Just when you think you've made some sense of this sporting life, just when you think you've got it down to the essentials: height, weight, time for the 40 and drug of choice, something like this comes along. Something that shakes you out of your sporting reverie and causes you to reflect for just a moment on the universal brotherhood of man and the one truth that sports can teach us all: If you've got the time, we've got the beer.

Bear with me, friends, for I've a sad story to tell.

Kevin Koch, who had been the Pittsburgh Pirates' Parrot since 1979, quit his job recently.

Joe O'Toole, a Pirates vice president, said that the 31-year-old Koch cited personal reasons. "He said he feels that he has been the parrot for seven years and he said he didn't want to be the parrot forever," O'Toole said.

Seven years on the job and Koch was already, legally, a common-law parrot.

But he didn't want to be the parrot forever.

Of course he didn't.

Who would?

How many crackers can a man eat?

Do you know how long parrots live? They live between 15 and 80 years. Think of it -- 80 years as a parrot. Not even parrots want to be parrots forever. They'd rather be radio sports talk-show hosts, but that's another story.

The leading candidates for the Pittsburgh job are said to be Lou Saban, who does anything for a day, and Earl Weaver, who is first in line for every job in baseball that opens up. But that, too, is another story.

Kevin Koch's poignant plight touches me to my soul.

Alas, feather fatigue.

A brilliant career over at 31.

Being a parrot is obviously a young man's game. (I'm told the beak is first to go.)

But, friends, let me ask you something: Why did the Pittsburgh Pirates have a parrot for a mascot in the first place?

The only connection I see is that in those pirate movies the pirates often have parrots on their shoulders. But what kind of reasoning is that? Who cares what's on a shoulder? Do we need mascots dressed as shoulder pads? Or shoulder bags? Or dandruff?

Why not have a Pirate?

Or am I missing something, and is "parrot" the way they pronounce "pirate" in Pittsburgh?

We have too many birds in sports as it is.

Orioles. Blue Jays. Hawks. Seahawks. Jayhawks. Falcons. Eagles. Cardinals. Gamecocks. Penguins. Gobblers. Owls. Red Wings. Mud Hens. Fighting Blue Hens.

Larry. Doug. Averitt.

Birdie Tebbetts. Otis Birdsong. Byrd Stadium.

John David Crow. Robin Yount. Frank and Brooks. Mark Fidrych. Ron Cey. Fred Stanley. Nestor Chylak. Craig Swan. Goose Gossage. Kristy Pigeon. Rory Sparrow. Michael Gross. Ducky Medwick. Ted Hendricks. Joe Don Looney. Ken Harrelson. Mo Siegel. Rick Partridge. Tris Speaker. Art Fowler. Bill Mlkvy. Mack Herron. Phil Regan. Rick Burleson. Baron Bich. Elvis Peacock. John Hummer. Pete LaCock. Joey Jay. Sonny Dove. Jose Cardenal. Dave Nightingale. Chick Hearn. Harthorne Wingo. James Tillman. Connie Hawkins.

Come to think of it, we have too many mascots.

The Chicken was great when he started, but he must be pushing 40 by now.

The rumor is he's already had his wings lifted.

Will he know when it's time to go to that big oven in the sky, or will The Chicken pathetically molt away in the parking lot of a Taco Bell in La Jolla?

And look at what he started.

I'll grant you that the Phillie Phanatic is good.

But do we really need him? Or her as the case may be? (How could you tell?)

By the way, do mascots have sex? Does it make their fur shiny?

When two of these mascots decide to get married, who performs the ceremony, Speedy Alka-Seltzer? Big Boy? Mr. Whipple?

That tiny dog the Bullets use is ludicrous.

The Oriole doesn't do much for me. Sort of uninspiring, don't you think?

Thankfully, the Redskins have the good sense not to have an official mascot; those fans you see dressed up in feathers and war paint are just some ordinary season-ticket-holding weirdos, probably lawyers.

I'm waiting for the Capitals to bring out a mascot who'll drive the Zamboni between periods. The first eight years of the franchise, they could have dressed a guy up as a sieve.

Moving outward, from local to national:

The Gorilla is thoroughly offensive.

Dancing Barry, and his progenitor, Dancing Harry, are both twerps.

I'm told that New Jersey has some good mascots. What do they wear, Turnpike exit signs?

I shudder to think what the USFL -- with nicknames like Gunslingers, Invaders, Outlaws and Bandits -- is planning in the way of mascots. Nuclear warheads? Nerve gas?

We've reached the stage where any geek can dress up like a garden vegetable and become a celebrity.

The only standard is lots of fuzz.

You want cute? I'll give you cute. John DeLorean and Claus von Bu low in a cow suit?

We ought to take all these mascots and put them where they belong, on the "CBS Morning News," where Phyllis George will have them hug themselves to death.