"No, Bubba," I said hastily.
"We are first class," Bubba said. "You can't treat a team that's first class like a gang of rookies. Why, when we played the Jets the first time I was fined $100 for being on the field, down by the sidelines, in my wheelchair."
"What on earth were you doing down there?" I asked. "Someone could have run into you."
"I had seen something," Bubba said. "I got myself wheeled to the bench to tell Billy Newsome [the Colt defensive end who now fills Bubba's position] that he was playing Winston Hill [the Jets' offensive tackle] all wrong. As I was talking to Billy, a policeman came running up, holding onto this walkie-talkie. He apologized and said he could scarce believe what he was supposed to tell me but that word had come down from Joe Thomas that if I didn't clear off the sidelines I was going to be fined $100. I knew what he was thinking—that I could get hurt—but what a way to ask me to leave!"
Bubba shook his head. "Crazy," he said. "I wonder if Joe Thomas noticed that Winston Hill pushed my wheelchair off the field after the game." He laughed. "A great friend. He sent flowers to me in the hospital. You've got to have friends—even if you're management. When they can't talk to their ballplayers..." he shrugged.
Somewhat to my surprise, Joe Thomas changed his mind, at least to the extent that he said he would see me and answer questions—although he said he would be "vague." Nonetheless, I agreed, and the day after I saw Bubba I went to talk with Thomas.
The Baltimore Colt office is in a depressed area of town; the stoop outside is often decorated by a collapsed drunk, his bottle in a paper bag beside him. Thomas was waiting for me in his office, sitting behind a desk that hemmed him in on three sides. The office was entirely functional; the desk had two gray telephones; the only attempt at decor was a fake willow bush standing in a bucket of gravel in the corner.
I began by asking Thomas about the mood of the club.
"It's hard to say," Thomas said, being "vague." But then he became more specific. "There's more wide-eyed spirit."