October 8th, 2010
Friday’s Four Cents
I would like to hoist a toast to the most fabled of sports contestants, the professional softball player. If you’ve spent any time around a baseball diamond, you’ve definitely seen him out there, strutting his stuff like he’s king of the world. He’s probably got his hand formed aluminum bat with a lightning bolt that he calls “Wonder Boy,” a knee brace because it looks cool and a wad of dip like it’s 1973. Recently, I had the honor of playing with a few “professional” softball players on a co-rec team. I was under the impression that it was a just for fun league, but I guess these guys didn’t get the message. Apparently, I joined a professional softball team that was slumming it in a non competitive league.
I’m all about being competitive. My kickball team was eliminated from the playoffs last night and I cried for three solid hours and then killed a bottle of whiskey as Stuart Smalley whispered softly in my ear. It sucks to lose and I’m not very good at it, but I don’t take my frustrations out on other people who are doing the best that they can. I used to do that when I was in elementary school. I was the jackass that would scream at the girls on our team if they messed up. I’m pretty sure I made a few cry. But I grew up and realized that you couldn’t get in their pants if you were mean to them. Yeah, that’s not true, but that’s another discussion.
Here’s my biggest problem with bro magnon softball dudes. If you’re an all-star, that’s one thing, but to call people out for making a mistake, and then pull up lame with a bad hamstring on an easy fly ball, well that’s just weak. Look, I’m not a professional. If I was, I would be living in a much nicer house, driving a luxury car at excessive speeds and sending text messages of my junk to cheerleaders. I make no claims to be great, but I go out and play to the best of my abilities and hustle. It’s hard to respect a guy with warning track power, smashing the ball over everyone’s head, and ending up on second after loafing around the bases. It’s even harder to stomach when the same guy, on a ball smoked through the gap, trucks home fast enough that he can turn and run backwards for the final 15 feet.
“You know why he didn’t get that? He’s too much of a pretty boy to dive.” That was the best comment from the left fielder/coach who kept telling me where I should position myself at third base. Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a pretty boy. I take showers infrequently and wear the same jeans for two months. I’ve always thought underwear was meant to last for an entire week, unless the skid marks got so bad they showed through the other side. I wear brown with black. On purpose. But there it was, me being called a “pretty boy.” It took quite a bit of self restraint to keep my mouth shut, but I did. I know, I’m shocked, too. Looking back though, I realized that it wouldn’t have accomplished anything other than to make the game uncomfortable for everyone else and theoretically, we were out there to have a good time. Nothing would have come of the confrontation. Pro Softball man would still think I was a pretty boy and I’d still consider him a professional douche. To each their own.
Sports are an interesting phenomenon. All males are competitive. It’s our testosterone. Most little boys grow up with dreams of hitting a homerun in the World Series to win the game. Nobody dreams of being Bill Buckner. Believe me, I practiced the Kirk Gibson fist pump and limp for years in my bedroom, not letting the ball dribble between my legs. However, the older I get, the more I play like Buckner and the more I look like Gibson with his pulled hamstring. Being an all-star is not in the cards for everyone and that can be a hard thing to accept, but there are things that we can control when we play sports. They used to say it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Maybe, the older we get, it isn’t how we play the game, but how we act while we’re playing it.