by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
November 5, 2003
SEATTLE, Wa.-Back in Princeton I used to have colleagues, people whom I saw every day in the hallways and seminar rooms and lecture halls. I still, in some sense, have them, though it is my great misfortune never to see them in the flesh-only in the feeble traces that they leave on the email screen.
The people here in Seattle whom I see every day are those who work out with me at the local health club. Conversation is impossible, of course, between people who are counting reps between grunts or panting like mad as they try to coax the stationary bike to credit them with an expenditure of 600 calories in 20 minutes. (And if you haven't tried this, don't laugh.)
The one place where conversation is not only possible but in fact unavoidable is the sauna. These fellow inmates of the sudatorium are not colleagues but consudorics, a term that drives my spellchecker just as crazy as it did my consudorics themselves when I invented this term within earshot of them all. The correct term was at once abbreviated to "consuds," and then accepted.
Take Angus McT. (please). When I first met Angus I committed the folly of asking him whether his ancestors included the occasional Scot. "No," said he. "I am Korean in origin. When I went into banking it seemed wise to change my name from Kim Il-Sung to one more suggestive of honesty."
Among the consuds that day the one who laughed hardest and longest at this verbal slap in my face was Tino Wasahbi. Tino is Japanese. He doubtless remembered my asking him whether one of his parents had been Italian. No, he said, he was pure Japanese, but since, like all the Japanese of my acquaintance, he was a baseball player, he had adopted the name Tino as an homage to the immortal Yankee first-baseman Tino Gonzales.
(All the names in this column, needless to say, have been altered to protect the innocent, namely, me.)
When Tino immigrated and became a U.S. citizen, he was too old to play baseball-he is now 82 - but not too old to see the advantage of changing his first name to Tino.
Another of the consuds is a man so famous here that I will not even seek to disguise his name. He is a sports commentator on local tv and knows more about baseball than George Steinbrenner or even Don Zimmer will ever suspect.
One of the things he knows is Tino Wasahbi's career in Japanese baseball. Tino played left field for the Blue Tsunami, a Tokyo club no longer in existence.
Tino was famous for having made only one error in his entire career. But that one was a beaut. He killed a fan.
This fan had reached out and caught in his mitt a ball that might or might not have gone into the seats as a foul. The trouble was that another mitt was immediately beneath that of the fan and on the hand of none other than Tino W., whose rage was said to have resembled that in the best performance of the greatest Japanese actor in the Noh tradition.
All fans who come to the game armed with baseball mitts and sit in the first row should be shown videos of that fan's fate. Tino lay in wait for him at the gate and...beheaded him.
How, I asked Nick (oops!), had Tino escaped judgment?
Easy, said he. Don't forget that Japan is a baseball-loving nation. No jury would convict. It was ruled justifiable homicide.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.