I was comforted recently to notice a copy of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea'' in the bookshelf of a friend's loft in downtown Atlanta.
I wasn't surprised. This friend shares my tastes in music, literature and sports (and other delights), but I don't remember us ever having a conversation about Papa Hemingway. Our chatter and swapping of books usually includes the latest from Paul Hemphill and Randy Wayne White. He had just handed me White's "Hunter's Moon'' to read.
Hemingway, though, is perfectly in tune with our view of the world. My friend is a Florida native and I am a Florida resident; we rock steady with the undulations of the Gulf waves.
Hemingway's thread about baseball and the beloved Yankees provides rich texture to this classic short story.
"I'll get the cast net and go for sardines. Will you sit in the sun in the doorway?''
"Yes, I have yesterday's paper and I will read the baseball.''
The boy did not know whether yesterday's paper was a fiction too. But the old man brought it out from under the bed.
"Perico gave it to me at the bodega,'' he explained.
"I'll be back when I have the sardines. I'll keep yours and mine together on ice and we can share them in the morning. When I come back you can tell me about the baseball.''
"The Yankees cannot lose.''
"But I fear the Indians of Cleveland.''
"Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio.''
My friend and I had returned to McKechnie Field on Thursday for another spring training game and we found ourselves at a picnic table, sipping beer beside a stranger. We asked her what she was doing in town, and she replied: "I'm here for the Yankees.''
Yes, the Yankees are here today. The woman was two days early. There's always a stir in town -- and a guaranteed sellout at McKechnie -- when the Yankees come to play. I cannot hate them, as so many others do, because baseball would not be the same without them.
Read Hemingway's story. Listen to the old man.