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The clubs were all in poor sections of the city. At each club I was given a room and about 70 squirmy kids, ages six to 10. And right away I learned something--I make a lousy Santa.
"Who are you?" one girl asked.
"Since when does Santa drive a sedan?" a boy said, suspiciously.
"Uh, that hurts," another girl said as I tried to tickle her.
One kid wanted to know how old I was. "Just turned 1,310," I said. He went Frisbee-eyed. I said, "I know, I don't look that old."
"No, you do," he said.
One little girl wanted to know where Rudolph was. "Rudolph pulled a hammy," I said. "This year the sleigh is going to be guided by Sylvester, from the temp agency."
I kept trying to ask my state-of-sports questions, but I might as well have been asking about pork-belly futures. Not one of them knew about Barry Bonds's BALCO connection. In fact, if I were running baseball, I'd be worried. Not one kid had a favorite ballplayer. Not one of them wanted a bat or glove. Few of them even had favorite pros in any sport: Local hero Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets was mentioned the most, followed by two Philadelphia stars, Terrell Owens of the Eagles and Allen Iverson of the Sixers. The athletes the kids most wanted to spend time with were their dads.
"Could you bring me a fishing pole so my daddy will take me fishing with him?" one little girl asked. Another wanted a soccer ball, "'cause I think my dad would play soccer with me then."