There is no end to the humiliation I am made to suffer at the hands of my colleagues. Just because I don't know anything about sports. Or baseball. Or specifically, this week the World Series.
"You are not only a sports idiot, you know nothing at all about the subject, and most idiots at least know something," my colleague, Charlene Hunt, raved at me this morning. "You are a non-American. Maybe not a communist, but a non-American. America is baseball, apple pie and hot dogs."
Well, I like pie, I answered.
"It's not enough," Hunt retorted. "And while we're on the subject, I'm wondering about your masculinity, too."
Now THAT hurt. It has long been my assumption that, if every woman in the Roundup's employ were certain of one thing, it would be of my extremely high testosterone level.
I was, after all, voted Payson's Most Eligible Bachelor in last year's "Best of Payson" competition an honor that would have meant a little more to me if everyone in town hadn't responded, "YOU? Payson's Most Eligible Bachelor? HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
Jealousy is an ugly thing on a man. And when the subject is my own personal quotient of masculine charm, jealousy is even uglier on a woman.
But I digress. In truth, I am not a complete World Series idiot. I am not without knowledge on the topic, despite the fact that I spent my formative years far more interested in chasing girls than in chasing balls.
For example, I know these things:
The World Series involves baseball.
The Diamondbacks are a baseball team that makes a lot of money on the side selling bumper stickers.
Randy Johnson is a pitcher who recently got a haircut.
Not too long ago, my editor paid $35 for some Diamondbacks' Mark Grace bobblehead which sounds like the very pinnacle of male idiocy to me, but not to Charlene Hunt. Go figure.
It was that same frighteningly irrational editor, by the way, who suggested I write a story wherein I seek out some local coaches and sports fanatics and give them a shot at raising my World Series consciousness. Talk about adding insult to injury. Apparently, my boss thinks I'm some lost and illiterate Eliza Doolittle in need of an education by some rough, buff, ball-bearing Henry Higgins.
And I would have ignored this monumentally mistaken assumption if it weren't shared by all of my female co-workers.
"Frankly, you need serious help," said Norma Rushing, the Roundup's Internet website coordinator, as if frankness were something I was looking for.
"Well, actually, no offense, but I personally prefer men who know SOMETHING about sports," said classifieds manager Karen McClanahan, as if honesty were something I was looking for.
Clearly, I needed to find some rough, buff, ball-bearing Henry Higgins. Pronto.
My first telephone call went to Teddy Pettet, the town's recreation coordinator and the kind of sports fan who would no doubt show up for work in a cheese hat if he lived in Wisconsin.
At the outset, I made the mistake of asking Pettet how he was enjoying the World Series so far.
"The World Series hasn't started yet," he said slowly and gently, as if talking to someone who had just lost half their brain in a hunting accident. "It starts with two games in Arizona, then goes to three games in New York. If necessary, it will come back to Arizona the following weekend."
My education had begun. But really, an education wasn't exactly what I was looking for.
"Teddy, I have no interest in sports, and no desire to learn about sports," I said. "What I'd like are a few smart-sounding World Series-related statements that I can blurt out at the office to create the optical illusion that I am a testosterone-laden, monumentally masculine authority on man's favorite sport."
Pettet immediately understood what I was after.
"OK," he said. "Here's what you can say: 'Boy, you know, that Randy Johnson has always had a lack of run support from his team.' That will impress everyone around you, guaranteed."
Nothing against Teddy, but it didn't sound too impressive to me. To me, the words "a lack of run support" suggest that Johnson has had recurring problems with his nylon stockings. But I decided to take Pettet's word for it.
My next call went to Payson High School teacher and former girls' basketball coach Tim Fruth, who suggested that obscure sports trivia would help manufacture my desired image.
"Try this," Fruth said. "Just casually say, 'Did you know that Craig Counsell scored the winning run in the 1997 World Series ... when he was with the Florida Marlins ... in the 11th inning of Game Seven?'
In my view, that sounded a lot more impressive than talking about Randy Johnson's apparent propensity for wearing women's undergarments.
I then dialed up Don McPeek, a coach for the Parks and Recreation Department's freshman baseball program. He gave me the best line yet : "Derek Jeeter can really go deep to his hole." I have absolutely no idea what it means, but it sounded good.
In was during my conversation with McPeek, by the way, that I remembered one of the reasons I have no interest in sports. I don't speak the language. Following is a verbatim, tape-recorded paragraph that actually came out of McPeek's mouth:
"Guard tackle center on one side and the other side is calling out who's taking who depending on how they are aligned, and double teams and so forth. In baseball, this doesn't occur."
Now, really. Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First" routine makes more sense than that!
I did understand McPeek, however, when he told me who he thought would win this year's World Series.
"It will all depend," he said, "on how tight our batters become at the plate."
On this point I know McPeek is absolutely right. Drunken players and baseballs thrown at 100 miles per hour just don't mix.
My last telephone call went to Payson Police Sgt. Rod Mamero, a legendary local baseball fanatic.
"All you gotta say to make people think you really know what you're talking about is, 'Hey, the Diamondbacks are goin' to the Big Dance, and that's all that matters,'" Mamero promised.
I liked the casual, devil-may-care sound of that one. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and rehearsed it a couple of times saying it in a laid-back Rod Mamero way while walking with an adopted John Wayne-style gait. The more I practiced, the more I could feel my testosterone climb to record levels.
I was ready. I ambled in my new, manlier-than-ever manner back to Norma Rushing's cubicle and looked her right in the eye.
"Hey," I said oh-so-casually, "the Diamondbacks are goin' to the Big Dance, and that's all that matters."
"THE BIG DANCE?," Norma screamed. "That's football, you idiot!"
If my sense of personal macho-hood ever recovers from that little incident, I'm gonna go looking for Rod Mamero.