CHICAGO — This is the face of a man confused. This is the face of man of being spun around like laundry. This is my face.
“Heck of a game last night,” someone says.
“Uh . . . yeah,” I answer, quickly flipping open my notepad, “excellent forechecking.”
“In the baseball game?” he says.
Oh. Wrong pad. I sigh. This has been going on all week. You say baseball, I say hockey. I say baseball, you say hockey.
We are in that never-never land called overlap. We go from ice to grass. Winter to summer. Isn’t there a law that says one sport stops before the other sport starts? Isn’t there? Why isn’t there? Baseball and hockey?
“Some shot last night,” I am told.
“Out of the park?”
“No, into the net.”
Baseball and hockey. I am a rubber ball now. I bounce to one. I bounce to the other. I no longer know the difference. Do I bring the sweater? Do I bring the sunglasses? Do I bring tobacco? Do I bring the French dictionary? What? What?
I am worried. How much longer do we do this? The Red Wings ended their regular season last Sunday night. The Tigers opened Monday afternoon. The Red Wings’ first playoff game was Wednesday evening — just hours after the Tigers finished. Thursday was the same thing. I rushed to one, I rushed to the other. Red Wings. Tigers. Baseball. Hockey. This pad. That pad. And now . . .
And now this. This is where I start to crack up. Chicago. Yes. They have taken the doublemint show on the road. To the same city. The same days. Look here! Chicago vs. Detroit. No, over here! Chicago vs. Detroit.
“That Chicago guy’s been in the box for two minutes,” someone says.
“Why don’t the Tigers pitch to him then?” I ask, flipping open my notepad.
“If he’s in the batter’s box they have to pitch to him, right? Do we have a story here? Are they afraid of him? What? What?”
“The penalty box,” the person whispers. They just don’t mix
Well. What do you expect? Detroit in Chicago? Hockey and baseball? Who can keep up? It is like the Cannes Film Festival on Rush Street. Everybody is here. Everybody and everybody.
Here are the Red Wings, at one hotel. Here are the Tigers, at the hotel across the street. Here is Jacques Demers having breakfast with Sparky Anderson. Here is Walt Terrell meeting Shawn Burr and saying, “How old are you? You look like you’re in high school.”
Here is hockey and baseball, until they start to fuzz together. Is that Steve Yzerman in the dugout? Alan Trammell in the box? Ernie Harwell with Mickey Redmond?
I am sorry. This has to stop. There are sports that complement each other and sports that do not. You don’t mind hockey with, let’s say, basketball. Am I right? Sure. It’s same floor, they just freeze water on it. And baseball? Well. Football is OK with baseball. Really. Same field, different white lines. People sliding all over.
But hockey and baseball? No. Somebody messed up here. This is like sherbet on a steak. Like catsup on ice cream.
I go to speak. I swallow my tongue. Who is the “stopper” now? Greg Stefan or Willie Hernandez? Who gets a “save” — Glen Hanlon or Eric King? Is he checking his swing or checking somebody into the wall? Overtime or extra innings? What? What? Play together, stay together
This is the face of man with two hats and one head. This is my face. Today we do this craziness again. Baseball in the sun. Hockey when it’s dark. This could go on and on. What if the Red Wings play Toronto in the next round? Will the Tigers schedule the Blue Jays? What if the Stanley Cup features the Wings and the Bruins? Will the Tigers call the Red Sox and say, “Let’s make a deal”?
Here is a terrible dream I have these days. It hits me as I sleep with the heat on and the window open. This will be the new wave. Sports teams in pairs. City against city. Two at a time.
Teams will book planes and hotels together. Two to a room. Petr Klima will share a room with Willie Hernandez. Kirk Gibson will share a room with Harold Snepsts. Until they destroy it.
Soon every city will be doing it. And I will be the last one left. The other reporters will have bailed out, picked a sport. I will be jumping ships, stripping my sweater off, putting it on, stripping it off. My arms will be sunburned. My lips will be chapped. I will never stop blowing my nose.
Baseball and hockey. What can I do? I can do nothing. I will endure the two-sport sandwich for as long as I can. I will try. I really will. I will stay with it, and I will not quit.
“Hey, how about those Pistons?” someone asks.