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Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Updated: December 22, 4:44 PM ET
 



TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT! WHO GETS THE SHORTEST SHRIFT IN SPORTS?


You are Brian Cashman, general manager of the mighty New York Yankees. You make more than $1 million a year. And yet, you are miserable. Your boss -- The Boss -- signs half-crippled malcontents, then blames you when things go wrong. He yells at you, threatens to fire you, threatens not to pick up your option year, threatens to exile you to the Mets. Your team makes the World Series two out of three years, but you are called a miserable failure because they lose both times (after having won the WS four of the previous five years). Then Mr. Steinbrenner (as you unfailingly refer to him) stops listening to you, stops talking to you, doesn't even send you to the winter meetings -- the only GM in baseball not allowed to attend. So you tell a few friends that you can't take it anymore, that you are gone as soon as your contract is up at the end of 2004. Somehow, this gets into the New York Post -- and less than 24 hours later, The Boss picks up your 2005 option. You are trapped like a rat.

Do you have the worst job in all of sports?

The Writers' Bloc carefully considered Cashman's dilemma, and came up with the following thoughtful response:

Nah!

For the WB's nominees for what is truly The Worst Job in Sports, read on.

Cash's cush job | From Jim Caple:
Contrary to popular opinion, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has the best job in sports.

There are the obvious benefits  stewardship of the greatest team in all sports, a nearly unlimited budget and office space in the Bronx. You would think it doesn't get any better than that, but it does.

Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman kept the talks under everyone's radar.

Housing costs and lengthy commutes are the bane of New Yorkers. A studio apartment recently went for $5.2 million the other day  and it's in West Virginia, requiring the occupant (or occupants & they're sharing, of course) to drive 18 hours into the city for work, each way. Not a problem for Cashman. George Steinbrenner supplies him with a cot in his office and food service from the famous Yankee Stadium concessionaires, so he's able to live at the stadium. No long commutes. No parking fees. Hardly ever a line to use the washroom in the morning. And he needn't bother punching the time clock, either, because he never leaves work. (Another side benefit to living in the office -- no exposure to those possible cancer-producing rays of the sun.)

All general managers complain about the media second-guessing their every move, but not Cashman. He enjoys an almost slavishly supportive media that trusts his all decisions. This is best exemplified by the phrase originally crafted by the relentlessly optimistic columnist Joel Sherman: "Our Cash Is Always Good.'' Such is the media's faith that when Andy Pettitte recently signed with Houston, the back page headline that ran in the New York Post read: "Don't worry --Cash says he has a plan!''

Other general managers are constantly pestered with annoying phones calls from their meddling owners. Not Cashman. Yankees surgeons recently implanted telepathic software inside his brain, allowing Steinbrenner directly into Cashman's thought waves without bothering with a phone call that might not be answered until the second or even the third ring. This software also allows Steinbrenner control of Cashman's very soul, meaning there never are any unproductive arguments about which free agent the general manager should or should not sign, or which players he should or should not trade. True, Cashman does lose a little free will and the use of some motor skills, but think of the convenience! When he takes his annual vacation to the Bahamas each Jan. 21-23, he doesn't need to worry about staying near a phone - he's always in touch with George.

Finally, while most general managers live in imminent danger of dismissal if the team doesn't perform well on the field, that isn't a concern for Cashman. Steinbrenner's unique lifetime loyalty oath binds his employees to him in perpetual employment. While technically, Cashman may be "fired'' and lose his "salary'' and his "health coverage'' and his "pension,'' in reality, he's still required to serve the Boss for the remainder of his natural life, meaning that he'll always be able to keep the great Yankees name on his resume.

Not that he ever would want to work for anyone else.

A different sort of collection agency | From Peter Keating:

Before you shed a tear for Brian Cashman, whose 2005 option George Steinbrenner is picking up for more than $1 million, check out MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Specifically, pages 172 through 175, which define the occupation of & "The Collector."

The Collector, "who will be male," according to the CBA, is responsible for urine specimens given by players for drug tests. This lucky bastard gets to take the temperature of Deivi Cruz' pee, pour 45 milliliters into an "A" bottle and 15 ml into a "B" bottle, and then "check the specific gravity of the urine remaining in the cup."

In a fine example of how little owners and players trust each other, the CBA details The Collector's job with mind-numbing specificity. The Collector must protect the "Chain of Custody" at all costs. He must enter the tiniest of mishaps into a "Problem Collection Log." And there's no lemons-to-lemonade kidding around in the world of The Collector, no "Hey, Chipper, that's some mighty dense piss!" Instead, The Collector must utter exactly defined, zombie-scientist phrases to his donors, such as "You must refrain from taking any nutritional supplements until after the second test is conducted." And, my favorite, "You must watch me as I pour the sample into the bottles and seal them."

Finally, the CBA states: "In the event of a weekend collection and the sample cannot be sent until Monday, the specimen should be stored in a refrigerated, locked area." This is one place the agreement offers no further explanation. So I guess it's on The Collector to keep those bottles on ice until the start of the next business day. Say what you want about Steinbrenner hosing his employees, but I bet even Brian Cashman doesn't keep the Boss' urine in his home fridge.

Gary Bettman
"What do you mean there may be a strike next season?"

Biscuits in the basket | From Dan Shanoff:

Two words: NHL. Commissioner.

The yell follower | From Chuck Hirshberg:

Junior publicist. These tend to be young people, a year out of college, who have just emerged from an internship at some PR firm. They apply for their "dream job" with a team or a sports agency and, when they get it, they're giddy: "Wow! Maybe I'll get to meet real baseball players!"

And sure enough, on their first day at work, some hardbitten agent or senior publicist calls 'em in and says: "Kid, howzabout this? We're gonna assign you to babysit [fill in name of superstar]." Oh, the excitement sparkling in those young eyes! Oh, lucky, lucky Junior Publicist! Wait 'til his frat brothers hear about this!

Now, occasionally fate smiles and the kid is assigned to one of the nice guys, like Harold Reynolds or Roy Hobbs. More often & Well, let me tell you a typical story. Some years ago, I was assigned by a large national magazine to interview a famous player. I'm not going to tell you his name, because I'm too classy. Instead, I'll make up a name so you won't have any idea who it could have been. Let's call him -- oh, I don't know -- "Mack McKwire."

So "Mack" arrives on celebrity time (late), trailed by his Junior Publicist, an earnest-looking fella who resembles a very young Richard Gephardt. Mack heads to a little training room to change, and I follow, introducing myself. Mack curtly instructs me to wait outside and calls for the Junior Publicist. The door to the training room closes. You can hear Mack's voice rise; you can hear him tearing the Junior Publicist a new orifice of some kind.

A moment later, the JP emerges and confronts me. He tries to look intimidating, which should be easy, since I am 5-foot-5 and shaped like an opossum. But it's nearly impossible to intimidate anyone when everybody in the county has just heard Mack rip you a new one.

"Mack is astonished that there's a reporter here," the JP huffs. "He agreed to be photographed, not to answer questions."

But I've made friends with someone very high up in the Player's Association and this individual is standing next to me. She, too, rips the JP a new orifice and orders him to march back and tell Mack to quit being a jerk. He does so, and Mack gives him another nasty tongue bath before emerging to quietly answer every one of my softball questions. Just an average day in the disappointing life of the Junior Publicist.

Later, when Mack was about to head onto the field, I tried to be polite and ask the Junior Publicist if I could go along. He wouldn't even let me finish the question. "Sure, sure," he said. And then, as if reciting a law of nature, he added: "Everybody does what they want, and then yells at me." That's basically the job description.

In the clearing stands a ... | From Eric Neel:

Maybe I'm just living in Bolivian on this one, but, uh ... boxer?

Sweat stains | From Gerri Hirshey:

Since the late '90s, when pro and college athletes discovered the miracle "Moisture Transport System" of Under Armor, the worst job in sports has to be that of NFL locker room attendants. Twenty-eight NFL teams have switched to Under Armor -- the brainchild of a former U. of Maryland football player who was one tired Terrapin running plays in water-logged duds. Guys who used to change sodden T-shirts three times a practice are now breezing through with one set of micro-fiber UAs.

Imagine, then, the tonnage of sodden armor tossed off by Warren Sapp of the Buccaneers, for example. He weighs 303 pounds. He plays in the hot Florida sun a lot. As a defensive tackle, he doubtless has the special glow of three hard-working pair of oxen. Lifting one set of Sapp Under Armor must be the equivalent of bench-pressing a small Hyundai.

I think any responsible league would check for increased hernias among personnel corraling NFL laundry carts. They should also be monitored for toxic fume intake. Technology is a wonderful thing; professional sports has benefited, from Astroturf to orthoscopy. But somewhere, in west Florida -- all over the NFL for that matter -- men at work are weeping.

The horkmeisters | From Eric Adelson:

Nice one, Gerri, but there's worse. (Cue "Real Men of Genius" music.) Here's to you, Mr. Stadium Cleanup Worker. Gotta love how actual human beings leave their half-eaten nachos and dogs right there on the ground, as if the wife will come fetch the litter later. And oops! Just spilled that 128-oz. soda all over the row. That's gonna stick to the chairs, or even freeze in this weather. Oh, well. Goshdarnit! Little Jimmy just tipped his Cheez Whiz. Yeah, just leave it.

Then there's vomit. Don't tell me you haven't been to a game loaded. This is what gets me: If one of your buds boots and rallies, it's the funniest thing ever. The following week is a blast, thanks to stories about how Biff blew chunks up in Sec. 220. Hilarious.

Listen, sports fans. Somebody has to clean up after you. That somebody has to spend three hours outside, late at night, with no game to watch and no frat boys to hang with. It's the holidays. Let's be careful out there.

Fuel on the fire | From Shaun Assael:

It ain't even close. On a sweltering summer day at the Speedway in Talladega, Alabama -- the kind of day when Amnesty International decides that it's a violation of the Geneva Convention to throw rowdy fans into a make-shift prison bus parked on the blacktop, with the windows sealed tight  look at the guys in moon suits. The ones by the revolving Phillips 76 sign. They're the poor schmos who'll be spending the next three hours having high-strung crewmen scream at them as they fill blazing hot gas cans to the brim. A dude can lose 10 pounds in water weight on a day like that, not to mention his mind. And for, what? Like, seven bucks an hour and Greg Biffle's autograph. That's why God invented self-serve.

Up close and too personal | From Alan Grant:

In the track-and-field world, there are certain young men who are summoned to perform a peculiar task. Prior to a sprint, the starting blocks must be held in place. The job consists of sitting on the ground, placing a foot behind each block, and gently applying pressure. The hazards may be few, but they are specific. Should one allow the blocks to slip, wobble or (gasp) make a distracting noise, it could lead to a false start, or even disqualification.

Bear in mind, this is the world of the sprinter  perhaps the most tightly wound, highly insecure of all competitive athletes. Should something go wrong, and that athlete is disqualified, you think part of his ire won't rain down on the poor youngster crouching in paralyzed fear behind the starting line?

The other hazard is one of proximity. A sprint is nothing more than an extended explosion. When hamstring muscles flex, quadriceps tighten and glutes tense, a certain unplanned action may take place. And when there's an explosion  of the flatulent variety  there are surely better places to be. Such are the hazards of a job where one man's ass is only inches from another man's face.

But let's not drop too many tears for these particular employees. Seems the worst job in sports is also potentially the best &

Those same individuals man the same post for the women's race.

Beck, call and whimsy | From Tim Keown:

For the sheer overwhelming hassle of it, I don't think you can go wrong choosing a major-league baseball clubhouse manager. Not only is it logistically challenging -- packing up the gear for road trips, taking care of the food, doing the laundry -- but it has the added bonus of having its own little psy-ops angle.

I know of a former star player who paid the clubbie 10 grand at the beginning of spring training every year to tend to his every need. This was purely an alpha-male statement by a guy who wanted to make sure any tie went to him.

The clubbie has to be versatile. He has to know preferences, in everything from limos to concert tickets to, in some cases, the proper hanging of a uniform jersey. He has to be prompt and attentive and, when the need arises, obsequious. He has to be discreet when it comes to players' encounters with the law and the opposite sex.

And oh yeah, a lot of times the clubbie has to learn how to sign baseballs in a manner indistinguishable from the star player.

In my mind, case closed.

Richie Sexson
Brewers' marketing slogan: "Losing Richie is a bitchie, but come see the Brewers!"

With two you get egg roll | From David Schoenfield:

Matt Millen. Oh, wait, he's just the worst at his job. Let's go with season-ticket salesperson for the Milwaukee Brewers. Imagine trying to sell fans now that Richie Sexson has been traded!

Now playing first base ... | From Eric Neel:

Forget what I said about boxers. David has opened my eyes. How about radio announcer, Milwaukee Brewers? Imagine having to sell the fans once the season has begun, and for another 161 games thereafter.

The spell-check | From Tom Friend:

A cop at a Philly sporting event?

Dan Snyder's head coach?

Roy Jones' sparring partner?

Gilbert Brown's masseuse?

Mark Cuban's hairstylist?

Steve Bartman's shrink?

The BCS computer?

Tom Friend's editor?

When the feathers fly . . . | From Patrick Hruby:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my esteemed WB colleagues offer pithy one-liners (Eric Neel, Tom Friend), anguished testimonials (Chuck Hirshberg), pathological Yankee hatred masquerading as sly sarcasm (Jim Caple).

Being a humble man of letters, and a junior one at that, I make no such grandiose claims.

Instead, I offer physical, tangible evidence. I offer reasoned, dispassionate proof. I offer science.

Mascots have the hardest job in sports. This much is indisputable, surer than the sun rising in the East, nearly as sure as Jose Canseco's claim that a cocktail of steroids and Human Growth Hormone can add 30 years to your life.

Herky
Keep the kids away from Herky the Hawkeye.

But don't take my word for it. Ask the experts. Dr. Edward McFarland, director of sports medicine and shoulder surgery at Johns Hopkins, is the author of a one-of-its-kind study on mascot injuries. Among his findings, which I have submitted as Exhibit No. 1:

* More than half of all mascots have been stricken with a heat-related injury.

* Forty-four percent of mascots suffer from chronic lower-back pain.

* Almost a fifth have sustained knee injuries while working.

In the last decade alone, Seattle's Mariner Moose has broken his leg after skating into an outfield wall. The mascot for the now-defunct Baltimore BayRunners blew out his knee while playing air guitar. Baltimore's Oriole Bird severed the tip of his finger after catching it in a spring-loaded steel door.

Again, recall Dr. McFarland's prior testimony, given under oath:

"A lot of mascots have stories about getting hit in the 'nads," he said. "That's just about the right height for kids to punch. They think they're aiming for the stomach. But they're not."

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: Does Gerri Hirshey's locker room attendant endure similar risk?

Now, turn your attention to Exhibit No. 2. You see before you -- smell before you -- the disembodied head of Globie, the Harlem Globetrotters' mascot.

Our furry friends have a cardinal rule: Never wear another guy's head. In a six-month period, the Globie costume traveled around the world and was cleaned exactly once. Consider what the man behind the mask, Paul Pierson, had to say:

"On a scale of 1 to 10, the stench (was) about a 50. The stench (was) horrible. I'll tell you what: You can wash a costume, get it from the dry cleaners, use Bounce, Snuggles, whatever. But the moment you put it on and go out there for five minutes, that clean smell is gone. And that stench just comes straight through."

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: Does Eric Adelson's stadium cleanup guy have to stick his head into a bucket of dried puke and half-eaten nachos for hours at a time? Or does he work in an open-air environment?

You may notice that the courtroom is uncomfortably warm today. Why? I asked Rusty, the bailiff, to set the thermostat to 125 degrees. Am I trying to fry an egg on the judge's bench? No. I'm simply giving you a feel for life inside the average mascot costume, where temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees above external conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. McFarland reports that the average mascot loses 8.6 pounds per performance. Do Peter Keating's put-upon urine collectors, laboring in climate-controlled comfort, sweat half as much?

Our furry friends work in fear  for both life and feathered limb. Four years ago, a Philadelphia electrician shoved Baltimore mascot John Krownapple off the right field wall at Camden Yards. He fell 15 feet and spent a month in a wheelchair. During the 1994 World Cup, former Washington Capitals mascot Erin Blank was groped by a man from Denmark. Tommy Lasorda once exchanged blows with the Phillie Phanatic.

Ladies and gentlemen, does Jim Caple's Brian Cashman risk fondling at the hands of a grabby Dane?

Despite their troubles, despite their hard work and sacrifice, our mascots make as little as $50 a game. Rasheed Wallace should be sticking up for them. And like Mr. Wallace's Portland teammates, mascots often find themselves here, in court.

A Detroit Tigers fan sued the team's mascot, PAWS, after suffering neck and jaw injuries when he was hit by a foul ball. He claimed he was watching the mascot and not the game. In a separate incident, a court levied a $2.5 million judgment against the Phanatic after a man suffered back injuries from being hugged too hard.

Ladies and gentlemen, does Alan Grant's block-holder run the risk of frivolous litigation, even in a sport where drug test lawsuits are the norm?

For all these reasons, I respectfully submit that mascots have the toughest jobs in sport. The decision is yours. Examine the facts. The evidence is overwhelming. The proof is indisputable. Make your judgment in good conscience. Only one outcome is truly just.

Thank you. The defense rests.

Oh, and your honor, the defense would like to object to Jim Caple's claim that Brian Cashman has the easiest job in sports.

In reality, the easiest job in sports goes to the singer that followed Carl Lewis' epochal butchering of the national anthem at a Chicago Bulls game a few years back. No contest.

Bloc heads | From Steve Wulf:

Writers' Bloc wrangler.