When he was apitcher for the Pirates, Jerry Reuss examined the media pass pinned to my chestand said, "Working Press? That's kinda like jumbo shrimp." He wasright. Sportswriters get paid to sit and watch other people labor, which is oneof life's most diverting pastimes. It's why I love This Old House, full-servicegas stations and Benihanas.
As a Celticsforward, Cedric Maxwell liked to spend his off-seasons the way I spend everyday. "Get up at 11 or 12 o'clock and go around watching other peoplework," he said. "I love that. After I'm through playing," Maxwellvowed, "I'm going to drive around in my big car, go to construction sites,roll down the window and say, 'Sorry, boys, but I got nothin' to dotoday.'" In fact, Maxwell did the next best thing--he became asportscaster, calling Celtics games on the radio.
Being a sportsfan, too, consists principally of watching other people work. Nowhere is thismore starkly illustrated than at NFL training camps, where players run laps in100° heat while spectators drink beer and fan themselves with depth charts.
Witness a recentweekday morning at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots were running throughspecial- teams drills in front of 600 spectators in tank tops, tube tops andflip-flops, the scent of cocoa butter turning Foxborough into the northernmosthamlet of Cape Cod.
"It just showsthey love their team and are coming out to support us," said New Englandkicker Martin Gramatica of the people sitting beneath parasols watching himsweat. "I'm from Argentina, I'm a soccer fan, and I'd do the same thing formy team, Boca Juniors."
Like elevatoroperators and exotic dancers, athletes are accustomed to being stared at on thejob. In the case of Gramatica, Patriots fans were watching to see if he'll beAutomatica or Problematica after a year-and-a-half absence from the NFL.
"Anywhere yougo, everyone watches the kicker, but even more so here because of Adam,"said Gramatica, who is trying to fill the shoes of departed free-agent AdamVinatieri, though not literally so. As he spoke, the elfin Gramatica washolding his kicking shoe, a size 6. It looked like something you'd push arounda Monopoly board.
The world isseparated between doers and watchers, what Teddy Roosevelt famously called the"man in the arena" and "those cold and timid souls" whowatch--and criticize--the man in the arena.
"I enjoy whatI'm doing," said Patriots Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour,glazed in sweat from the 95° heat. "I don't want your guys' job."
Tattooed onSeymour's considerable left biceps is Philippians 4:13, which reads, i can doall things through christ who strengthens me. On my (slightly smaller) bicepsshould be 2 Thessalonians 3:11, a perfect description of the motley presscorps. It reads, there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not atall, but are busybodies.
God reiteratedthis point last week, when a violent thunderstorm struck the Patriots' complex,tearing asunder the media tent on the practice field but leaving the tent nextto it--reserved for the friends and families of players--unscathed.
Some of thiscountry's greatest thinkers have embraced indolence, from the writer Jerome K.Jerome ("I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it forhours") to the comedian Jerome Seinfeld, who often went to work with hisfather to experience "one of life's great pleasures: watching other peoplework." The appeal is at once voyeuristic (a keyhole into another person'slife) and Sawyeristic (it's fun to watch someone else paint a fence).
In his memorablesoliloquy denouncing Wrigley Field fans, former Cubs manager Lee Elia said,"The [bleepers] don't even work. That's why they're out here for the[bleeping] game." At the Patriots' afternoon workout, fans lay prone nearthe practice fields. Many were clearly playing hooky from work: They wereloafers in loafers, slackers in Dockers. Eating, drinking and staring at thefield--slothful, gluttonous, envious--they were multitasking their way throughthe seven deadly sins.
On a footballpractice field a thin white line separates players from public, American idolsfrom American idlers. Citing his job, Dolphins coach Nick Saban last weekdeclined to join the President of the United States for dinner in Miami, andPats coach Bill Belichick said that accepting a presidential dinner invitation"wouldn't be very high on my list right now."
Against such awork ethic, I can't help but feel like dead weight, an inert object. LeavingGillette Stadium, I follow a sign that directs me to the exit through--this isperfect--the PRESS/FREIGHT ELEVATOR.
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As the Pats toil in 95° heat, fans lay prone nearby,eating, drinking and staring--slothful, gluttonous, envious--multitaskingthrough the seven deadly sins.