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Bob Watch 

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A month ago we noted with utter revulsion Bob Greene's pilgrimage to Sarasota, Florida, and his craven embrace of scab baseball. Thirty days later he's still there, kissing the dirt under the spikes of the replacement players, celebrating their nothinghood.

This should come as no surprise, given Bob's penchant for numbing repetition. In the past month Bob has written 16 columns, revisiting the four corners of his overly familiar world like a terrified mouse racing around a shoe box. Six were about Baby Richard. One was about crime being bad. Two were about other things. And seven were about baseball.

Sunday's column, "The once and future pastime?," rings with Bob's by now well established baseball theme--pros bad, scabs good. And it offers a rare glimpse of Bob's personal life: he has never been to a professional baseball game.

Oh, he never comes out and says that in so many words. But listen to him marveling over a replacement ball game: "Fans lean back in their seats, keep one eye on the game while they talk. . . . The game on the field is a backdrop to their conversations." The entire column is spent contrasting leisurely replacement games with the confusing whirl of riveting, hyperkinetic frenzy that is regular major league baseball.

The replacement games, of course, are far superior. "They feel like baseball when it was smaller," Bob sings. Pros bad, scabs good.

Clearly Bob has never gone to a regular game, particularly at Wrigley Field. By mid-June the Cubs could take the field naked, twirling flaming bats like circus performers, and half the crowd--sitting back, eyes closed, tanning--wouldn't notice. Disinterest in the progress of the game, however, is a fresh discovery for Bob.

Perhaps Bob has been to baseball games, in the hazy historical past. But the memory has somehow blurred into the thousands of hours he has since spent at fast-paced NBA games, making goo-goo eyes at Michael Jordan.

Now Bob has a new professed love, replacement baseball, and who knows how long the infatuation will last. Perhaps Bob is striving toward a deeper wisdom--not the usual columnist's staccato of one new subject after another, but a mantra, a chanting, a flow. The same idea, the same column, day after day, month after month. Pros bad, scabs good. Tantric, focused, guiding us toward the light. Pros bad, scabs good.

Will we return to Bob in April--no longer in Sarasota, but sitting alone in the Tribune corporate skybox in the lotus position, palms up, thumbs and middle fingers pressed together, eyes shut, clonically rocking? Pros bad, scabs good. Pros bad, scabs good. Bet on it.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Jeff Heller.

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