If you hear an audible sigh of relief, that would be me.
During the past eight years I’ve spent every March sitting in the car, waiting for practice to be over, and every April, May and most of June sitting in the bleachers trying to figure out why everyone was so worked up over a kid’s baseball game.
Around here, they take their local sports seriously. This is particularly evidenced by the fact that in this county there are three high schools, three middle schools and three elementary schools and there is one music teacher, one art teacher and one school nurse for all of it. But there are two – two -- sports trainers for every high school. The annual high school sports banquet is held off-campus and features a steak dinner. The academic “banquet” is a recent and begrudgingly-held event that features boiled ham and applesauce in the cafeteria. The weight room off the gym is open at 6:30 a.m. before school and until 5 p.m. after school. The school library opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 3:30 p.m.
So, while I’ve always viewed kids’ sports as a tool for teaching sportsmanship and responsibility, most of the other parents viewed it as validation of their family tree’s superiority. (At the risk of exploiting a southern stereotype, I need to point out that there are not as many family trees around here as one might hope. While last names present the illusion of a veritable forest, there is actually only a grove…no, a copse…of actual trees, with very heavy canopy, if I may belabor a metaphor.)
Having lived here 25 years, I know my place in this community. I wasn’t born anywhere near here, so I’m not an insider. Worse, I came from
I suppose this means Heir 2’s mother (no one knows my name, though I’ve introduced myself countless times) is viewed as some sort of idiot savant, sitting in the stands with headphones on, knitting away and smiling stupidly. Usually I’m listening to a book-on-tape. I’ve done this ever since my son has been out of t-ball, which is about when the comments from the bleachers went from being, “Isn’t that cute” to “That damn kid tried to purposely hit my Finster with the ball. Where the hell was that damn bastard umpire looking?” While they never attacked my kid, it was always someone’s kid so, for the sake of my blood pressure and heart rhythm, I kept the headphones on.
Heir 2, for his part, admitted that he wasn’t a star player. But he loved to play. He loved to play. He’d practice constantly, rain or shine, to improve enough to get more playing time. But, this being a sport-oriented area, other fathers had been preparing their kids from the cradle to be jocks. While we were wasting time reading out loud together, other parents were hitting their three-year-old in the head with a wiffle ball.
Heir 2 didn’t stand a chance. But he cheered his team on anyway.
One of the most heart-wrenching moments of our Little League experience was listening to Heir 2 providing encouraging outfield banter to a rooster of a pitcher who was in a slump right after the same pitcher had dubbed Heir 2 a “loser” for hitting a pop fly that resulted in an out. Sadly, I was probably the only one who noticed how much class that took. I resumed using my headphones.
Last fall, as a high school freshman, Heir 2 decided to try running cross country. Turns out he’s good at it – very good. So this spring he is running track and he’s very good at that too. (And, lest you feel sorry for the “little boy would couldn’t play baseball,” when the newspaper lists all the students who received either straight A’s or all A’s and B’s on the report cards, he is always listed under the straight A’s. His former teammates are nowhere to be found.)
The only one disappointed with the lack of little league this spring is Heir 1.
Anybody else hear “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” by Pete Seeger playing?