Thursday, December 25, 1997
'Tis the day for players
to honor fans


BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

'Twas the morning of Christmas, and all through the nation,

the sporting world's wealthy were in celebration.

They rented some reindeer, and hired a sleigh,

they knew there were people they had to repay.

If not for Joe Fan, and Josephine, too,

who'd spend all that dough on a glorified shoe?

Who'd buy all the tickets, and tax themselves lean

to finance new ballparks - sport's money machine?

Who'd pay all the freight for those limos and yachts?

Who'd spare their last dime so no Have would have not?

Who'd dig deep and deeper for seats at the game,

and traffic with scalpers with no sense of shame?

If not for Joe Fan - that sad, simple jerk,

the rich and the famous might well have to work.

Instead of Mercedes, Armani and jewels,

they'd wander through Wal-Mart and covet the tools.

Their marvelous mansions, their chalets in Vail,

the dividend checks that arrive in the mail,

their filets and lobster, the rings on their hands,

are all predicated on slobs in the stands.

The owners so greedy, the players so jaded,

together rejoice that the fans haven't faded;

that top-dollar autographs and stadium spats,

have not soured those who still feed these fat cats.

So one day each year, and sometimes aloud,

the rich and the famous give thanks for the crowd.

They count all their blessings, and reckon their wealth,

and wish Joseph Fan a long life and good health.

They lift up their crystal, filled high with champagne,

and offer a toast to the source of their gain:

To the butts in the seats; to the viewers reclined;

to the kids who buy ballcaps and think them refined;

To the unpolished mob, who fork up their pence;

to the notion of box seats as business expense;

to revenue streams deep and wide as Moon River,

to high-margin beer and the college-age liver.

And lest we forget, there's creative accounting,

which allows all the funds to continue compounding,

which provides millionaires with a claim to red ink,

and leads little towns into leases that stink.

For all this and more, at this one time of year,

the roles are reversed, and the sports people cheer.

The grumpy old owner, the insolent hero,

behave for a day as if money meant zero.

They smile without cameras, they visit the sick,

they show up at shelters and make like St. Nick.

They see in their gifts ample grounds to give back,

and stifle the urge to turn to the attack.

They indulge all their fans, knowing well they are fickle.

They sign photographs and demand not a nickel.

They laugh with the hecklers, they suffer the press.

They don't blame a town for a personal mess.

And then it all is over, and boys again are boys,

and then the weary sports world reverts to all its noise:

Contractual complaining, some problem with the coach,

immodest talk, immoral acts - the stuff that spawns reproach.

Today, we get a breather, a respite from the rants,

a time to think of higher things; for peace, perhaps, a chance.

Too soon the world of games intrudes on this exalted goal.

Who first spoils Christmas spirit - give him a lump of coal.

SULLIVAN ARCHIVE