It’s that time of year when we teach our youth the critical lessons needed for success in life:
1) adults make the rules, and
2) adults are nuts.
Yes, it’s a new season of little league baseball! And it’s not the game we played as kids.
After a long winter practicing team chants, inventing new insults, reliving last summer’s great plays, and playing pitch and catch at the neighbors, the adults return to their own houses to prepare 10 year-olds for the hard life of baseball and the hardball of life.
Teams are assembled, uniforms are purchased, and beer and sunflower seeds are stockpiled. Treat-Mom schedules are emailed and immediately lost. Team names are chosen to convey the power, the influence, and the ruthless nature of the sport and to intimidate opponents and entertain the fans. Common monikers are Yankees, Cardinals, Swamp People, Dynasty Ducks, Magic Mikes, Congressional Oversighters, Middleclass Income Gappers, Mortgage Derivative Regulators, and Common Monikers.
A great metaphor for life, baseball has many pertinent lessons expressed as pithy sayings like “GOOD EYE!” This one is used when a pitcher throws a fastball which careens off the batter’s ankle resulting in shouts at the pitcher from angry Dads, the third base coach sarcastically yelling “GOOD EYE!”, and many tears shed when the umpire detects that the ricocheting ball somehow got past his own crotch guard. A parent then yells, “WALK IT OFF, BLUE!” and everyone laughs at the apt, yet oddly ironic, conventional nickname for the home plate umpire.
Today’s season-opener is between the Dirtbags and the visiting Turdbuckets. After the first throw, chants begin immediately:
You can’t CATCH
You can’t PITCH
Yo’ Mamma is a lousy…COOK!
This irritates a team mother who complains to the local league officer who admonishes Blue to quit taunting the batter.
Every little league game is a ruthless and fun battle between umpires, opposing teams, parents, coaches, fans, and frequently the concession stand attendee. These battles are often fraught with innings, idiots, and idioms:
•GOOD SWING! Encouragement for a batter with no chance of hitting a ball. Ever.
•BIG STICK. A successful team Dad who is very popular.
•PLAY DEEP. Team Dad expanding his horizons and anticipating opportunity.
•FIRST BASE. Opposing-teams parents exchanging greetings.
•SECOND BASE. Opposing-teams parents exchanging phone numbers.
•THIRD BASE. Opposing-teams parents sharing Fierce Grape Gatorade, unconcerned about cross-contaminating fluids.
•OK, YOU’VE SEEN IT; NOW GIVE IT A RIDE! Player encouraged to hit the ball hard. (Also used by some team parents during off-season “strategy sessions”.
See HOME RUN and SCREWBALL).
•SWITCH-HITTER. Mom who alternates coaching girls and boys teams.
•PLAYING FOR OTHER TEAM. Curious Dad wanders onto adjacent ballfield to see if that game is more fun.
At many games you can hear those expressions used in polite adult conversation near the restrooms:
Wanna play deep sometime?”
“Sorry. I play for the other team.”
Back at the game, four innings elapse with these stats: three Dirtbags homeruns, seven Turdbuckets RBIs, and one black eye when the left fielder is hit in the ear by a wild pitch, and a team Dad punches the first base coach who neglects to contest Blue’s strike call.
In the game’s best play, the Dirtbags’ shortstop, “Long” O. Verdue fields a “skupper”, which takes a nasty “philben” near second base. Meanwhile, the Turdbuckets player on first base starts running but neglects to tag-up on First first. This results in a technical “infield fly” ruling by Blue who was still adjusting his own infield fly from the earlier incident. The third base coach, way off base himself due to untreated bi-polar disorder, sadistically “waves-on” the hitter who rounds second base. A massive collision happens between Third and Home involving Blue, the runner, and two Dirtbags parents who were “playing the field” near the foul line. A brief timeout is called to sort-out the carnage, five runs are awarded to the Turdbuckets, and the offending parents are ejected from the game for “taking one for the team” behind the bleachers.
When the infield dust clears, the treats are distributed, the post-game critiques are delivered, and the Ump has iced his groin, everyone looks forward to the next matchup. A Turdbuckets Mom taunts a team Dad, “YOU CAN’T CONTROL BLUE; YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOU!”, and in true game spirit fists fly while the kids amusedly watch the enfolding “sportsmanship lesson”, munch Ding Dongs, and discuss the associative rule for multiplication.
It’s a whole new ballgame, folks!