Tag Archives: Sports

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell, “Batter! Batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season for Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are comfortable spectators. Our children are too old for Little League, and our grandchildren have taken different directions.

During our son’s baseball career, I spent years at ball parks with my eyes tightly shut — often double-covered with hands — only venturing out of hiding to visit the concession stand.

Now, I actually watch. These players’ ages range from nine to 12. Some kids probably do Gillette shaving commercials to supplement their allowances. Others might be mistaken for bats — except for hats, mitts and spit. For not only do they imitate favorite major league players with elaborate windups and batting rituals, they have mastered expectoration at near professional levels.

Moms don’t applaud this aspect of their game. But they cheer every catch, throw and at bat. Family members try to behave so their kids will. But when offspring are involved, the gentlest mom — and grandma — grows fangs when the umpire dares call their boy out.

I never acted like that. Though … I do admit going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom.

Still, we helped our sluggish team morph into a slugging team. My friend jumped up and informed her 12-year-old that if he fanned again, she would dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. Very loud.

Not only did our boys smack the ball, we inspired the entire team. Yet nobody put our names on their trophy. Where’s the Mom Love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back to the end of a last-inning 0-0 tie. On a wild pitch, a youngster steals home! After the good-sport slapping of hands, they adjourn to the concession stand, where winners celebrate and losers drown their sorrows in sno-cones — and all look forward to the next game.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-to-the-game-maybe-not stance. For parents who spend enough time watching, waiting and transporting to earn a degree, Little League Love wears a little thin.

But one dad near us sees his sons’ games as win-win situations. If their teams win, he’ll return for championship competition. If they lose, he’ll stay home and run a combine over his neglected lawn.

This dad cares about his kids, but not too much about their games’ outcome. That’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

In Grandma’s eyes, no professional MLB player can compare with this little batter!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary:  What do you like best/least about Little League?

March Insanity or Therapy?

I am writing a dangerous blog because it’s a dangerous time of year.

March Madness, rendered Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana, attacks even the most level-headed citizens of our sensible state.

Take my husband, for example. He wears navy/gray one day and brown/khaki the next. Hubby functions as the voice of sanity on boards and committees. While airport officers seem to regard me as a permanent threat to national security, they never search him.

But when Hubby watches Indiana University play basketball, I don a helmet. With earplugs.

When they lose, I steel myself for the usual statistical post-mortem and week of mourning.

Yet despite our team’s early tourney exit this year, we continue to watch the games. While Hubby perpetuates his (loud) role as High Judge of Referees, I occasionally can remove my protective gear.

Still recovering from a recent cold, I retired last night at halftime. When he came to bed, Hubby turned on the brightest light possible and whispered tenderly in my ear: “Just so you’ll sleep better, Fairfield beat Quinnipiac.”

That’s the gentle side of his fanaticism.

Hubby’s grandma cheered against Grandpa’s team, but later married him.

I can’t blame him, as Hubby’s very DNA impacts his tourney-time behavior. While reserved during off-season, his grandmother displayed no gentle side during March. A lovely old lady, she resembled Mrs. Santa Claus, with bright blue eyes, wavy white hair and pink cheeks. No doubt, she was Etna Green High’s prettiest cheerleader when she met Grandpa, a player on the opposing Atwood High School team. Their marriage marked the last time she fraternized with the enemy, however. When I.U. played, she yelled for their foes’ blood. And for that of the referees, who were crooks! Liars! Democrats!

Some critics, appalled by March Madness’ bizarre symptoms, insist this disease should be eliminated.

Contrariwise, I believe it serves as an important coping measure for those living in the rural Midwest. During long, dreary winters, we cannot linger on sunny beaches. We cannot ski down scenic mountains to deal with stress.

Nevertheless, with the exception of school bus rocking and mascot theft, we enjoy lower crime rates than other sections of the country.

Why? Because basketball games function as group therapy. We shriek, clap and stomp, taking out frustrations and hostilities on the refs. My family’s good health testifies to the positive effects of March Madness. Grandma lived to be 95. Hubby possesses enviable blood pressure numbers.

Do the referees?

Um … not so much. Perhaps they, like the rest of the world, believe we all were dropped on our heads.

We do abdicate our signature sanity during Hoosier Hysteria.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What sports madness seizes your community or state every year? Do you join in?

 

Olympic Oddities

Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.

No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.

Curlers actually win gold medals for wielding brooms. (Shouldn’t I receive one for vacuuming?)*

Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?

I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.

That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”

The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.

Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”

Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.

Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.

Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.

It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.

Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.

Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?

*My friend, Ruth, awarded me this gold in the Vacuuming Olympics!

 

 

 

Forty Bikes on the Cardinal Greenway

Once upon a time, Hubby and I joined other cyclists for a 22-mile ride on the Cardinal Greenway. This former railroad track, now cycling/walking path, stretches 62 miles from Marion, Indiana, to Richmond.

Families, college students, daring adolescents, middle-aged couples, and riders even older than we gathered. They brought varieties of bikes.

“That recumbent tandem looks relaxing,” Hubby commented.

I shook my head. “We’d probably fall asleep pedaling and wake up under a bus.”

One disadvantage in a multigenerational ride: some riders looked good in biking shorts.

But we forgave them. They couldn’t help it.

Also, courtesy times 40 complicated our start: “After you.”

“No, after you.”

Eventually, we rode through shady woods. Our pace encouraged conversation with friends, new and old. Birds and babbling brooks sang melodies far superior to any vibrating through earbuds.

Besides, with bud-free, textless cycling, we could detect a combine crossing our path before becoming permanently one with it.

We also could hear dogs, though on the Greenway, they were kept on leashes — a bonus for cyclists. Many of us had viewed entirely too many canine teeth and tonsils up close and personal.

Hubby disagrees that dogs target a tandem’s back rider. But guess who always rides up front?

Other Greenway features made it a great ride. Picturesque bridges spanned busier roads. A tunnel echoed with our yells. This nosy writer studied backyards and saw how people really live — research.

Several drivers paused to let cyclists cross streets. Their consideration was especially appreciated because our little guys occasionally forgot to stop.

Except dead in the middle of the trail.

Halting a tandem behind them is equivalent to stopping a semi on a highway. Sudden stops might embed the back rider’s teeth in her knees.

Thankfully, most children moved to the right for pauses.

Their strong little legs pumping, pumping, pumping were a beautiful sight. One boy had never ridden 11 miles before. High five!

One trail section runs through soybean and cornfields, wide-open spaces city riders never enjoy. Some cyclists boast of climbing the Rockies. I offer them an unequivocal Thbbft.

A native Hoosier, I like flat. Especially when cycling.

At a picturesque “train stop,” the group enjoyed a yummy picnic, then loaded kids and bikes into the support truck and headed home. Hubby and I, among others, hopped on and zoomed back to the trailhead, thankful for a fun day and weather forecast that fooled meteorologists’ predictions.

Also super-grateful for a soft, soft sofa and [yawn] a major Saturday afternoon nap.

What’s your favorite bike ride memory?

Learning to Win (We Hope)

“Cubs win!”

Only two words. But they set off fireworks in Chicago Cub baseball fans. We hug and kiss perfect strangers, whether at the ballpark or the grocery store. When police arrive at the latter, we embrace the officers — and our subsequent cellmates.

Why does a win excite Cub fans so much?

For decades, they have been professional baseball’s “lovable losers.”

billy-goat-1569283_640The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. Has any other losing team been immortalized by Norman Rockwell on The Saturday Evening Post’s cover? No other team is cursed by a billy goat named Murphy.

Still, Cub fans often outnumber their competitors in their own ballparks.

Typical American sympathy for the underdog? Mass psychosis?

Hubby and I support the Cubs for a better reason. Our friend, Joleen.

For 40 years, Joleen never missed a single, freezing Opening Day at Wrigley. No matter how lousy the Cubs played, Joleen believed.

Diagnosed with cancer, she finally missed Opening Day. But she cheered the Cubs until the day she died, happy because they won a double header. Joleen was buried wearing Cubs earrings.

In her honor, I will always be a Cubs fan.

Yet by now, even Joleen might have wearied of their losses.

Viewing/listening gratis was bad enough. But of the six games Hubby and I attended, the Cubs won … zero.

With their improvement last year, we took our son, his wife, and Baby Jonathan — oh, so cute in his little Cubs shirt and cap — to Wrigley.

They lost again.

steverachaelwrigley-iiThis year, Hubby wanted to buy tickets. I found myself at Wrigley once more.

Unbelievably, Hubby told a nearby couple we’d never seen the Cubs win. They stared as if we’d grown goat horns. “Your name’s not Murphy, is it?”

The Cubs fell behind.

I avoided eye contact with our neighbors.

Amazingly, the Cubs pulled ahed.

Hubby cheered, “They’re going to win!”

 “Right.” I rolled my eyes. “And I’m going to win Miss America.”

“You’d better practice your walkway wave, because they will do it!”

The last strikeout!

“Cubs win!” The cry echoed from Chicago to Lake Michigan. “Cubs win!”

Our neighbors hugged us. W flags bloomed. The happy PA system launched “Go, Cubs, Go,” and thousands joined in, dancing in the seats.

I see what you mean, Joleen.

 Unfortunately, the Cubs lost six out of their next eight games. But after subsisting on the baseball equivalent of bread and water, I have tasted my first whipped cream.

I want more!

I imagine the Cubs do, too.

Do you think they’ll win the Series this year?

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

Three generations of Cub fans

Three generations of Cub fans

O my God, how do You handle ballgame prayers? — the crazy mishmash of petitions by opposing players, managers, and fans? Plus umpires’ prayers this game would finish soon! Far greater theological mysteries should occupy me. Nevertheless — OMG, thank You that the Cubs are in the World Series!