his column is about greed and corruption. That's fitting enough for an election day. But, I'm not talking about political greed. I'm talking about mine.
But first, a few facts from the world of baseball.
Manny Ramirez, a career .313 hitter and outfielder for Cleveland, says he wants a new contract that will pay him at least $200 million over the next 10 years. A group of fans, afraid Ramirez might get more money elsewhere, has started a petition urging him to stick around. In its preamble the petition states, "getting the biggest contract isn't the reason for playing or living."
Elsewhere, Ron Oester turned his nose up at a deal that would have paid him $650,000 to manage the Cincinnati Reds for two years. Apparently, Oester thinks somebody else will pay him more money for less effort.
He's probably right.
The Toronto Blue Jays gave Carlos Delgado, an infielder with a career batting average of .282, a four-year, $68 million contract. And, the New York Mets signed Lenny Harris, a player they identify as a utility man, to a two-year deal worth $2.2 million.
For the uninitiated, calling someone a "utility player" is like setting a friend up with a blind date who has "a great personality." Ballplayers are called utility players because they play no position well enough every day. These players sit on the bench better than they play every day.
I use these examples to establish that there is money in sports, lots of it, even for marginal performers. But my aim is not to beat up these guys. My aim is to join them and start cashing in myself. I think I've figured a way for you to help me make that happen.
Basketball coaches have shoe contracts. Colleges get paid to put little Nike swooshes on their players' uniforms. Baseball backstops flash commercial messages while your favorite player is at bat. There are ads on scoreboards and in programs. Even this newspaper sells ads on the sports page. I figure I can, too.
From now on, this column is for sale.
This is a concept that race car drivers have understood for years. Those guys plaster commercial messages over every inch of their cars and themselves. Watch a driver during a post-race TV interview. You'll see them change hats several times in the course of an interview, just to make sure the cash register continues to ring. They get paid for how long and how often their sponsors' logos appear on the screen.
See the photo up above this column? Wouldn't that little square look a lot better with your logo or coupon inside it?
And, what if I rewrote the opening of this column to say, "This column is about greed and corruption. That's fitting enough for an election day. Hey, and speaking of 'fitting,' no one gives you a better fit than (insert the name of a local apparel store here)."
Are you beginning to see the possibilities?
I am not too proud to wear a sandwich board with your ad to an area athletic event. It could even have a little "take one" pocket with brochures. Wouldn't it be great if I kept volleyball stats using a pen supplied by one of the fine office supply shops in town? Wouldn't it be a boon to restaurant owners if I let it slip that I eat at their place after every big game or that I write while wearing comfy footwear courtesy of a certain moccasin shop in Nisswa?
Maybe more bowling coverage would find its way into the sports section if a local league would strike a deal with me. Maybe there would be more hunting coverage if Charlton Heston would fire a couple of bucks my way.
So e-mail me and let's make a deal. Better yet, contact The Dispatch ad department and make me an offer. After all, a big contract may not be the reason for playing or living, but it certainly is a reason for writing.
Election day note: I've been interested in all the different ways that Ralph Nader gets attention. Republicans urge Democrats to vote for Ralph while Democrats plead that a vote for Nader is a vote wasted.
Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon TV debates, elections have seemed to be more about manipulation than authenticity. Maybe it's always been that way. Maybe elections foster a mob mentality that makes us forget who we are, a mentality that turns us into something akin to hooligans at a soccer match, or parents at a Little League game.
A friend of mine was in a hurry to get to the voting booth and to cast his vote for environmentally friendly candidates. In his rush, he backed over a few white pines in his yard, flattened a squirrel and nearly a couple of kids. It makes me wonder whether who we are and what we do, day in and day out, speaks louder than the sound of a lever being pulled behind a curtain.
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