Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 15, 2018, 9:31 p.m.
Earlier today, I came across a quote from the great Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who once walked out to the mound to counsel an ineffective Ross Grimsley.
“If you know how to cheat, now’s the time,” Weaver is alleged to have said.
I remember Weaver, and I remember Grimsley. He was a lefthander famously slovenly in appearance. I think of him as a Cincinnati Red and a Cleveland Indian as well as an Oriole.
I’ve been thinking about how attitudes have changed. Once upon a time, it was considered the business of the umpires or referees to keep athletes from stretching the rules.
When I played high school football, I was aware that I wasn’t very good and needed every advantage I could finagle. I was painfully aware that I wasn’t exactly lightning-quick, and I tried to get every advantage I could. I had read Jerry Kramer’s books on life with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, and, like Kramer, when I was outfitted for pads, I tried to get the smallest shoulder pads I could, though the coaches often stood in my way. I also went on the field on Friday nights without any hip pads on, which, by the way, was madness for an offensive lineman. One night I didn’t get away with it, and the referee made me go to the sidelines for hip pads. This meant my teammates had to stand around me on the sideline while I took my uniform pants off, stepped into a set of girdle pads and pulled my pants back up. My coach didn’t care for my stunt. The next week I didn’t play. At all.
No one ever thought about protesting to the High School League, or the conference office, if he suspected someone from an upcoming opponent was spying on practice. If a coach thought someone was watching practice through binoculars from some fortuitously placed nearby deer stand, he’d start rehearsing some outrageous trick play he had no intention of using.
When stock car mechanics devised imaginative ways of injecting extra horsepower into an engine or finding room for a little extra fuel in the tank, many of the officials and mechanics alike thought the game of tricks was great fun.
Moonshiners and revenuers. Cops and robbers. Raiders and Chiefs.
I’m not suggesting anything goes. I’m saying the culture has changed. They don’t even allow umps to blow calls anymore. I’m also not claiming it was better when cheating was condoned or winked at. It’s just fundamentally different. It’s probably a bit hypocritical in areas. It’s unlikely the folks throwing all those stones are all without sin. Even if they are, that’s not the way it will look.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.
The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.