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Firehouse Funnies
by Will Wyatt

Forget Albert Pujols what about St. Louis' best team?

While The Cardinals were willing to pay almost $200 million for a baseball player, the city was going to lay off 30 firefighters to save $1 million

By Will Wyatt

People of St. Louis remain calm. This is not the apocalypse nor the end of civilization as we have come to know it. Albert Pujols has left the building. However, there is still a good team in town with great players.

It would seem the baseball great has signed a contract for many millions of dollars to play baseball with the Anaheim Angels during the next baseball season.

The contract is worth $240 million guaranteed, and incentives that are worth another $10 million. So, he could conceivably make $250 million over the next 10 years.

According to the LA Times, the contract is back-loaded and Pujols will make $12 million for the next season. Basically, $1 million a month.

Now what I find ironic about this is last year the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club made an offer, from what I have been able to gather, to Pujols somewhere in the neighborhood of $195 to $199 million for nine years.

However, at the beginning of last year, the City of St. Louis was grappling with the prospect of laying off 30 firefighters to cut $1 million dollars from the St. Louis Fire Dept. budget. This, by the way, is what Albert Pujols makes a month.

The point could immediately be made that I am comparing apples to aardvarks. That is a valid point and one I can't argue with.

I am comparing a municipal budget that relies on assessed property values and tax revenue to the finances of a professional sports team.

But I just can’t get past the irony of that whole thing. The Cardinals were willing to pay almost $200 million for a baseball player, but the city was going to lay off 30 firefighters to save $1 million. There is enough irony there to sink a battle ship.

I guess it's what is important to people. I don’t know many firefighters who make a million dollars a year. Firefighters take a lot of risks. You could include police officers in that also.

What about our armed forces? Young men and woman who go to foreign lands and get killed or maimed to protect the freedoms that allows me to sit here and write this.

I didn’t join the fire dept. to achieve rock star status or make as much money as the Buffets (Warren or Jimmy). I am glad because I would have been really disappointed.

And besides, what would I do with $250 million? We do need a new screen door. The wife wants hardwood flooring. I have a fishing reel that doesn’t retract line until you turn the handle a few times. I guess I might get crazy and have that fixed.

Now please, don't come away from this thinking I am anti Albert Pujols. Not at all. How could you not like him? A perennial all star, rookie of the year and more accolades than we have room for here.

He is the third of three players in the history of baseball to hit three home runs in a single World Series game. The other two being Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson; you have heard of them.

In 2009, he was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Decade. He hit a home run in a playoff game in Houston that went so far so fast, the Strategic Air Command almost scrambled fighters to intercept it.

Mr. Pujols has been blessed with talent and ability that few have even come close to. He has made the most of it and now has a big payoff. That’s how it works.

If he came by the house and we got the screen door open, had a few beverages and played a couple of games of Pictionary, I bet he would be a fun guy.

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis, it appears the mayor and city are lining up to take a shot at the fire dept. pension. Oh gosh, I said it: the "P" word.

I would like to meet the person who sold our nation's fire service on the ridiculous concept that we should be able to retire. Come on. Seriously?

OK, firefighters work 25 years or longer in an occupation that is very dangerous. We work daily in toxic, explosive environments that might collapse at any moment in all kinds of weather and conditions.

We are exposed to every dangerous medical and transmittable blood borne disease known to man every day. This is, of course, on a good day.

We work holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and all kinds of firsts. We miss first fish, first steps, first words and others.

We are gone during times of disaster, leaving our families to spend our time protecting others who depend on us when they call 911.

We stand a better chance of contracting cancer or heart disease than the average citizen does of hearing Rick Perry saying something goofy at a presidential debate.

I will take out the word comfortable from my retirement wishes. I will give up the phrase "retire comfortably" and replace it with retire and survive.

I just want my pension to do more than pay for my insurance. But all over the country, pension and insurance benefits are being attacked. I really can't imagine me, with my limited social skills, being the Wal-Mart greeter.

I attended a CPR event the other night. A long beloved family member had taken their last breath. Our team of lifesavers intervened and delivered this person to the hospital with a self sustaining pulse.

They weren't asked to sign autographs. They didn’t get offers from other EMS services to come and work for them with a big raise.

I couldn't help but think had I stopped CPR for a moment to allow the computerized defibrillator to analyze the situation and had glanced over and seen Albert Pujols in the living room taking a couple of practice swings with his bat.

Would all of his millions helped? Probably not. I, of course, knocked over an end table and lamp.

In the opening paragraph, I encouraged the citizens of St. Louis to remain calm and even mentioned another team in St. Louis that has good players.

Not just the St. Louis Blues. I mean, of course, the St. Louis Fire Dept. Now there is a great team the public can get behind and support. They are not going to leave town. They will just show up when a person is having a bad day be it morning, noon or night, rain or shine.

Isn't St. Louis the place that went to all ladder trucks and quints years ago? I should have applied there; I could always be on the truck.

Good luck Albert and the St. Louis Fire Dept. They both have a lot ahead of them this year.

A Happy Ending…
I do like a happy ending. If you have followed the curious case of that fine American Battalion Chief John Grillone who got in trouble for singing the National Anthem there is good news. You can refresh yourself here. Chief Grillone has been returned to active duty in the 13th Battalion of the Philadelphia Fire Dept.

Believe me nobody is happier about this than me. I was about to go on a hunger strike over this issue.

As always let me hear from you…

About the author

Will Wyatt, who is originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for 25 years. Will currently works as an engineer/operator at the Village Fire Department in the Houston, Texas, area. Will also works part time at another fire department and part time at a 911 emergency medical service. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments in the Houston area including full time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Will holds a master fire fighter certification with the State of Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification, an associate degree from Houston Community College and a basic EMT certification. Recently will authored a book on the fire service entitled, "And a Paycheck, Too!" Check out an excerpt here. Contact Will at Will.Wyatt@firerescue1.com.



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