You ARE special.
I saw that grad speech, the one that’s in vogue at the moment where we tell a bunch a snotnosed high school seniors that after 18 years of coddling, helicopter parenting, hollow affirmations and no loser sporting events, after a life time of this they need to understand that they are in fact, NOT SPECIAL.
Gawdamnit, I’ve been telling my yoots for most of their lives that they’re special. As in “aren’t you special”, or “He ain’t right, he’s special”.
When I was at the Indy racetrack a couple months ago the guide dude told us a story about when F1 came to Indianapolis. In F1, at the end of the race, you have a podium where the First, Second and Third place drivers are recognized. In Indy Car racing, as well as NASCAR you only have one winner. Second place is the first place looser as they say. AJ Foyt, famous driver and team owner made the comment “Second place trophy? Hell you come in second I don’t wanna see you on a podium, I wanna see you in your garage kicking ass trying to figure out what went wrong.”
Which reminds me for some reason of T-Ball.
I’m well past attending T-Ball games thank goodness. And little league.
I still remember preparing for my first T-Ball game with my kid who at that time, was at least as good as Dimaggio was at his age.
Like any activity worth doing you have to start with a list. T-Ball Parenting is no different:
- Lawn Chair- Check
- Sunglasses- Check
- Water bottle- Check
- Sunscreen- Check
- iPod- Check
- Book- Check
- Ask the wife if the kid has everything he needs- Double Check Note that this usually starts a conversation about why I only worry about myself and the other parent has to worry about everything else. But since we have this same conversation every time we travel, I’m used to it.
Ready to go. And off we go, to the ball field. Love me a diamond, it’s perfect symmetry.. well there’s no symmetry in T-Ball fields, more of a dirt infield and an outfield of shitty crabgrass typical of a school yard. Every school yard I’ve ever been on is uneven to the point of turned ankles being a very real danger for old dudes who aren’t limber anymore and every field has those shitty little yellow flower plants with the little green cones that smell weird. We had them in California and we have them in Minnesota. I don’t know what they’re called but I hate them.
Good enough anyway. Off to the field where I unload the car, carry all my stuff to a good spot, usually somewhere down the first base line, drop my chair, don the hat, insert the ear plugs, point the kid towards the mob of other kids wearing his color shirt, settle in.. lessee where was I… zzzzzzzz
I have the sense that someone is watching me.. l look up to see the coach of this mess waving us over. Gawddamnit… where that damn kid go, probably picking those stupid flowers, I look around, at least as far as I can without getting up from my lounge chair, where the hell… oh wait he’s over there. With the team. I wave and go back to my book.
Again with the feeling. Looking up, this time I see the kid, right in front of me. “You gotta reason for be’in?” I ask. A common question in my house. “Coach says you’re ‘posed’ta go over there” and he points to the mob of kids and parents. Shit, I hope we’re not doing one of those stupid tunnels where the parents hold hands and the kids run under it. Hate that.
I saunter over, leaving my book lying open on the chair, I’ll be right back.
“Gary” coach says.. “I need all the parents to participate with the team, we’re all Green Giants RIGHT KIDS!”. Screams of yeah and high fives and I’m standing there looking like I’m short-changed waiter in a strip bar. WTF?
“Sorry?” I ask, legitimately confused.
“Gary, the parents get to participate in this experience, we’re not just spectators here” he said with a smile. “Hands in, parents too, YEAH KIDS. GA-REEEEN GIANTS.”
This, is crazy. And I’m even more confused as to what Mr. Happy wants me to do, and BTW, when I get home we’re running some background checks on this positive douche.
I had this overwhelming feeling of dread as I realized that my opportunity to get an hour of free babysitting in was fast evaporating. Clearly Coach and I were not in “sync” from an expectations standpoint. My expectations were an hour off. “Um” I stammered, “so do you need help coaching or something? I don’t get it?”
“Gary”.. I interrupted, “you can call me Mr. Sankary or Eric’s Dad”.. “Ok, Mr Sankary, the parents will take the field with their kids, stand with them in position, run the bases with them when they hit, that sort of thing. Only thing is I have to ask that you don’t coach your kids, just be with them out there. Makes it more fun for everyone.”
“Not for me.”
“sorry?” he asked, pretending not to hear.
“This doesn’t sound fun for me. I was going to read a book, listen to my iPod, I have alarms set up so every 11 minutes I’m reminded to look up and yell ‘Go KID, and what your suggesting is killing my buzz dude.”
Lady behind me “I was kinda planning to sit on the side and watch too, I have a bad ankle.”
“I wanted to drop mine off, if I knew I was going to run the bases I would have worn something other than hooker boots.”
The coach was perplexed. I saved the day for him, “Coach” I said, with Christian love in my heart, “as much I would love to run the bases with my kid, fact is you don’t have a batting helmet my size in that bag and you know, I wouldn’t feel safe out there..”
Finally something that resonated with him. “True” he replied, “I hadn’t thought of that”. And thus I moved T-Ball from my responsibility to Mrs S’s responsibility. To which she came back from and remarked “Do you know what these idiots wanted the parents to do?”
Fast forward three years.
Little League T-Ball has matured to Kid Pitch. First year of kid pitch baseball.
I thought T-Ball was bad.
Rule 1- Any kid who wants to pitch will be given the opportunity to pitch a complete game. All kids will pitch at least a half game, even those who never wanted to pitch in the first place, in some cases because they suck at it.
Rule 2- Games are 6 innings OR two hours long. Based on rule 1, just say two hours and save me from hope.
Here’s my suggestion after observing about three games. Three games that went 3 innings in 2 hours.
Sank’s Proposed Rule #3- If the pitch is more than 6 feet outside the strike zone OR hits the dirt on the way to the batter more than once on the same pitch, can we call it 2 balls?
Sanks Proposed amendment to Rule #3- Can we call it an inning when an entire line up has been walked in the same inning?
Would certainly move things along.
My input was not solicited so kept my great ideas to myself.
And the games went on and on and on and on and finally, when the kid was about 13 it got pretty good. We had kids pitching who wanted to pitch and who were able to pitch and my kid was a first baseman and clean up batter. It was finally worth looking up from my book for a few minutes to see what was going on on the field.
We also had a hockey player in the house, a goalie of all things. He was special too. Goalies aren’t right on many levels, it’s a whole different parenting experience.
I’ll expound later but let me leave with this observation of the life of the Goalie parent. Where you can’t ignore what’s going on on the ice because every time your kid gives up goal people look at you like you’re a raging alcoholic. Like they can see into my very soul.
And that’s because:
When the Goalie kid screws up on the ice, they stop the damned game.
Every stink’n time.
Ponder that Beeatches.
Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.