There is no professional athlete who makes me question reality more than Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder.
While I was watching the Tigers in the ALCS with some friends last week, I made the following joke: "Fielder looks like a guy who fell asleep in a bus station and is having an amazing dream about being great at baseball." It made my friends laugh, because Prince Fielder does kind of look like that.
I'm not proud of myself for making this joke. Or any joke about another person’s appearance. It shouldn’t matter if I'm referring to a husky, disheveled-looking millionaire whose uniform is baggy but also clean, crisp and modern, so he seems less like some old chubby ballplayer throwback than a person in the wrong clothes, and whose baby dreadlocks with frosted tips to me suggest "slam poet" more than "first baseman for the Tigers." All I can say in my defense is I enjoy Prince Fielder more for his idiosyncrasies. BUT, the more I think about this weird, offhanded joke I made, the more rattled I get by its seeming accuracy.
I can vividly picture the exact person who is falling asleep in a bus station while dreaming about being Prince Fielder. He is a college kid, addicted to Xbox. He is wearing Adidas shell top sneakers. He falls asleep easily, anywhere, even on a bus station bench in Allentown, Pa., where he is waiting for a Greyhound bus to Youngstown, Ohio, to visit a cousin. He is exactly the joke I made about Prince Fielder.
Consider too, the following dreamlike qualities of Fielder's career: his name is Prince, that is what people call him; his dad is former Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder; he is extremely successful and rich and yet he looks somewhat like a college kid sleeping in a bus station. The details of Fielder's peculiar life have the same strange specificity as unconscious neural firings after post-midnight Taco Bell.
Anyhow, this World Series, I’ll be rooting like crazy for Prince Fielder and his Tigers. Just in case. I don't want to disappear the instant he wakes up.
Special contributor Ben Johnson is a comedian with the iO Theater in Chicago.
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