The players cluster childlike about their cubicles. They brag or they sulk, depending on whether they've won or lost, whether it's before a game or after, or whether Jupiter's moons are in alignment or not. "You should see my house," Barry Bonds is saying to Mike Jackson. This occurs in the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse before a game, the moons just so. "Major cribbage," Bonds continues. "Ceiling 40 feet high! Bring you a videotape." Jackson nods in appreciation.
This clubhouse is like any other, an enclave of protracted adolescence where the players needn't mask their pride, or even their confusion, over lame and fortune. A little later the same two players confer over pay stubs that have just been distributed. They are two teens comparing report cards. This invites talk of contracts.
"What's yours?" Bonds asks Jackson, a middle reliever.
"Two. What's yours?"
"Four," says Bonds, who is somewhat more than twice the ballplayer Jackson is but still good-natured about the discrepancy. "But soon it'll be eight." They are talking in millions of dollars.
But brag turns to sulk, just like that. "What is this $30,000 for?" Bonds suddenly asks, examining a deduction, and the moons are jolted out of orbit. An interview, so incidental to life in the clubhouse that it has now been put off six days running and is a source of comedy among the players, is once more deferred. "Dude," Bonds says, waving the writer away, "later." And he vanishes.
The clubhouse is otherworldly. The players are empowered by vast contracts, based on unusual, delicate, hard-won—and, in any other world, useless—skills. It seems they cannot ask for, or receive, enough. For them life is oddly generous. For example: Shoe salesmen—shoe givers, actually—come and go, delivering all manner of athletic equipment to the players, from gloves to golf clubs.
"I'd like some of those T-shirts, too," a player reminds the shoe giver.
"How about a driver with a jumbo head?" the shoe giver asks.
This clubhouse, like any clubhouse, is redolent of the perfume of entitlement. A player uses the clubhouse phone to arrange for repairs to his BMW. "This is Robby Thompson," he says, adding, "of the Giants."