Whoever plays for the real home team better be there

April 01, 2001|By Susan Reimer

Spring is the season of free agency, when birds, retirees and professional athletes move their base of operations.

These transitions are difficult for everyone, particularly sports fans, daughters-in-law and people who have been parking their cars under trees. But especially for sports fans.

Oriole fans will need talk therapy and a lot of beer to cope with the sight of beloved Mike Mussina in a Yankee uniform for the next six years.

And even Alan Greenspan is at a loss to explain what Texas saw in former Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez that's worth $25.2 million a year, although it isn't hard to understand why A-Rod changed addresses.

Newly minted football fans, converted by the Ravens' championship, are trying to understand how Trent Dilfer went from Super Bowl MVP to unemployed quarterback without throwing a pass. And what could quarterback Elvis Grbac bring to the Ravens that Kansas City and San Francisco didn't see?

Professional sports have become a shell game for all but the devotees. Who is playing under what dome this year? And who are fans supposed to root for? The home team, with all those new faces? Or players they grew to love and admire, now playing in an unfamiliar uniform?

The reason I bring this up is that women who may or may not be sports fans have to deal with their own version of free agency. And the results can be as traumatic.

Women are all about relationships, after all, whether it be with a best girlfriend or a plumber. And we will go to remarkable lengths to maintain those relationships. A woman, once she finds a pediatrician she trusts, and who doesn't treat her like a hysterical idiot, will follow him across state lines for the sake of her children. She will even pay out-of-network fees.

A woman might be more willing to give up her husband than her hairdresser. (Unless it is she who decides she needs a change and a new look.) Repairmen, mailmen, cleaning ladies, babysitters, tutors, teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, auto mechanics. Once we find them, we never let them go.

My family thinks I am odd because I have long, life-story telephone conversations with people they consider peripheral. I cannot make them understand that women count on the players in their lives taking the field in the same uniform every day; that we need everybody to continue to play for the same team -- and it has to be our team.

Husbands and children think that their wives and mothers are gossips or simply nosy because we can't seem to transact business without a 20-minute conversation. But this is how we build relationships. It is the cement that keeps the foundation of our lives from crumbling. And it is our husbands and children who expect us to know absolutely the right person to call in any crisis. We don't have a Rolodex. We have connections.

For example: My daughter's tutor is a high-school senior who has successfully coached her through her subjects every Sunday afternoon for a couple of years now. But she is leaving for college, and I am frantic.

Who am I going to find on the waiver wire to take her place? Who is available in the free-agent market? (And why would I want them anyway? Women don't want new or different, unless it is their idea.)

So I contacted the young lady's agent to open negotiations. What they don't know is, I am willing to go as high as $30 million over five years. That's a $5 million signing bonus on top of a base salary of $500,000 a year, increasing to $1.5 million in the second year. The first three years guaranteed, with an option in the fourth year and a $6 million buyout provision.

I'm confident she will be part of my team again next year. After all, how could she walk away from those numbers?

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