Random thoughts: Bouton changed how we watch

by Gary Shelton on July 14, 2019 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jim Bouton was cool. Jim Bouton was funny. Jim Bouton was a rebel.

To me, Bouton was all of those things. He was a party hat in a world of baseball caps, and he made the sticks-in-the-mud nervous, and he shed light in all the secret corners where baseball didn't want us to look. He dared to giggle while playing a game, and he invited you to laugh along. He changed the way we looked at baseball, and glory be, his way was more fun.

Bouton, the author of -- among other books -- Ball Four, died this week at age 80. His spirit was far too young to go.

I did a college book report on Ball Four. I got a B, and I felt that I had been robbed because Ball Four wasn't a serious subject. Some years later, I interviewed Bouton, sitting by a swimming pool of a cheesy hotel while he tried to hang on with the Savannah Braves. I tried to talk him into writing another book. He just laughed at me. His current player contract, evidently, blocked such an effort.

But for years, I read Ball Four at the beginning of every baseball season. Heck, I didn't think less of Mickey Mantle because he was human. I thought more of him because of it. That's what baseball didn't get.

A few times over the years, I would call Bouton for an article I was working on. He thought the modern-day players would crush the Hall of Famers. He hated the idea of baseball in Florida. (Maybe someone should have listened).

Even now, I look on my bookshelf, and Bouton is there. He's still funny. He still matters.

Bless you, Jim Bouton. We'll miss you.

-- Roger Federer is 37 in a sport that eats its young. That's like being 118 in most sports.

-- There's a great list on theBigLead.com of the 40 best athletes of the last 40 years. Sure, you can quibble, but the thing that struck me is that we've gotten to see all of these athletes. Martina Navratilova at No 27? Reggie White at 36? Staggering.

-- Doc Gooden was arrested against for cocaine, and to me, the lesson is this: Good guys get caught up in that crap, too. I always found Gooden engaging, but he's given up too much of his life for that powder.

-- Gee. How many people are shocked that Richie Incognito is suspended already? Reportedly, Incognito wanted to cut off the head of his deceased father. Does anyone else hear Twilight Zone music?

-- It's a shame that Serena Williams lost. The No. 24 (as in titles) would have made it much easier to arrange the trophies.

-- Key games for Bucs: 1) Opener vs. San Francisco; 2. Week 3 against Giants, where they haven't gotten the message that Eli is done; Week 5 against the Panthers at home; Week 10 against the Cardinals; Week 15 at Detroit.

-- I hate the new NFL proposal with a burning white passion. In it, teams would play 18 games, but each player would play only 16. So does a team sandbag against a really good team and sit out its starters so it could win later against, say, Arizona? Do Seattle fans miss on seeing Drew Brees? It's just greed at work with the owners trying to sell two more games with the B-team.

-- Well, Chris Paul had some memorable seconds in Oklahoma City, didn't he?

-- I see where Bernard Pollard says that, no, Tom Brady isn't the greatest quarterback of all time. I will now pause while you look up "Bernard Pollard" to see who he is. There sure are a lot of guys with their thumbs down as Brady tries to find another finger for another Super Bowl ring.

-- Hue Jackson wants another team to give him the head coaching job. The guy is funnier than George Carlin.

-- I'm not sure how much better Bruce Arians can make the Bucs after an off-season pushing against the salary cap, but USA Today ranks him as the 10th best coach in the league. Jon Gruden, by the way, is 20th.

-- Ryan Smith was on performance enhancing drugs? What would his performance have looked like if it wasn't enhanced?

-- Bob Gibson has pancreatic cancer. I'm betting on Gibson.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard July 16, 2019 at 8:33 am

The Bucs are in a world of hurt with the salary cap. That is their own fault but do you see a light at the end of this long tunnel?

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Gary Shelton July 16, 2019 at 8:40 am

They’re actually in great shape for next year’s cap. Of course, a bad this year forces a lot of decisions, including Winston. As someone once said, that light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming train.

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