Pffffft! Thar she blows.

This one went off with all the zing of a wet firecracker. Oh, they made a last ditch effort, the players and the owners. But in the end, both sides in this baseball strike sat like mounds of sand, watching the tide of a deadline wash over and carry them out to sea.

And that’s where baseball is now. Adrift.

Who knows how long this time?

They’re getting to be predictable, these strikes. Like Halley’s Comet, you can count on them sooner or later shooting across the sky and provoking strange behavior down here on earth — such as ballplayers claiming that 300 grand a year isn’t enough money.

“It’s a rerun of 1981,” Don Fehr said. Sure. Actually, it’s one large rerun of what goes on every day now in sports. Owners overspend. Players want more. They argue. They call their lawyers. They suck their thumbs.

Nothing new.

This is just the Big version. All the owners against all the players, led by nothing-to-fear-but-Fehr himself.

Strike II: The Wrath of Don.No phone booth this time

Funny how, up to the final moment, there was a feeling that something would happen. Something good. Peter Ueberroth would run into a phone booth, rip off his suit, and emerge as Ueberman, ready to leap large contracts in a single bound.

He’d stick his finger in the dam, hold back the flood, and say, “OK, fellas, play ball!”

No such luck. Maybe Ueberroth tried to get to a phone booth, but the line was too long. All those lawyers.

So baseball jets south, picks up a Pina Colada, and kicks back on the beach, while men with briefcases try to decide its future.

And if you weren’t fed up already, you’re never going to be.

In truth, it wasn’t the actual strike that cut the flesh of the fan. It was the fact that the players could even consider doing it in the first place.

It’s hard for the Average Joe to relate.

The Average Joe doesn’t make $300,000. The Average Joe doesn’t have an outsider come in and arbitrate his contract discussions. Come to think of it, the Average Joe doesn’t have contract discussions.

The Average Joe goes to work nine to five and if he’s lucky, and the garage doesn’t need cleaning, and the kids don’t come home sneezing, and the sink doesn’t explode, he gets to go out and play a little baseball on Sunday mornings in a grass and dirt field.

That’s where baseball is to him. And because it’s always so much fun — like it was as a kid — he figures the guys who get to do it for a living have got it made.

And they do.

And it’s not enough for them.Who watches out for us? Logic is an outsider now. Baseball has become the movies. People shake their heads when they hear Marlon Brando got something like $3 million and a lifetime supply of doughnuts for 10 minutes worth of acting in “Superman.”

But they go to see it anyhow. And they’ll go to see baseball, if it ever surfaces again.

Still, something has been lost. You could sense it in the weary voices of fans, who, when asked, replied that they figured a strike was inevitable, and who cares anyhow?

The sport has become two-dimensional now. Plastic. Like film. The players are not of us. They are something larger than life. We can watch them. We can applaud them. But we can’t bleed for them as we would for a relative or a friend.

And we can’t care much when the owners, whose ego-to- intelligence ratio is that of a watermelon to a seed, put their feet down and say, “Wait a minute. We’ll see who’s boss around here.”

Which is what they’ve done.

The players watch out for their own, the owners watch out for their own. If the fan mattered, the two sides would have found some way to keep playing as they kept talking.

So call us when the game reappears. Until then, let them fight. Let them peck like vultures on a carcass. A day or a year. It’s as meaningless now as some tacky little feud between two Hollywood starlets. And less interesting.

They set up their own demolition. But, as with a wet firecracker, nobody really flinched. Nobody gives much of a damn at all.

They’ve lost the fan. They couldn’t care less.

And now, neither could we.

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