My high-flying former boss, it must be said in fairness, was as generous as he was eager to impress. During all the business trips I took with him in all the years in which I worked for him, he never allowed me to pay for — let alone to buy for him — so much as a cup of coffee. He also had some rather contradictory aspects to his personality. Since National Psychotherapy Day is coming up in September, I’ll give you this example to chew on (no extra charge for the psychologists and psychiatrists who might read this):
I was once privy to a phone conversation The Boss had in his car. The phone was on speaker. The conversation was with one dubiously productive employee whom the boss, nevertheless, permitted to remain on the payroll. Needless to say, the conversation was contentious.
At the conclusion of the call, I said to The Boss, “You’re one of the most patient, generous people I know.”
His response was, in the entirety of its grateful eloquence, “Fuck you.”
Such is life and inscrutability.
In the first weekend of June of 2002, The Boss and I had to be in San Francisco to attend a conference and trade show. Unbeknownst to me, The Boss had acquired a pair of tickets for the Sunday of that weekend — it was June 2, to be precise — to see the Giants play the Colorado Rockies at what was then known as Pacific Bell Park. In typically generous fashion, The Boss has scored us tickets in the Club section. The Club section was directly below the broadcast booth. That game happened to be the one being covered on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball that week. (In those days, ESPN still covered sports. It hadn’t yet begun its disastrous foray into politics.)
The first thing I did on reaching our seats was call my Dad. He and Mom were living in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, at the time:
“Dad, what are you doing?”
“Turn on the TV and go to ESPN.”
“Okay. Why would I do that?”
“When the camera pans to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, that asshole jumping up and down in front of the booth will be me.”
“What the hell are you doing in San Francisco?”
I told him this story.
Take Me Out to the Ball Games
In the top of the seventh inning, with the Giants comfortably leading the Rockies 8 to 1 and the Rockies at-bat, The Boss and I decided to meander up to the Club to refill our beer cups. Sitting high above the third-base line, the wall of the Club that faced the field was all glass. From that vantage point, we could see all the way across the entire park and clear out to McCovey Cove.
Until we’d gotten into the Club and saw what was on the TVs in there, we’d completely forgotten the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings were in Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. We stood looking up at the tube, slack-jawed, as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant battled Mike Bibby and Chris Webber in the hardwood equivalent of a war.
With the basketball game tied late in the fourth quarter, the network went to a commercial. The Boss and I turned to the field to find Barry Bonds at the plate in the bottom of the seventh with no outs and nobody on. Facing Brian Fuentes, Bonds launched a rocket to deep right/center field. It was home run number 586 for Bonds. It tied him with Frank Robinson.
There was absolute pandemonium in Pac Bell.
The Boss and I just looked at each other, slack-jawed, both of us in wondrous disbelief at what we’d just witnessed, what we were witnessing, and where we were — in San Francisco, California, in the United States of America, in moments of history in two different sports, with that history being made right in front of two happy, hapless idiots, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Removed, as we were, just nine months from September 11, 2001 — and with that date as indelibly inked in our own minds as it was in everyone else’s — the question seemed to dawn on both of us at the same time: How could anyone who understood what this country has to offer bomb it, bomb it and take the lives of more than 3,000 of its citizens?
Is that question naïve? Probably. Is it prejudicially favorable? Arguably. Is it patriotic? Certainly. Is it blind? No. Is it idealistic? Yes. Deliberately so.
For all of our personal, ethnic, temperamental, psychological, intellectual, and political differences, The Boss and I shared one thing: the pure accident of being born in the United States of America.
Should we have felt guilty about that? No. Should we have enjoyed ourselves any less on that occasion? No. Should the incredible athletic achievements we saw that day have been in any way tarnished, diminished, nullified, or relegated to less prominent places in our memories? By what? American’s remorse? Luck-of-the-draw regret? Good-fortune shame? Should we have hung our heads to signal our virtue? Should we hang them now? Did it mean we were unmindful of the people who weren’t lucky enough to be there, who couldn’t be there, who’d never have the opportunity to be there?