But it is in the other wing of the suite, in the conference room, above the great long table where the owners convene, that the most revealing framed statement hangs. It is written out as a poem, but there is no rhyme or rhythm to it, and capital letters appear capriciously. It is unattributed (though, in fact, written by Calvin Coolidge), rough but nonetheless see-through, an unadulterated ode to Bud Selig.
Nothing in the world can take
The place of Persistence.
Talent will not; Nothing is more
Common than unsuccessful
Men with talent; Genius will not;
Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education alone will not;
The world is full
Of educated derelicts.
Persistence and Determination
Alone are omnipotent.
That is why Bud Selig rose to become commissioner of baseball: to persist doggedly so that he might save his game from the financial destruction he is convinced the unforgiving union will bring down upon it. And, while we're at it, it is also very likely why George W. bush became president of the United states of America.
Notwithstanding his naturally sunny constitution—the man was a car salesman, after all—Selig today is a constant purveyor of gloom. It drives his alter egos in the players' union crazy, because, of course, they want the world to think that the well can never run dry. But, like a Weather Channel announcer pointing out "watch boxes" around the nation, Selig regularly cites the latest franchise crises. Hello, Bud, what's new? And he is off. Well, he just heard from this team. It's losing money hand over fist. And that one called yesterday: It can't find a buyer. Neither can this one. It just called again. Team X—Team X!—just called, and even if it draws x.y million, it loses. The grim litany is forever upon his lips whenever a Diet Coke is not.
"I know the frustration of the owners," he wails. "I grew up in this game, and the frustration level has never been so high. We're whipsawed. We can't make it the way things are. We need a systemic change. I don't see how anybody can come to any other conclusion. This game that you and I grew up with can't sustain itself. That's why I can't have this Scarlett O'Hara thing. I can't wait until tomorrow." He makes a steeple with his hands, takes off his glasses, points fingers. "I never said this before. I shouldn't say this."
"All right, I'll say it. I told the owners not long ago that if there was one mistake I've made as commissioner, it was that I should've let a couple teams go bankrupt."
So why didn't you?
"I thought it was bad for baseball."
But now, Selig opines, sadly, bankruptcies might be good for baseball, because only then will baseball's sneering critics understand that he is not blowing smoke. Unfortunately, however, he always must contend with the sins of the fathers. The owners have cried wolf since time immemorial. They moaned that free agency would skewer baseball, but in fact the sport's popularity soared, and a wide cross-section of franchises prospered. Then, when operating in the thrall of the domineering and distant Peter Ueberroth (the Commissioner from FedEx, so called), the owners were caught at collusion. Their pique grew at being bossed by a disdainful outsider, even as their public laments rang hollow and they were fined $280 million for their deceit. So now when things really may be desperate, there is a tendency to disbelieve the commissioner's bleats—especially since he was generally regarded as one of the architects of collusion and since he was himself renowned as Budget Bud and "the best crier in baseball" long before his colleagues placed his lugubrious eminence upon the throne.