And While You Are at It, Think of a Few Original Quotes, Too

Memo to all athletes. Re: You and me. In that order.

Hello, fellows and gals!

I've been noticing how most of you now have contracts that contain bonus clauses for awards and honors. Like, win the Cy Young, collect an extra $100,000. Get yourself named MVP, player of the Series, all-this-and-that team, and you cash in.

Now, guess who votes on those honors? I do. Or, more correctly, my sportswriting colleagues and I do the voting.

How can you help me remain an objective and informed voter? Glad you asked. There are a few simple things you can do to keep me on my toes. Please don't consider these items rules. Rather, think of them as helpful hints toward establishing a better spirit of cooperation between you and the guy with his finger poised on the big, red ballot button.

Be a good host. When I show up at your locker, have a cold soda waiting. I don't know how many thousands of athletes I've interviewed while they were eating or drinking at their locker, and I've never been offered a drink. Such a gesture can be a great ice-breaker. Don't worry about having party nuts or cold cuts on hand. I don't want to be a bother.

Don't hold back. The manager's treating you like dirt . . . The first baseman's getting on your nerves . . . You have a drug problem . . . Don't keep it inside! That's unhealthy. Let me know about it, preferably at least an hour before my deadline.

For some sportswriters, "No comment" from you means no vote from them. That's not my style, certainly, but who knows what goes on in the far reaches of my subconscious when I sit down to vote? Hey, let's be friends!

Be on time. I keep a log of how long I'm kept waiting for scheduled interviews, and you guys and gals owe me 3 years 47 days and change. However, with good behavior, I'll let you off with probation.

It would be swell if you would even show up early and get us a table, and order me a Perrier with a twist. If I'm late, allow me a two-hour grace period before you split. Occasionally I run into an emergency, like a sudden craving to stop at a newsstand to read magazines, or I spot a free hot-wax special at the car wash. Hang loose. I'll be there shortly. And remember, I'm always prompt where it counts--mailing my ballot.

Look for me. I'll be the guy standing near your locker, pacing, sweating and glancing at my wristwatch as deadline nears. Usually you guys put me on hold while you shoot the bull with your buddies, agents, teammates and shoe company reps. It's like: Take a number and stand in line. From now on--notice my huge foam index finger?--I'm No. 1

Don't be a stranger. I'm thinking of staying out of locker rooms altogether this year. They're sweaty and noisy. It's hard to have a meaningful dialogue while shouting over Willie Nelson, Kool and the Gang or Tom Lasorda. So if you have a real good or real bad day and I don't show up at your locker, come on up to the press box and visit. Shower later. Bring an extra soda.

No late games. They're murder on deadlines. Hustle out to your positions. No more time-wasting meetings at the mound. If the pitcher's got you 0-and-2, don't try to milk him for a walk. Stand up and take your last cut like a man. And there's a soft spot in my heart for guys who sprint back to the dugout after they strike out.

Be open-minded. Let's retire the old phrase, "That's a stupid question." There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers, and I reserve the right to storm out of an interview with you if I object to your line of answering.

Nicknames. Until now, you guys got all the good nicknames. We called you Duke and Magic and No-Neck, and you called us, Hey, or Huh? From now on, I would appreciate you referring to me by my nickname--World.

I know, World B. Free has the same nickname, but I figure this world is big enough for two Worlds. If he and I are in the same room, you can call him World B. and me World S.

That's it, a few simple suggestions. And just because my vote will probably make the difference between your getting a new Rabbit diesel and a turbo Porsche, I promise not to take advantage of the situation.

See you soon.



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