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December 14, 2001

by Bill Hogan



I know what you're thinking. "The Winter Games are in Salt Lake City in 2002, you moron!"

Gottcha. I'm not talking about downhill skiing or figure skating. I'm talking about winter games that are much more important to the American baseball fan.


I'm talking about what's been going on in Boston this past week at the winter baseball meetings.

By a show of hands, who's run out for the morning paper at the crack of dawn and opened it up to the sports page like a kid attacking a Christmas present with the hope that your favorite team is involved in a blockbuster trade?

Or a killer free agent signing?

Are you going to sit there and tell me you haven't turned on ESPN or FOX Sports Net with fingers crossed praying to see Barry Bonds or Juan Gonzalez wearing your team's ball cap?

How many times have you said to yourself "C'mon [fill in team owner's name here] shoot the &^%$# lock off your wallet and sign a &^%$# free agent!"

And who out there hasn't silently cursed George Steinbrenner, the Yankees and their oversized pocketbook at least once since the free agent signing period began.

Forget about dynasties. Forget about cultivating a winner through the farm system. We want to win now!

Think about it. If your team has a few more losing seasons. They become unbearable to watch. You stop going to the games. They lose more money. And all of a sudden, your beloved "boys of summer" are the next bunch earmarked for extinction by Bud Selig and the rest of the fat-cat owners who don't have the time or inclination to wait around for your club to produce (more revenue).

So the road to the 2002 World Series begins now. In Boston. In December 2001. Trades and acquisitions that will determine the fate of your club and mine are being discussed daily over power-brunches, martini lunches and surf-and-turf dinners.

Who gets whom will determine everything from advanced season ticket sales to how many big foam fingers to order.

And we grasp at every bit of information that comes out of the greater Boston area regarding anything to do with baseball.

And we hope.

We hope we can fill that void at shortstop. Shore up our middle relievers. Get a decent run-producing bat.

We hope that next year, our team doesn't stink. That we're not talking football by the All-Star break. That our team - our city - isn't bantered about the next time the big-wigs start talking contraction.

Let the 2001 Winter Games begin.

Money is no object. A million dollars (or two or ten) - feh. We want upper management to throw open the checkbook and reel in the biggest, brightest stars in the business and make our team the talk of the town. And the odd-on favorite to win the next World Series.

These winter games can sucker you in faster than the introductory finance rate on that new credit card. (With the holiday shopping season upon us, I know you can grasp the analogy).

Once a popular wartime slogan, the phrase "Buy Bonds" has an entirely different meaning at these winter games.

So buy Bonds, buy Giambi, buy Gonzalez. No interest or payments due until April 2002.

Then we'll pay.

We'll pay higher ticket prices. A premium on parking. And a whole lot more for that big foam finger.

The stands will be full with fans in eager anticipation. They've built us a contender this winter. They won the 2001 Winter Games.

And we'll pay.

Forget about tuning in the local public television station to watch your team. You'll need to pay for the premium cable package to catch the action. (And every time you turn around, your team will be the featured game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball - taking the field just about the time you're setting the alarm clock and settling under the covers).

And we'll pay.

In June, when that over-priced, over-rated "superstar" that you were praying to get in December goes on the injured reserve list for the third time. Think the price of a beer at the ballpark is going to go down just because he's no longer in the lineup? HA!

And we'll pay.

In October when we're sitting home watching someone else's team celebrate their World Series victory.

Then we'll wait.

Counting the days until the 2002 Winter Games (and I still don't mean the Olympics).


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