"That's Mitch Kupchak," he says, "the rookie forward for the Bullets." Fugett leans back, undoes the top button of his open-collared, wild-striped sport shirt and squints through the cigarette smoke. Onscreen, natty in suit and tie, he is asking Kupchak for what seems the umpteenth time about his shooting percentage ("57%, but I feel I should have 75%, with all those layups"). Gino gestures impatiently with his free hand, a ducklike opening and closing of fingers, and shakes his head. "Too much talking," he says. "They don't like the talking heads." He points to the editors outside the cutting room. "I learned about that on my first day here."
During the 1976 off-season Fugett had been a hard-news reporter for
The Washington Post
. This is his first crack both at sports reporting and at electronic journalism, and it isn't coming easily despite the fact that he is an Amherst graduate.
"It's a whole new world," Fugett says. "But satisfying. When you write a piece for a newspaper, you feel maybe that you're cramped for space, but you've actually got room to write a dictionary compared to this. Also it's a whole new way of communicating—not in a logical, linear manner, where you can string ideas together along with flashes of color and counterargument to reach a well-rounded conclusion, but rather in a kind of burst of image and sound and action. Just a short burst, because that's really all the audience can handle on a television news show. You do it with winks and shrugs and legerdemain. It's a hard adaptation."
Later, over drinks and dinner at the Dancing Crab, Fugett talks about his dedication to journalism. "I know I can do things for black people here, in the world of words and pictures, that I can't on the football field. I did a piece on TV recently on the lack of proper medical care and treatment for playground and high school athletes, most of whom are black in this area. That makes you feel good. At first I didn't want to leave the print medium for television, especially for sports. But they made it awfully good for me and promised that next year I could go into straight news reporting if things worked out.
"I don't know," he continues, "I'd kind of like to do my own 'Roots.' I'm already most of the way there, with a paper I did at Amherst in American Studies on my own family. My great-grandfather was a runaway slave from Mississippi. One day he took some apples down to the railroad to sell to the Union troops when Grant was fighting in the northern part of the state. He got on the train and headed for New York. There he became a blacksmith and married an Iroquois Indian girl, bought 200 acres of land in the Finger Lakes region. He sent his son—my grandfather—to Cornell to learn agriculture and help him with the farm. But my granddad pulled a switcheroo and headed down to Tuskegee Institute, where he worked with Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Later he became principal of a high school in West Chester, Pa. Just a few years ago they named the school for him. That's a long way to come from slavery."
"In football you have it only on Sunday," Virgil Carter says. "Here you have it all through the week."
Up on the steps of the worn wooden octagons, men and women flail, gesticulating in something like the sign language of the deaf, or maybe the Plains Indians. Light streams in through the high windows; computer boards flash. Soybeans. Corn. Wheat. Silver. Hogs. Gold....
"From anyplace in the world," says Carter, "you can trade any amount of these commodities in two minutes."
This is the Commodities Exchange trading room on the fourth floor of 141 West Jackson in Chicago, the cockpit of the world when it comes to soybeans. Carter, 31, who has played for four different teams in a 10-year pro football career and now is a backup quarterback for the Chicago Bears, glows like a rookie.
"You've got to do it with hand signals when the trading gets heavy," he says. "When they turn the palm in. that means they're buying. Palm out, selling. Fingers held vertically tell you the number of contracts involved. Fingers horizontal, the price. A forearm in the act only amplifies the price. The whole scheme dates back to the late 1800s when they didn't have bullhorns or calculators, but it works. And it's traditional."