WORLD SERIES, DAY ONE
ATLANTA — I am looking for a tomahawk. For several reasons. First of all, I could use one to protect me from the geeks in this city, who, as near as I can tell, spend all day inside one of eight million shopping malls they have here and come out only at night, with their faces painted red, screaming a war chant that goes “AHH-AH-AH-AH-AH . .
Besides, waving a tomahawk might get me arrested. And that sounds like fun.
At least as much fun as the World Series, the reason I am here in Atlanta, home of poofy blonde hair and BMWs with license plates that read “2 RICH 4U.” Atlanta didn’t invent yuppies. It just invited them all down for the decade. Usually, in this town, baseball is far less important than finding a place to get your nails done. But for some strange reason, the traditionally hapless Braves, normally a last-place team, are suddenly in the championship finals against the Twins.
The city has gone nuts.
And so have the Indians.
Not the Cleveland Indians. They’re dead, as usual. I’m talking American Indians, who have protested the use of toy tomahawks at Braves games. The toy tomahawks are the idea of some guy who was working in a Styrofoam factory, and has now, in one year, made enough money to put a down payment on the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, Atlanta fans — who never learned to clap like regular people — have taken to swinging these tomahawks in a choppy, repetitive motion that suggests a Christmas elf in a department store window.
The Indians are upset. They claim the tomahawk chop demeans their heritage. They also want Atlanta to drop its nickname, the Braves, even though they’ve been the Braves since 1911 (when the franchise was in Boston). The name came from then- owner James Gaffney, and, personally, I don’t think he had anything against Indians. He just wanted a change. Before that, his team had been the Doves, the Pilgrims, the Rustlers, and the Bean Eaters.
The Bean Eaters? What day is it?
Anyhow, this tomahawk thing has turned into a big deal, with Native American protesters chanting and waving signs that read, “Sure It’s Just A Game. And The Ku Klux Klan Was Just A Club.”
This is pretty heavy stuff for baseball, where grown men still wear knee socks and try to scratch themselves without being caught by the TV cameras. Still, if the Indians don’t like it, I say we stop doing it, since, if they really wanted to press the point, it’s either give up the tomahawks or give back everything west of the Mississippi.
But this is just part of the fun here at the World Series, and I am happy to be back on Day One —
“Wait!” I hear you say. “How can you call this Day One when two games have already been played, and the Twins are halfway to winning this thing?” Well. Good question. Here’s my answer: I like to give the Series a little head of steam, and then jump on. Sort of like hopping a train. Get right into the action. Besides, there was a Lions game in San Francisco this weekend, and I couldn’t resist flying out there to take part in yet another natural disaster. Last time, I got an earthquake. This time, a massive brush fire. Next year, I go for the tidal wave.
But back to baseball.
Did I mention Kent Hrbek, the Minnesota first baseman who dreams of being a professional wrestler?
‘Hi, Hulk — uh, Kent . . .’
“Kent, is it true you want to wrestle after you quit baseball, under the name Tyrannosaurus rex?”
“What would you wear?”
“Lumberjack tights, I guess.”
“Hey, Kent. How do you guys like being up two games to zero?”
“Beats being down, 2-0.”
“Kent, you had a controversial play in Game 2 and fans here think they were robbed. Does it bother you being the most unpopular man in Atlanta today?”
“I don’t give a s–t.”
Hey. What did you expect? Jean-Paul Sartre? This is the kind of riveting chatter you get when 25 tobacco-chewing athletes run headfirst into 2,000 reporters with early deadlines. Hrbek, the size of your average household appliance, was asked Monday about such important subjects as deer hunting, his father, Tony Oliva, and his idea of a perfect day (“Get up, grab my dog, go out in the cornfield, look for pheasants, come home, sit in front of the TV set, and watch a f—–g football game.”)
Sounds great to me.
But wait. I haven’t told you about my reunion with Jack Morris, our old pal from Detroit (“Miss me?” I asked Jack. “No,” he said.) I haven’t told you about waiting in Ted Turner’s parking space, or about Steve Avery, the 21-year-old Michigan kid who just might have this whole World Series in his fingers.
But we can do that tomorrow. For now, I must search for a tomahawk, so I can burn it. Never let it be said that I am not sympathetic. Still, a word to the protesters: Go easy on these fans. I know they make a lot of funny sounds. I know the team is called the Braves. But just remember:
It could be called the Bean Eaters.
Imagine the sound they’d make for that one. TOMORROW: DAY TWO, GAME THREE.