This weekend was nothing short of a sports disaster. Once again my teams ran the gamut of losing. The Gators played well enough to win, the Bucs played just well enough to lose, the Red Sox played well enough to lose a couple dozen, and the hockey season just appears lost. My only consolation is that the Pats beat up on the Cardinals. But then, who doesn’t beat up on the Cardinals? Isn’t that kind of like saying ANYONE beat up on the Rays? Wait a minute; did the Rays win one this weekend? I have to admit I gave up on them months ago.
Before this weekend I had never subjected myself to the pleasure of facing a baseball hurtling in my general direction within the confines of a chain link “cage.” It turns out that this pleasure can be had for only $1.50. That $1.50 gets you twenty pitches. That is twenty opportunities to humiliate yourself in front of strangers, family and friends alike. That is less than eight cents per humiliation. EIGHT CENTS!! Just when you thought you couldn’t buy humiliation like that, it turns out you can!
I have never played organized baseball. I have never played disorganized baseball. The sum total of my base trotting experience consists of elementary school kickball and two games of pick-up softball. At one point in my life I actually owned a baseball and bat. They got a lot of use, but almost never in a manner they were intended (I was a strange child), and never together. This was the backdrop to Friday night’s trip to Celebration Station, and my first experience in a batting cage.
BEHOLD, THE ELUSIVE BATTING CAGE!
Leave it to a man to decide he ought to be good at something he had never tried before. In this way, the verdict has come back guilty: I have an XY chromosome pairing. I reached for the mandatory batting helmet and picked out a bat. I went for a small bat, thinking I would be giving myself the advantage of bat speed. It turns out that the heft of a bat has something to do with how smooth the swing appears, and a very light bat reveals all of the flaws of your swing, but more on that later. Oh the hell with it, we’ll get it over now. It was pathetic. I was so eager to jump right in and stare down the pitching machine with my icy glare; I didn’t even take a practice swing. Yeah, you can’t intimidate a machine. The first pitch flew past and I was caught looking. The second pitch flew by and I watched it go past, as if I suddenly wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Panicked, I figured a swing and a miss was better than playing possum, so I took a swing. Then I thought to myself, “O.K. that was better. Now lets try that again when a ball comes out.” The next pitch flew and I took a swing. It had “infield out” written all over it. Well, it would have if I had made contact. Three pitches, two swings (only one of which was at a pitch), and no contact with the elusive orange ball. I was beginning to rue my choice of bat. Yeah, it was the bat. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Playing possum never looked so good.
My swing was awful. I knew it was awful. Doing a quick calculation in my head, I realized I had 17 more opportunities to bring shame to the Kauffman name. Being a reasonably intelligent person (my choice to submit myself to this not withstanding), I decided it was time to change something. Too embarrassed to change my surroundings, I decided to try and relax a little. How many times have you heard some coach in a movie tell his fictional charge to just relax? So I relaxed. I relaxed my back. I relaxed my legs. I relaxed my arms. I relaxed my grip. I took a deep, cleansing breath, and I swung at the next pitch. I made contact and I regretted it immediately. It turned out there is a very good reason why you are not supposed to relax your grip. Hitting a baseball with a relaxed grip felt something like having someone hit your hands with a baseball bat. The pain traveled right up my arms like an electric current, stopping just short of my shoulders. It was quite an experience.
I never dropped the bat. I never cried out in agony. I stood in like a trooper and took my lumps. I made contact a few more times (barely). When it was done, I hung up my helmet, put aside my child sized bat, and exited the cage, grin in tow. Why was I so happy to embarrass myself? Why was I so happy to perform so pathetically in the “slow pitch” cage? I was so eager to learn why; I tried it again… this time in the “medium pitch” cage.
It is two full days later and my arms still hurt. My ego remains strangely unharmed. Oddly, I have this desire to try again.
Anyone up for “fast pitch?”
That mild, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? Those mild tremors that resemble cold weather shivers? The feeling that your heart is racing out of control? That’s called anxiety.
The hockey game tonight? That’s called game seven.
From the Office of Handicapping and Prognostication; here are a few predictions for tonight’s game,
1. If the Lightning loose tonight, they will have a really tough time winning the cup this year.
2. One of the teams will play well enough to win.
3. One team will give up at least one too many goals.
4. At some point, one of the teams will score.
5. Someone on the broadcast team will use the word “Canadian” in a sentence correctly.
6. No fewer than three of the commentators will utter the phrase “,all of Canada,.”
7. I will watch the entire game.
8. I will consider taking something to relieve my symptoms.
9. At some point during the evening I will wish I had set my VCR to record the game and watched something else.
Barely two years removed from wretchedness, the Lightning are treating us with performances that can only be described with superlatives. As of right now they are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and only a game back from being the best in the entire league. I was joking with a friend that for an encore, the Rays would finish second to the Yankees and qualify for the playoffs as a wild card (notice I didn’t suggest they would finish first – I may be unrealistic but I’m not snorting aerosol deodorant).
I am happy to announce that I will be at the game tonight. The Devils of New Jersey are in town for a little action, hockey style. As I write this I am at work, waiting impatiently for quitting time. What better way to cope with the harsh realities of your life than to share it with others
A little corporal punishment would have been less painful than watching the Gators lose this afternoon.
Oddly enough, I enjoyed myself at Busch Gardens this morning. No one else was there and we walked onto everything we wanted to ride. Cheryl was gracious enough to let me set the pace, and I set it to the lowest setting. Even my sleep deprived body was up to a casual stroll through a moderate Florida winter day. We ambled our way from ride to ride, hit seven rides before noon, and had our fill by 1 p.m. We did lunch off property on our way home and got back to the homestead by 2:30 p.m. Unfortunately, I set the DVR to record the game.
Now it’s dinner time, I’ve watched the game, and I’ve wasted all of the good karma from a solid family outing by swearing up a storm in the presence of my television.
Thank goodness there is very little that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese won’t fix. My dorm room staple comes through in a pinch once again.
My wife wants me to spend New Years Day at Bush Gardens. Yes, that’s right… she wants me to spend quality time with my family while the Gators play in a bowl game… the last college football game featuring the Gators for another nine months. Apparently she’s holding me to something I said two days ago. Allegedly I told her that I didn’t mind going to Bush Gardens. But here’s the catch, it turns out she asked me while I was watching another football game. I think it was an evil plot to take advantage of me in a vulnerable situation. In the midst of my suffering while the Bucs mailed it in against Tennessee, she pops the question. She knows darn well I don’t listen to her during football season!
Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!
I am a Bucs fan. I know it is fashionable to say, “I have been a fan for a long time”, but how many of the others had posters of Ron Holmes, Ron Hall, Donald Igwebweke, or James Wilder hanging on their bedroom wall? As a childhood transplant from Massachusetts, I’ve had a good year. The Patriots won last year and the Bucs this year. Next thing you know it, the Red Sox will win the World Series. O.K., I admit I’m getting a little carried away.
A Gator’s perspective.
“Who cares about college football?”, you may be asking yourself. Well I’m glad you asked.
Imagine college football gameday. Its an image that comes easily to me. You are in a relatively small college town that seems to double in population six weekends every fall. On Friday, the school campus begins to resemble a K.O.A. Alumni and students gather to discuss past glory and the triumph to come. On Saturday morning you awake earlier than normal (for a Saturday), with anticipation not unlike a small child’s on Christmas morning. . . kick-off is near! You make your way to campus as the afternoon approaches. As you near your destination, more and more people join you on your chosen path. You arrive at the stadium, eager to see your school take on one of it’s bitterest rivals. You feel a combination of anticipation, confidence, and doubt; but you won’t admit to the doubt. From the moment of the opening kick-off until the final second has expired from the clock, each play is agonized over until its result is known. The agony of anticipation grows with each play as the game gets closer to its end, but the outcome remains in doubt. Suddenly, from the rhythm of the game arises the “big play.” Pent up nerves are released into the depths of despair, or the heights of exhilaration. Tens of thousands of people screaming in unison are either silenced in that instant, or released into joyous pandemonium as the outcome of the contest SEEMS to become clearer. But more often than not fate is not so easily coaxed from the closet, as the so called “big play” alternately plays the champion for each team, toying with the crowds emotions before the outcome is clear. And when when the last seconds finally tick past, the crowd is left either with the hope that next year will bring better returns, or bragging rights for another year.
That brings me to a little get together that happens in Tallahassee this year. It’s an attractive city to be sure, but it’s not a college town – in the purest sense. I can’t fault the fans. A fine school and a fine team share a north Florida city with our state’s capital. While our rivalry with them is not considered our biggest, it certainly has gotten hotter of late. Our fortunes against them never seemed lower than the “the choke at Doke.” However, a little contest that decided a national championship a few years back more than atoned for that sin.
I am young, my experience is slight, and my knowledge of the history of my alma-matter’s rivalry with FSU is shamefully lacking. But this I know: we have won more often than we have lost. I say this not because we should rest easy on our laurels, but merely that it is easy to do so.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. A line has been drawn in the sand. It’s time to play the game.