Flamboyant sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, celebrated author of the high school locker room book Friday Night Tights, who has been spending over $100,000 per year on ladies’ clothes for himself while he plays for both teams, writes in the NYT about how athletes aren’t very self-aware and how his years lurking in locker rooms with naked athletes as young as 14-years-old has somehow left him unfulfilled.
The Boys in the Clubhouse By BUZZ BISSINGER OCT. 18, 2014Speaking of “extreme pampering,” here’s 58-year-old Buzz’s GQ article on the thigh-high leather Gucci boots with 6-inch stiletto heels he bought himself.
SEVERAL years ago, in the course of writing a book, I spent a season with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. For much of that time I was in the cloister of the clubhouse, even when it was off limits to other journalists. And I can say with full authority that they are called clubhouses for a reason, because they are clubs, among the most exclusive in the world, right alongside the United State Senate.
Senators at least engage with the real world, or make the gesture. In too many clubhouses and locker rooms across the spectrum of high school and college and professional sports, there is not even the pretense of such engagement. …
It’s not that I saw anything untoward in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, except perhaps for a left-handed relief pitcher who liked to lounge around in the nude. But the devil is always in the details, and time and again I was struck by the cocoon of insularity and extreme pampering, an atmosphere in which the only responsibilities that counted centered on hitting and pitching and fielding.
On the playing field, every single mistake a player makes is pointed out and criticized until corrected. By design, on the field of real life, the athlete rarely faces similar accountability. Issues that most of us deal with every day, whether it’s making a living or worrying about Ebola, have no place in the athletic realm, except when a public-relations staffer thinks it would be a good idea for a player to speak out about it. If it doesn’t have to do with the sport the athlete plays, then it does not matter.Where’s Vogue, where’s Women’s Wear Daily, where is the Gucci handbag catalog? How can a real man be expected to settle in on the john for important business without copies of Elle or W at his fingertips? What if he needs Allure’s Makeup Tip of the Month? As Buzz explained:
The local newspaper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was made available daily to the players, prominently placed in a stand in the middle of the floor. I distinctly remember the first time I took one, only to realize that the clubhouse attendants had carefully gone through the papers beforehand, removing every section except the sports page. Televisions were dispersed in various ceiling corners; on all the time, they never once were tuned in to anything except sporting events. CNN didn’t exist. “Talk of the Nation” didn’t exist. The nightly news didn’t exist. As for reading, with the exception of one member of the coaching staff, I never saw anyone with a book other than the Bible. Magazines made an appearance exclusively in bathroom stalls and fell into four distinct categories: hunting, guns, cars and breasts.
Before I started shopping with [his personal stylist] at Gucci, I could count on one finger the number of compliments I got from strangers on what I was wearing. Now I get dozens, 99 percent of them from women and gays and African-Americans who appreciate go-for-it style. No wonder male heterosexual whites are aimed toward obsolescence, boring the rest of us to death.Keep in mind that Buzz has been pretty much the Voice of Conventional Wisdom in airport books for decades, denouncing racism, hatred, Christian homophobia, and all the other safe targets for his issues to rage over.
Anyway, my guess is that baseball hitters read less than other men of comparable IQs, in that having superb eyesight is crucial to hitting major league pitching (as reported by David Epstein in The Sports Gene). And reading isn’t good for your distance vision. Offhand, I can think of four major league players who became writers: Jim Brosnan, Jim Bouton, John Rocker, and R.A. Dickey. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that all are pitchers, the position at which sub-20-20 eyesight isn’t so valuable.
Similarly, I went to school with about a dozen guys who went on to play minor league baseball. There was a definite bias toward pitchers among those fellows, perhaps because you couldn’t really fake your way through the pretty good schools I went to without reading at least a few books.