Commentator Frank Deford introduces a new character to his weekly sports commentary:
During trying times such as these, I like to correspond with my friend, the Duchess, the sports connoisseur, who usually sees only the grace and beauty of athletics. Unfortunately, things are so distressing now that even the sports connoisseur wishes only to discuss the ugly things she sees in sport.
"There is so much unattractive in games today, Frank," the Duchess began her sad missive to me. "It is only proper that we are celebrating Manny Ramirez, who, by both his demeanor and his coiffeur, represents all that is unattractive in sport today.
"I see that basketball and hockey are returning. Hockey fights are so unattractive, aren't they? And, surely, nothing is more unattractive than those droopy basketball drawers, which have been in fashion for all too long.
"Of course, nothing is so unappealing in sport as the male soccer players, who, when forming a wall before a free kick, cross their hands before their sensitive nether regions and stand there looking both unattractive and foolish, like something out of Monty Python."
But, the Duchess continued, her bile veritably boiling over, nothing upsets her so much as watching the baseball playoffs now.
"Can you explain to any person of good taste, Frank, why baseball players spit so much? It is certainly the single most unattractive thing in sport. Other athletes seldom spit, except perhaps for hockey players when they are emitting a tooth, or boxers, when they are expelling blood. At least boxers have spit buckets, so-called, but baseball players spit willy-nilly, sullying all their environs.
"Yes, we can at least be grateful for small favors, that baseball players no longer expectorate tobacco. Then, dugouts looked like walk-in cuspidors.
"But regular spitting has diminished not at all. The Boston Red Sox, led by their chief sputum-izer, manager Terry Francona, are surely the most promiscuous spitting team in the grand history of the National Pastime.
"Why, why, why do baseball players spit so much more than all other athletes? Can't Commissioner Selig prohibit this noxious scar upon his otherwise lovely game?"
The sports connoisseur then concluded her letter with some forgotten refrains from Gilbert and Sullivan, written after they first saw a baseball game:
Oh the grass is green and the bases white
And the players pitch and hit,
But more than that, alas, alack,
They only prefer to spit, to spit,
They only prefer to spit.
For while bowlers bowl and golfers golf
And those on the ice go skate,
The baseball player takes bat and glove
But rather would expectorate,
Rather would expectorate.
I am the very model of a baseball star
I hit them hard and hit them far.
No, not a swimmer nor a sprinter,
Nor a skier nor a point guard, me,
For I'm lean and mean and fit as a fiddle
Ready to show the world my spittle,
Ready to show my spittle.
Commentator Frank Deford reports from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.