Tuesday, March 1, 2011
MAN IN A PINK SUIT
Craig Bartholomew Sager was born in Rosthern, Saskatchewan in 1949, to Walter, a sales rep for the Regina Coat Factory and Doris, a homemaker. A somewhat lonely child, Sager nonetheless enjoyed the usual pursuits of a boy in an agrarian society; hiking, curling and taxidermy. In his teen years, he became obsessed with the writings of fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen and developed a deep interest in matters of religion, isolation, sexuality and interpersonal relationships. When Cohen turned to music, Sager followed, reportedly shutting himself off from friends and family, spending long hours rocking quietly from side to side as he listened to "Suzanne" on the family’s hi-fi.
Sager increasingly displayed a duality that would both serve him well and ultimately lead to the precipice of disaster. Introspective pursuits coexisted with the joy of sports; a growth spurt topped out at a robust six-four and he lettered in both basketball and football. He donned fur as the school mascot; Willie the Wildcat. Never one to rest on his laurels, Sager also penned a regular column, "A Boy’s Life", for the school paper.
College years were spent majoring in journalism at the Saskatchewan School of Agriculture. Upon graduating, Sager headed stateside to pursue a career in the media. He reported for KMBC in Kansas and was the sports director for WINK TV in Fort Meyers, Florida. Desiring a larger platform, Sager began working as a stringer for CNN. He was headed to a pivotal live remote when an unfortunate gelato spill necessitated a wardrobe change. With time running out, Sager stopped at a thrift store that catered to the local cabaret community. His choices fatefully defined by constraint, Sager settled on a chartreuse ensemble previously owned by bandleader Carl "Doc" Severinsen. The resulting expression on Don Shula’s face caught Ted Turner’s attention and a star was born.
Sager’s tenure at CNN was marked both by newfound sartorial splendor and dark despair - America’s Sideline Reporter privately worried that he was fast losing his hard-won street cred. A series of pitched battles began with the bombastic Ted Turner. Around the same time, Sager began a tumultuous relationship with film and video star Tawny Kitaen - ugly rumors surfaced about dungeons and dragons role play, fueled by a joint appearance at Comic-con in Las Vegas. Perhaps the nadir of this period occurred outside Madison Square Garden when Sager was tackled and viciously pummeled by a Knicks fan who screamed, "what’s the frequency, asshole?!"
When Sager was offered a new contract at TNT, he sensed an opportunity to escape his servitude to fashion. Screwing his courage to the sticking-place, Sager approached Turner and demanded to dress "normal-like". In retrospect, Turner's response should have been predictable. "Brother, I need you when I got Barkley?" Sager was as crushed as the velvet on his lapels. When presented with endless pages of boilerplate studded with injunctions forbidding him to ever stray from paisely, suede and approved synthetics, he did what you or I, fellow mortals, would have done. He signed.
Sager soldiered on, occasionally exploring avenues to freedom - hired William Kunstler but the case went nowhere, attracted supporters who fell away in droves, Jimmy Carter tried talking to Turner over sweet tea in Georgia and came away with an endowment for a new library. Sager eventually tired of rebelling, donned a famous blue raincoat one night, pointing out to Steve Kerr, "See, it’s torn at the shoulder". But only drowning men could see him and he finally and resolutely settled into a never-ending parade of salmon and seersucker; prowling the sidelines like a sacred cow, wearing the secret smile of an unpopular kid, ignoring unfunny jokes from NBA superstars, gamely pretending that his probing questions still held relevance. And when the long season ends, our misunderstood iconoclast returns to his house in the desert where Lady Kitaen awaits for a little funtime, six-inch Blahniks at the ready. Poor Craig, just a man in a pink suit.