Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 29

Another Interview

      Mr. Brian Howison had made an impression on both Sharon and Melissa, and Tim wanted to discuss the questions he had raised with both of them. He knew enough to know that he hardly knew Melissa. But he didn’t know the new Sharon a great deal better. She was still happy to play games and experiment, but in a different knowing way. It was almost as if she’d gone from kid sister to big sister. He was sure that Meredith and Audrey took Sharon’s judgment to be better than his own. Very likely, Diana agreed with them.

    Tim happened to be with Sharon at the moment, and led off with, “The NFL certainly provides entertainment. Entertainment of a reasonable sort is, in general, a good thing. But, if it’s taken too seriously, it stops being entertainment.”

“So he did start you thinking.”

“Well, yes. One implication might have been that we’re elitists who don’t care about the masses, and don’t give a shit whether or not they’re entertained.”

“I think that was part of it. And it’s funny coming from a man who’s obviously in the inner circle of the San Diego elite. I guess it’s an example of ‘noblesse oblige’.”

“He thinks he knows what’s good for people, and we think we know. However, as Clint pointed out, we’re not going to get any large number of people to do what we want.”

Sharon gestured with open hands and replied, “Whereas, Brian Howison can motivate huge numbers.”

“As long as he doesn’t try to ‘uplift’ them. He couldn’t get them to stop watching football and go to the library any more than we could.”

“I think he knows that, Tim. He’s content to modify mass behavior only in relatively small ways.”

“So as to minimize hostility between groups.  We never set out to do much of that.”

“No. We’re interested in education. We sort of hope that educated people won’t want to kill their neighbors, but I’m not sure that even that is realistic.”

After a moment, Tim reacted, “There are probably highly educated sadists just waiting for their chance.”

“There’s always some of everything. But we do what we can. It’s better than doing nothing.”

     Somewhat later, Melissa called. After a bit of somewhat romantic chit-chat, she said, “When Brian was talking, I was reminded of a social workers’ meeting I once attended. It was mostly black, and I was one of few women. The speaker, a middle-aged white man, was quite informal. He had a lot of stories and reminiscences. At one point, he said, ‘When I’m on an airplane, I try to find a pretty stewardess who has a one-piece uniform with a skirt. Then, I ask her for a pillow. I don’t really want the pillow. I just want to watch when she reaches up.’ It went over big with the audience. Do you know why he said that?”

“Sure. He was bridging a racial gap. Traditionally, white men never discussed women in sexual terms with black men. He was breaking through that barrier, and also showing that he and the others had something in common, voyeurism.”

“It worked. Except that it was at the expense of women, and it offended me. Similarly, football fans can be united by getting them to hate someone else, the Raiders or Patriots and their fans.”

“Well Melissa, you probably know that in England, the fans of soccer teams often beat up the fans of other teams.”

“There are cases where fans have killed other fans.”

“Yes. American ones are more restrained, but it’s still not so great.”

“Unifying people by getting them to hate or feel contempt for others is dangerous. Even when it doesn’t lead to anything approaching fascism, the kind of unity Howison talks about is superficial and largely meaningless. You may stand next to someone of a different background and cheer the same team, but it doesn’t really imply anything at all once the game is over.”

“Not if there’s some divisive community issue.”

“I wouldn’t begin to think about football when it’s a question of which schools my kids will go to.”

“So, Melissa, we go ahead with the next step.”


Tim had to laugh at what he had just said. He was intrigued by sentences that began with ‘So…’, as in, ‘So, Hans, we proceed to behead the prisoners? Yes?’ He also liked sentences that began, ‘I would say this to you, Sir/Maam …”. It would be fun to be that pompous.

     When Melissa arrived at the marina, Tim forgot to use his favorite sentence openers, and, no one else being around, he responded enthusiastically to her embrace. The quietest place she could find for the interview was in the cockpit of Tim’s new boat. Once she had her equipment set up, she clicked a switch and said, “Since Tim Hastings, the injured punter, is one of Enoch’s closest friends, I’ve asked him to comment on the current controversy. Hello, Tim.”

“Hi, Melissa.”

“I wonder, first, if you care whether the Sailors win or lose games.”

“I’d feel some moderate satisfaction if I helped win a game, but I didn’t choose the team. It chose me, and I came here because they paid me to.”

“And you don’t think it makes any difference in the big scheme of things whether the team wins or loses.”

“I can’t imagine how it could.”

“Do you think the NFL as a whole is a useful institution?”

“It certainly provides entertainment, which may be good in itself, but there’s a downside.”

“Which is?”

“It encourages people to watch other people playing sports instead of playing themselves.”

“Couldn’t they do both?”

“The games usually occupy a good six hours of Sunday afternoon, and college games do the same for Saturday afternoons. You could do great athletic things before or after the games, but I don’t think most people do.”

“As we know, the high obesity numbers are associated with a lack of exercise. The image that springs to mind is that of a fortyish man with a big tummy sitting on a couch with beer and potato chips while he watches football.”

“I’m afraid there’s a lot of that. I even know young healthy men who forego active sports to watch sports on TV. They may not stay healthy very long.”

“In the match-making ads, it turns out that, when someone is looking for a person who likes sports, it’s really a search for a person who likes watching sports.”

“Yes. My friends and I are trying to get people to kayak, row, and swim in the ocean. Our main competition for a good part of the year seems to be the NFL.”

Just then, an airplane roared overhead. But Melissa said that it was a good place to end the interview.

      Tim had been hoping for a little post-interview session in the cabin, but, when he suggested it, Melissa replied, “I’m not too confident of this baby sitter, and I want to get back to the kids after I drop off the recording at the radio station. But you can ride along.”

Even with the seat way back, it was a struggle to get in, but Tim managed it. Melissa’s driving was unusual, with a lot of steering over-corrections. She did have control of her vehicle, but not with a great deal to spare.

     Tim was skewed somewhat to his right, but, reaching forward with his left hand, he was just able to reach Melissa. When he attempted to unbutton her blouse, she giggled. When he did eventually get the button undone, she said,

“You love to unfasten women, don’t you?”

“Sure. Somebody said that it’s the adult male version of children unwrapping Christmas presents. That’s me.”

Tim, turning his hand over, could only reach far enough from his reclining position to run his fingers over Melissa’s lower ribs. While it was fun to explore her in that way, he realized that her driving was getting worse.  Sharon would have disapproved, and he desisted. When he asked Melissa how sex went with her husband, she answered,

“Oh, he likes it, whenever he has the time and energy. There wouldn’t be a lot wrong with my marriage if he did have more time and energy.”

“So you supplement him with me. Have you done it with other men?”

“There’s a big healthy young guy. Not nearly as accomplished as you.”

“I bet he’s more accomplished sexually.”

“At a certain point in proceedings he’ll yell, ‘I’m gonna come, I’m gonna come!’ That doesn’t do a lot for me.”

“Well, anyway, I like being a supplement.”

“Considering the women you’re used to, I’m lucky to have you. Your sister is fascinating and Diana looks like a movie star. I don’t bear comparison.”

Tim hardly knew what to say, but ventured, “I don’t look like a movie star.”

They arrived at the radio station next, and Melissa double-parked on a short dead-end street, saying, “If anyone comes along, tell them I’ll be right back.”

As it happened, Melissa wasn’t right back. However, another woman came down the steps in a business suit, and Tim momentarily took her to be Sharon in one of her ‘big lady’ outfits. It wasn’t, of course. This woman, despite a certain similarity, was a good fifteen years older. She then arrived at her car to find it blocked in. After looking around in obvious frustration, she approached Tim, saying, “This is Melissa’s car isn’t it?”

“Yeah. The keys are in it, and I’d move it, but I have this cast on my leg.”

“And you must be Tim Hastings. I’m Janet, and I also work at the radio station. I predict that she’ll be up there chatting for a while, so, if you don’t mind, I’ll get in and move the car.”

At close range, Janet looked less like Sharon, but she was still very attractive, a good deal more so than Melissa. After moving the car forward, she lingered and said, “Melissa played the tape for us upstairs. Do you realize the storm that awaits you?”

“It seems about like Enoch’s message. Something that’s obviously true, but uncomfortable for the NFL.”

“He’s an established star, and can get away with more. Plus, he’s not directly attacking television, which you really are.”

“I suppose so. With the exception of a very few things, TV is always replacing something more worthwhile that people could be doing.”

“But you don’t seem at all like an ideologue, or a scold, or puritan, or anything like that.”

“I don’t think I am.”

“Did Enoch talk you into this? Or Melissa?”

“It certainly started with Enoch. He chose Melissa to help him deliver his message. But he’s never tried to get me to do anything. Except, perhaps, to get out of the NFL. I’m sure he’s right about that.”

“I think this interview will do it. No matter how far you can punt, there’ll be a gentlemen’s agreement not to renew your contract anywhere in the league. So that’s okay with you?”

“My sister will be delighted. She’s afraid I’ll get hurt, even as a punter.”

Pointing to his cast, Janet replied, “Evidently with some reason. Anyhow, you’re promoting Melissa’s career in a big way, and you get to play with her in the meantime.”

“Is that so obvious?”

“Certainly. Even though I’m single, Melissa and I are in the same boat. It’s almost impossible for women on our rung of the professional ladder to manage a successful permanent relationship with a man. But we have normal urges, and so we go where we can. Here comes Melissa, so I’ll slide my card into your pocket.”

Tim found himself a little shocked, but also delighted. Janet’s skirt had slid up, and he would have touched her under other circumstances. He was again a little shocked when Janet treated Melissa as an old friend and confidante.

     After they had started up, Tim said, “Your friend heard the tape and told me there’ll be a big reaction.”

“Certainly. Do you still think it’ll be in a good cause?”

Tim assented, to Melissa’s obvious relief. She then seemed somewhat preoccupied as she negotiated traffic.

     The next stop was the baby sitter’s house, deep in an extremely boring suburb. Billy and his little sister were strapped in, the latter howling near Tim’s head. They then headed to a neighboring suburb, where Billy’s pre-school was located. When Melissa came back after a brief chat with the lady who ran it, she got into the car and said to Tim, “Janet doesn’t have children. You won’t have to go through all this if you take up with her.”

Tim hadn’t realized how many times he could be shocked within the space of a few hours. After another lame reply on his part, she said, “Janet and I know each other pretty well. We both do the obvious thing.”

Tim managed to turn the conversation in other directions as he was driven back to the boat. He later gave an account of it all to Sharon, concluding, “The girls at Harvard never seemed terribly interested in me. These women proposition me without any hesitation at all.”

“Even in these days, most college girls are looking for husbands, and you obviously aren’t the type. But these women are looking for sex with attractive men. So you’re in great demand.”

“Apparently so.  Melissa and Janet are a bit older than I. They’ve been to college, but they seem more practical and less well educated than you, Meredith, and Audrey.”

“According to Diana, education erodes unless you make a major effort to maintain and improve it. Ted kept her from doing that, but Enoch is encouraging it.”

“This last lady, Janet, more or less suggested that I’m a sort of play-baby.”

“She didn’t say that in so many words, did she?”

“No. But she’s puzzled that I’m involved in something like a crusade.”

“I don’t think any of us intended that. But your joining the NFL automatically put you in a public position. And, then, Enoch came along.”

“I don’t think he’s a crusader either. But he has an independent mind, and he’s gotten backed into what’s turning out to be a crusade. It seemed so reasonable at the beginning that I couldn’t help joining.”

“So there we are. I do still hope we don’t have to leave San Diego.”

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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