxing it's Don King's troll-doll head, and in tennis it's Andre Agassi's balding head (aside) yeah, we noticed Andy. Ehhh, well you know something? I say, off with their heads! They're our games and we want them back.

We are being cheated the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are not Stuldreyer, Miller, Crowley and Leydon, but rather Greed, Ego, Arbitration and Steinbrenner. The Elyssian athletic fields of my youth have been turned into the Pullan Weed-Eater Dust Bowls of today. The true poetry of Sport has been corroded, and we are left with nothing but broken verse.

It looked extremely rocky for the L.A. nine that day -- The score stood 2-to-4 with but an inning left to play. So when DeShields died at second and Butler did the same, Bad Karma clouded the blue-blockers of the patrons of the game.

A few got up to do some blow, leaving there the rest With that hope that springs eternal, within the siliconed breast. For they thought if only Darryl could get a whack at that They just might put their sushi down with Strawberry at the bat.

But Piazza preceded Strawman, and likewise so did Wallach And the former was still three years shy of arbitration and the latter was a five-and-ten man who was contractually guaranteed final approval of the teams he could be traded to.

So on that earthquake, brushfire, mudslide, riot-torn Angeline billboard stricken crowd, a deathlike silence sat

For there seemed but little chance of Darryl getting to the bat.

But Piazza let drive a triple, to the wonderment of all And the inconsistent Wallach took a slider in the balls. And after his obligatory charge to the mound to make his feelings heard, There was Wallach safe at first, and Piazza huggin' third.

Then from the jaded multitude went up a wine-spritzer soaked yell It rumbled off the 405, and the Hollywood sign, as well It struck off Spago's windows, which shook like liposuctioned fat For Darryl, flighty Darryl, was advancing to the bat.

There was disease (LaSorda would say "weakness") in Darryl's manner as he twelve-stepped into place There was pride in Darryl's bearing, and some white stuff on his face. Sixty thousand and one eyes were on him (okay, Peter Falk was there, it's Hollywood) as he rubbed his hands with dirt; Thirty thousand folks applauded, dripping Dove Bars on their shirts.

Now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the smog and Darryl stood a'watching in a self-indulgent fog. Close by the usesless batsman, the ball, unheeded, sped "I've seen better orbs in strip clubs" said Darryl... "Strike One!" the umpire said.

From skyboxes stuffed with Armani suits there went up a muffled roar Like the whacking-off of perverts in that park by the Santa Monica shore [ I was looking for a rhyme.] "Kill him! Kill the ump!" shouted Kevorkian in the stands And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Darryl raised his spouse-abusing hand. He signalled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew - But Darryl had nearly nodded off, and the umpire said, "Strike Two!"

"You suck, you worthless piece of shit!" cried the maddened thousands clustered around my four-year old son and me. And then the echo answered back, "?Tu chupas, tu bueno penado pedaso de mierda!" But one scornful look from Darryl, and the fans' inner-child anger cleared. They saw his face grow stern and cold, like the day he smacked that homeless guy for looking at him weird.

Then they heard him whining about his 4-million-per-annum strain And they knew the chances were two in ten that he would not let that ball go by again.

And now the obscenely overpaid 8-and-13 pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go. And now the shitty L.A. air is shattered by the farce of Darryl's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this troubled land the sun is shining bright The Eagles have reunited, and somewhere hearts are light Somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Darryl is strung out.

Of course that is just my opinion...I could be wrong!


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