REVENGE OF THE JOCKS

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(WCC got saddled with some work this weekend – you know, the paying kind – and desperately called upon me as a Pinch-Hitter)

greatest-pinch-hitters-meetthematts.jpg
by Mrs. West Coast Craig

SILVER LAKE, CA – I was never what one might call a sports-y person by any stretch of the imagination. I was the stereotypical uncoordinated girl with glasses throughout most of my K-12 school career, and when it came time to stagger around on the field or get a volleyball smashed into my face, I was always glad to be relegated to the bench or the side of the gym… working hard at staring into space and making my concentrated frown look like something no one would want to deliberately interrupt. “She might be figuring out how to solve the current energy crisis.” I would imagine them thinking… “She does wear glasses after all, she has to be smart.”

So, what is the ultimate irony here? That I ended up marrying a guy who is probably one of the biggest sports-fans out there? That my life has somehow been divided (against my design) into sports-themed segments? Those being “baseball season”, “football season”, “hockey season”, and “whatever sport happens to be on TV”? Our son, Kasey, plays … in consecutive cycles: basketball, baseball and soccer. And of course, Craig coaches all of them. He turned our umbrella stand in the backyard into a hitaway so he could practice his swing (he poured concrete into a cinderblock on top of the stand, yes, it’s just as beautiful as you might imagine it to be).

But really, what I’m here to talk about is none of that. I’m here to talk about the thing that has made me a sports widow and single mom on weekends for the entirety of our kids’ lives. Craig’s old-guy-league baseball team.

In the beginning, before the days of children, I would go to every game. Myself and the other girlfriends would sip our water bottles/lattes and sit in our folding camp-chairs and watch the guys sweat and run and cheer (sometimes we would wince when one of them would do a face-plant or snap an aging collarbone). Every once in a while we would look up from book or script and wonder what the score was. In the early stages of the game, before it turned into a 3-4 hour death march through the Los Angeles summer heat, we would even try to watch when they were up at bat. But really, can that kind of half-assed dedication last? The answer is no.

After the first boy was born, I still went to games, spread out the blanket, made sure there was shade, let the baby flop around…then as he got older, go up to the fence to watch, little hands curling into the chain link just ready to take a one-in-a-zillion shot by a foul ball that would crush all his fingers. The players’-girlfriends would come and go, my game-watching girlfriends dwindled. And then, one day, I just stopped going. His teams were playing games deep in the Valley, in places I called the 5th circle of Hell.

Hey, don’t feel bad for him. He understood. Why would I want to lug baby and all his 1,937 lbs of supporting gear out to some horrible, run-down high school in Van Nuys with no shade and probably no grass? Was it for the thrill of the sport? I think we’ve already covered my feelings on that matter. While I know that he would have liked to have us out in the stands for each game, he wasn’t delusional enough to think it would be fun to torture us for 3 hours just so he could catch us out of the corner of his eye once in a while.

Craig plays every summer. He drags his ass out of the house EVERY sunday and drives to a horrible 105 degree, shadeless, devil-pit somewhere FAR AWAY, and he plays ball with a bunch of appliance salesmen and angry ex-teachers. They come and go, and he stays. His team has gone from being the Dodgers to the Jazz to the Twins to the Irelands 32 Thunder-somethings to … whatever he is now. The Dodgers again, I think. He’s played with actors and writers and even with one of the Matts. Now he’s playing with Jose Canseco. I guess if you stick with something long enough, you finally get to the smooshy, gushy sweet center of your square of Freshen Up (that gum reference might be too old for you youngsters. Trust me, it was gross. Look it up).

What this means for me is what I call a weekend-killer. He’s going to play his game on Sunday, end of story. He can’t let “the boys” down even though there was a stretch there when some of these guys just wouldn’t show up and they would have to forfeit. Seriously. So unless it’s a holiday, we can’t go camping, we can’t make plans with friends, we can’t go to Palm Springs or paint the house or write the great American novel together. And now…and now. The Boy is playing Coach Pitch ball on Saturdays. And all his games are scheduled for the middle of the day all summer.

    Oh, sports. This is your way of getting back at me, isn’t it?
    ISN’T IT?!

If only I could reach back into the past ( perhaps with some kind of giant, semi-transparent, floating head effect ) and warn the bored, annoyed teenager sitting in the auditorium during pep-rallys in high school that she should maybe pay attention to all the hoo-hah. Because someday, sports are going to be the gaudy centerpiece in the middle of the Thanksgiving table of my life.

Here’s the thing, before you go thinking ‘oh, she’s so MEAN’. (First of all, I am mean, just ask anyone). How can you not respect that kind of love for something? It’s impossible. I’m always impressed beyond belief that he does this year after year. How awesome, I think to myself sometimes, to have something you are so into that you drag your tired, old self out of the house — sometimes at 8am after a night out with friends — every. single. sunday, and drive out to Sh!tbox High to play ball with a losing team in 110 degree heat. And to be completely honest, I have never really minded that he’s out there dyin’ on the Sun’s Anvil with his little baseball costume on. (Kidding! I know it’s not a costume. It’s an outfit.) That you would stick with it, year after year… even as your friends come and go, even as you play with guys you may or may not like. Even when people on your team are shouty or uninspired or just boring. You don’t want to let them down, and most of all, you don’t want to quit playing something you love. THAT. MUCH. That’s more than just cool. That’s a great example for our kids – to completely allow myself to be cheesy for a moment.

    He loves the game. All of them.

Ahem. Moment over.

Grote’s Gripes, tomorrow.

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About the Author ()

West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.

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