Gurney's Inn
September 19, 2007

Low Tidings

What I Want To be When I Grow Up

I always figured someone would be crazy enough to pay me money to write, and sure enough it finally happened.

It's a lucky thing for me, because though I've tried a number of occupations over the years, I wasn't much good at anything.

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a professional singer. I used to be in the Catholic school choir back when I was 10 or so. The reason I was in the choir wasn't so much because I liked to sing, but because Sister James Marion promised to beat the living snot out of me if I didn't join.

My brother, who was seven years older, heard me sing. Back then, a cappella groups were all the rage, and a few guys in our Brooklyn neighborhood, Flatbush, had struck it rich, most notably The Tokens. So my brother and his 17-year-old friends put together a group, but none of them could hit the high pitched notes needed to sing the Tokens' Number One hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which sounded suspiciously like a eunuch was handling the high end.

Before I knew it, I was down in the basement singing with the big kids. I still remember the touching lyrics like they were yesterday:

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

We ee eee eee eee eee eee eee

We um mum ba way

We ee eee eee eee eee eee eee

We um mum ba way

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

For a while it looked like my fledging career was taking off, until my brother and his friends realized what the choir master at St. Francis of Assisi realized: I was tone deaf. I had a loud, annoying voice perfectly off-key with everyone else. He eventually told me to "sing silently." I got the hint about a month later and quit.

By then I decided baseball was for me. When I was 12, I was in the eighth grade but still eligible to play Little League with the sixth and seventh graders. Since I was used to playing with older kids, I was the best player on the team, or at least the fastest runner. I was so fast, in fact, I would bunt every time up, steal second, and then steal third. I would then score on anything hit to anyone.

We went all the way to the Brooklyn semifinals. My dad, who used to work two jobs, actually took off to watch the game, played at the Parade Grounds. It was then I astonished myself and everyone I knew by hitting a mammoth three-run homer over the distant right field fence. I remember rounding the bases, trying to look nonchalant, but wondering to myself, "How the hell did I do that?"

I never hit another home run.

The next year, I was still about five-foot two, but this time in high school. I tried out for the baseball team and there were, like, men playing. It soon became apparent I wasn't going to make the Major Leagues.

Hmmm, I wondered. What do I want to do with my life? More precisely, how can I make a lot of money but do no actual work?

Rock Star.

By then, my voice had changed, so instead of being a painfully out-of-tune Soprano, I was a growly mumbler. I developed a Dylanesque whine and convinced my mother to buy me a Martin D-20 guitar. I learned two chords and wrote a song. By the time I knew three chords I had written 50. By the time I knew all the major and minor chords I had 200 original songs in my repertoire. Some may remember my famous ode to my Jewish neighborhood, "Like A Rolling Cohen."

Others fondly recall the poignant "Sag Harbor Sound":

Sag Harbor sound, when there's no one else around

It used to be you and me

Now it's only me

I guess I'll make it

If I stay sober enough to see

I still get requests.

OK, not really, but one girl I used to serenade told me she still gets misty when she remembers this touching line from my enduring classic:

* I'll put it to you very plain and simple

I wish your face would turn into a pimple

*(Excerpted from "The Pimple Song" by Muddy Guitar Murphy. All rights reserved.)

Which brings me to Fantasy Sports. I was one of the earliest participants, back when we had to figure the stats out by hand. I correctly realized that for legions of grown men who dreamed of playing, eating and sleeping sports, Fantasy Sports was a perfect way of reconnecting with our youth, enjoying our unabridged passion for sports, and a perfect excuse to sit around and watch games while our wives mowed the lawn and painted the fence.

A friend set up a meeting with the folks from Dow Jones for me. This was the next big thing, I told them. A computer generated program to keep the standings and figure out the stats would draw thousands of players. I made them a proposal and they told me they'd get back to me.

A week later one of the guys called and said they checked out the Internet and that no one was playing Fantasy Sports, so they decided to pass on my proposal.

Duh! Now there are millions of leagues out there, run by the likes of Yahoo, CBS, ESPN, The Sporting News and many others. Dow Jones never did get a piece of it, and the company is about to be swallowed up by the News Company.

Someone once said to me if we had the brain we have now with the body we had then, we could have become anyone we wanted. At first it made sense. I would have learned proper pitch to master singing. I would have practiced harder to become a better baseball player. But to be honest, I know in my heart I could never write another classic like "The Pimple Song."

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