Saturday, December 24, 2005

The face of Faust

I'm surprised to be troubled by the decision this week by Johnny Damon, the blue-collar symbol of the Boston Red Sox triumph over the hated New York Yankees, to sign a contract to play for the Yankees - and shave and cut his long hair to conform to the Yankees' phony cleancut image.

After all, it's just another symptom of why I stopped caring about baseball a long time ago. Baseball has become a job played by free agents who follow the money, and maybe it was an illusion that these teams ever were connected to their communities or that the players had some loyalty to them. After all, the owners could trade them to another town at a moment's notice - if management isn't loyal to you (and the Red Sox wouldn't pony up the cash to keep Damon), why should you be loyal to management?

But diehard fans remain loyal to their teams anyway. Maybe we're attracted to the human drama, the soap opera, and people follow the Red Sox (for example) to see where the story leads next. Understanding all this and having lost interest to the point where I can't tell you the name of a single player on my once-beloved Mets' roster, I still retain a passionate hatred for the Yankees. Go figure.

So it bugs me, having awakened from my disinterest long enough to watch the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, to see the raggedy Damon sell his soul to and cut his hair for the slick devil Yanks.

It's probably because it stirs some soul-searching that's been lingering under my surface for a couple of years. Having spent seven years of my career working for a family company that was trying to compete with a corporate giant, I and my staff had the rug pulled out from under us when the family sold its company to the giant.

Having sworn to the depths of my soul that I would never work for the behemoth, I walked into an all-company meeting one morning to learn that since midnight (appropriately enough), I'd been working for the behemoth.

Because I like the money, the work and my staff, I stayed on rather than follow my instinct to flee the darkness, and I discovered that working for the evil empire is not as bad as it sounded from the outside. The principled corner of my soul keeps looking for another way to make a living, but not that hard.

So maybe seeing a clean-shaven Johnny Damon in New York Yankees pinstripes reminds too much me of looking in the mirror. Damon has followed the money, even though it comes from the evil empire. And we'll both sleep well this Christmas Eve in our comfy imperial-subsidized beds. I have no doubt now that most nights, Faust slept well too.


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