Some people resent the huge salaries paid to professional athletes. Not me. If somebody can earn $1 million a year swallowing goldfish, more power to him. That's show biz.
What I do object to is knowing about the mental anguish and pain they suffer in negotiating their salaries.
But if you are a sports fan, as I am, it's hard to avoid knowing about it because they do so much public wailing about their money problems.
So I'm now aware that Bruce Sutter, the Cubs' star relief pitcher, is unhappy with his financial situation.
Sutter just received a contract to earn $700,000 for the coming season, and he immediately began moaning about it. What bothers him is that he wanted a long-term contract, so he would be set for life even if his arm fell off.
The Cubs had offered him a five-year contract, at about $500,000 a year, but he didn't think that was enough.
So now he's stuck with the one-year contract for $700,000 and is quite disturbed about it.
I don't know if it ever occurs to Sutter and other highly paid athletes that there is a real world out there.
In the real world there are people like Two Bits Wally. Back in the old neighborhood, we called him Two Bits because as a kid he was always saying: "Jeez, I wisht I had two bits, I'd go duh Congress Teeter."
Two Bits Wally went to work when he was about 21, right after the Army let him got. He took a job in a screw machine plant, working on a machine that sprayed grease and metal particles on his hands.
Every morning, he would get up, and his mother -- and later his wife -- would pack his lunch sandwiches. Then he'd catch a streetcar, transfer to another streetcar and ride to the plant.
He'd punch the clock, turn on his machine and start taking the burrs off pieces of metal. He'd do that for four hours until he broke for lunch. Then he'd do it for four more hours.
There was no piped-in music. He couldn't have heard it over the loud machines anyway. No carpeting on the floor, as baseball locker rooms have.
All he had was a dirty bathroom, a crabby foreman who would look over his shoulder or throw pieces of metal back at him and tell him he had missed a burr, a small weekly paycheck and the time clock.
When his shift finished, he'd go out and get on the Milwaukee Avenue streetcar, transfer to the California Avenue streetcar and go home.
That's what he did for about 20 years. During those years, he earned about $200,000.
Then he moved up in life. He and his wife found a small house and he took a job on an assembly line in a factory.
So every morning now, his wife packs his lunch sandwiches, but instead of riding a streetcar, he takes two buses and a subway to work.
Once there, he stands at an assembly line and every time a whatsis goes by he screws on a whatchamacallit.
He does that eight hours a day. He doesn't know how many thousands or millions of whatchamacallits he has screwed on to how many whatsis.
He still has a crabby foreman. But the bathroom is cleaner than at the screw machine plant. And the factory has a bowling league.
At his present rate of pay, if he works until he draws a pension at 65, he will earn about $400,000 before he retires in 20 more years.
Add to that the $200,000 or so he earned in his other job, and he will have earned about $600,000 in 40 years of work, eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, about 50 weeks a year, winter, spring, summer, rain, snow, transit strikes and when his fallen arches ache.
That's about $100,000 less than Bruce Sutter will earn for one summer of pitching baseballs in beautiful wrigley Field and other ball parks.
Last year, Sutter pitched exactly 101 innings. It's doubltful that he will pitch any more than that this year.
He pitched magnificently, but what it still amounts to is 101 innings of pitching baseballs.
That's about $7,000 an inning at his new rate of pay.
Two Bits Wally stands at his assembly line for about five months to earn $7,000.
A baseball inning takes about 15 minutes. Sutter pitches only half of an inning, and he doesn't take long to do it.
That means he probably spends about six or seven minutes pitching the $7,000-half inning.
So during an entire season, he'll actually be out there on the mound for about 14 hours. That comes to $50,000 an hour.
Two bits Wally stands at his assembly line on his fallen arches for three years to earn $50,000.
In my calculations, I don't include time Sutter spends warming up, slouching in the bullpen meditating and spitting, going to sunny Arizona for spring training, riding first class on jets to other baseball cities, being honored at awards banquets, sitting in whirlpool baths, getting rubdowns from the trainer and other heavy chores.
But that's only fair, since my calculations don't include the time Two Bits Wally spends riding trains and buses, arguing with the foreman, eating his lunch sandwiches or being bawled out by his wife for stopping at a bar to get the assembly line out of his brain.
What Sutter doesn't seem to realize, as he crabs to the press about his dirty deal, is that there are millions of Two Bits Wallys out here. They work on assembly lines, pump gas, sweep floors, wash toilets, drive cabs, wait on tables, tend bar, chase speeders and have little time for sitting in the bull pen meditating and spitting.
Most of them will work 20 or 30 years, or maybe a lifetime, without earning as much as Bruce Sutter will receive for one year of pitching baseballs.
Nobody will ask them for an autograph, or cheer them. (His bowling league teammates once cheered Two Bits Wally when he dropped the ball on his foot.)
I'm not saying Sutter isn't worth what he's paid. If somebody is willing to pay him that much, he's worth it. If somebody was willing to pay Two Bits Wally $700,000 a year, then he'd be worth it.
All I'm saying to Sutter is this: Take the money, kid. Then please shut up about it.