I'm engaged in a

metaphysical, rhetorical, Hasidic-like discussion on the ability of the human heart to withstand pain and torture. For members of the aging, baby-boomer generation, it's a germane subject: a thousand stories for a thousand hearts. No question, this generation is the first to deal with wide-scale divorce and the peculiar segue into adult dating, decreased marriage rates, and unpunched biological clocks -- many stories laden with disappointment and heartache.

Keeping score, I insist on tallying my first broken heart at age 13. The memory, replete with sounds and smells, is still as fresh as a cool morning. Yes, it counts! Since this tender, innocent age, I count 5.5 major, smell-the-vapors-and-take-to-the-bed broken hearts. This totally ignores the countless, garden variety, mini-breaks. That's one per every six years. That's pretty damn regular. It is not a good thing. While the cause may be, more or less, the same, the effect intensified exponentially with each incident. From No. 1, where my Homecoming Queen Pam unceremoniously ditched me for car-stealing Patrick, to the last one, which I'm not even allowed to talk about, each propelled me through stormy waters of malo shit. Denial, running away, tears, depression and, as a last resort -- when, as the song says, they were pouring water on a drowning man -- a life-buoy grab at therapy.

I'm getting to a sports point, really. It's coming in the next verse. Our parents, not to mention the rest of human history, did not have the time or inclination to deal with this. They had, I'm sure, their own problems. The heart, however, stayed intact, able to do its primary duty of beating away. So the question remains, is there a point where the heart just shuts down and says, "Fuck you, Jack! I'm done with this every six years deal. From now on, I'm working on beating and getting your sorry ass to Randall's. Keep your so-called friends away from me!"

"If you've got leaving on your mind, tell me now..." Indeed. If you don't know by now about the city of Cleveland, with its 573,822 grieving souls getting dumped on by its lover of 50 years, the Browns, well, this is probably the point at which you usually stop reading anyway. Make no mistake, the hurt of a spurned sportsfan is as filled with tumult as an icy, mid-November gale on Lake Erie. Any Browns fan, to one degree or another, is feeling all the feelings: anger, sadness, regret, and a soft-focus view of the good old days, which we all experience in the flotsam of a good thing gone bad.

The ultimate effect of teams switching cities at the capricious whim of the soiled, crumpled dollar will be, I suspect, a withholding of trust, a justified reticence to get involved with another team again, and a casual callowness to the new girl in town. (Ouch, doesn't this sound familiar?) This is for the fans of the jilted city. For the soon-to-be fans of a Baltimore or a Nashville, well, how much would you trust a person who came to you in the polluted wake of a deceitful and sordid marriage? As a fan of these new teams, I'd be careful not to get overly involved with the shiny, new penny. You know the glittery varnish is oh-so-thin.

The long-term ramifications of this new age in sports, with its nary a pretense of decorum, open-your-mouth-and-shovel-it-in greed, is difficult to ascertain. Speaking for myself, I'm more and more put off by everything: media over-hype, stupid, selfish, 25-year-old millionaires; and the other by-product of free agency, rampant player movement, resulting in incumbent fan depersonalization. I can envision a time when I spend the day with my old man, an old-line, disillusioned sports fanatic, at the racetrack -- where horses don't hold press conferences, do horseshoe deals with Nike, demand better oats, or complain about the jockey.

My kids, the only experience I have with the next generation and the people who will support professional sports through the first half of the 21st century, have less interest in commercial sports than in listening to me prattle on about the Allman Brothers. Are they typical? Are athletes and team owners killing the goose that laid the golden egg? I just shook up my fortune-telling Magic 8-Ball. It said, typically, "Only time will tell."

Parting shots: My back aches, hands and heels are blistered from too much golf. Nevertheless, with a painfully spry bounce to my step, I trundled out on Monday morning to get my Dallas-Morning News. I was anxious to see the whining commence. The "ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON FT. WORTH" sized headlines didn't disappoint. I don't know how or why the Cowboys lost. Not wanting to view another Dallas slaughter, I was on the links. This loss is good for fans, even bored Cowboy fans. It's good for the NFL, which was losing credibility as a one-team league. Dallas' next two games, against Oakland and K.C., now loom as something other than another revolting display of Dallas mouth- and fire-power. Looks like the world's most obnoxious team will actually have to play its way into the Super Bowl.n

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