Time to enjoy benefits of the baseball strike

August 26, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Millions of weepy words have been written about the alleged pain and suffering of baseball fans since the players sulked away and the games ended.

But there is no evidence of any sharp increase in the number of fans who fling themselves from a roof or are institutionalized because they have been deprived of the sight of a pudgy third-base coach pulling his crotch and spitting toward the cameras.

There has also been considerable public anguish for the ballpark vendors who sell overpriced hot dogs, peanuts and cheesy nachos, and are being deprived of their income.

They probably deserve some sympathy. On the other hand, their products are loaded with grease and fat and salt that clog the arteries and raise the blood pressure. Combine these elements with a hot bleacher sun, too many beers, and the frantic excitement of a pennant race, and you have eyes bulging, tongues protruding, death rattles rattling, and stiffs plopping all over the country. A scientific study might show that because of the baseball strike hundreds of people are living useful lives who might otherwise be in the hands of their friendly mortician.

Now my sympathy is being sought by Steve Sarmier, who probably represents many others who consider themselves innocent victims of the greedy players and owners.

Sarmier lives in Las Vegas and describes himself as "a very disgruntled fan and angry professional gambler.

"Mostly poker," he says. "But over the years I have made part of RTC my living by making baseball future bets.

"This year I stand to earn $1,000 if the Cubs win fewer than 84 games, which would have been a cinch.

"I also have the Yanks and Mets over the Phils and Pirates for $440, and I have a big lead in that one.

"But these bets are dependent on the teams playing 160 games or else the money is refunded. Since my bets are virtual locks, I'll be out $1,440 because of the strike. I want justice."

There must be thousands of strike victims like Sarmier: gamblers who had the skill, foresight and boldness to bet a goodly sum in a barroom or workplace, but now see their potential winnings wiped out.

Is there no sympathy for them? No, not from me.

Note that Sarmier boasts of having found a Cub fan willing to bet $1,000 that the Cubs would win more than half of their games.

I don't doubt that such a dull-witted person exists. For most of my life, I've been around Cub fans. Their glassy-eyed faith has been both an inspiration and a subject for psychological research.

And there have always been sly people like Sarmier, eager to take advantage of a Cub fan's giggly belief in a brighter and better tomorrow.

Who knows how many millions of dollars have been lost by Cub fans over the franchise's long and mostly bleak history? Money that could have been put to a good use -- buying shoes for the children, coal for the furnace, a sturdy cloth coat for mom, new reading glasses for granny, teeth for gramps, dinner at the trendiest veggie-burger yuppie bar.

A nerdy friend who has a computer spreadsheet program once crunched numbers to see how much money I would have today if I had bet my first childhood nickel that the Cubs would not win the World Series that year, and parlayed the bet every season after that.

By now, I would be the wealthiest individual in the world, worth countless billions, so rich I could buy every member of Congress, have them stuffed, and give them away as prizes at a church carnival. Assuming that I could find enough gullible souls, which I don't doubt.

So instead of moaning about the loss we are suffering, we should look at the many benefits. Tax dollars aren't being spent on cops directing baseball traffic or hauling drunk fans to the jug. Mountains of hot dogs and other deadly morsels will be uneaten, saving the citizenry a fortune in EKG tests, angiograms, bypasses and other unpleasant experiences. And millions of baseball addicts will not be wasting precious hours gaping at a highly paid crotch-grabber on their TV. They can gape at a bass fishing show instead.

Mr. Sarmier will probably find a Cub fan who will bet on the bass.

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