Nearly 100 million Americans read a newspaper every day, but few of them do so properly. What they need are simple, step-by-step instructions on how, precisely, to read their morning paper—a daily wonderment that is, at once, the First Amendment made manifest, a house-training aid for their Shih Tzus, and a source of endlessly inspirational Cathy comics. All for a couple of quarters. Here, then, is an owner's manual: How to Read the Newspaper.
Wearing only boxers, remove the paper's protective wrapper (labeled NEWS), its useless peel (METRO) and extraneous husk (BUSINESS). Give to spouse. Retain LIFESTYLE section for later perusal of Wordy-Gurdy, Wizard of Id and TV listings. Place SPORTS section on kitchen table. Pour cereal, using want ads for place mat.
Scan all front-page SPORTS headlines, marveling at editorial shorthand, in which Mavs play Cavs and Avs play Habs and Wiz play Griz. Rays-Jays may be awful to watch. But in the hands of headline writers, it is poetry.
Gape in disbelief at top headline, about three-way trade among A's, O's and M's. Stop gaping when you realize, with embarrassment, that A's, O's and M's have made no such blockbuster: You have simply spilled your Alpha-Bits.
Turn to Page 2, opening SPORTS section to its full breadth. (If reading a tabloid, read back to front, as you would an ancient Hebrew text.) To forestall conversation with loved ones, spread section across table with grave sense of purpose, like Patton unfurling a map of North Africa. (Make mental note to buy a swagger stick.) Still poring over Page 2, ask self—and not for the first time—who would win a fight between Gil Thorp and Tank McNamara.
Set coffee mug on Page 3. Pick up. See disfiguring ring of brownish beverage on photograph of George Steinbrenner's face. Note odd frisson of pleasure this gives you. Again, set your mug on his.
Look at all pictures in SPORTS. Admire composition, color and clarity. Yet lament passing of old-school sports photography, in which halfbacks stiff-armed invisible tacklers, point guards stood poised to chest-pass to the camera, and any pitcher who won his 20th game would invariably spell out that number, in baseballs, on the grass behind home plate.
Take special interest in photograph of rotund Red Sox reliever Rich Garces. Place piece of Silly Putty on photograph and peel away, leaving Shroud of Turin-like mirror image of Garces on the Silly Putty. Stretch Silly Putty top to bottom, until Garces resembles Randy Johnson.
Repair to throne with SPORTS. Read game stories, especially for games you witnessed the previous night and whose highlights you've seen several times over on SportsCenter. Strangely, you will still find the written account riveting—until you get to the "jump" (or "See Page 7" notation). You never have seen, and never will see, Page 7.
Peruse box scores and standings, trying to remember what that fourth figure is in the NHL standings: Anaheim is 26-37-7-3? Three what? Overtime wins? Overtime losses? Teeth remaining? Despair of ever remembering.