Baseball. Watching in person is so very different than sitting in your recliner, jamming popcorn in your mouth while Youk slams a homer over the Green Monster. And it's even more interesting when the players only come up to your chest...
I went to my nephew's baseball game yesterday. Don't ask me how old Z is, because then I'd have to hem and haw while I try to do math that will be very wrong. I can barely remember my own age. I'll guess and say he's around ten, but don't hold me to that.
The age group is hard to estimate by looking at the players. They range in size from slightly smaller than an Oompa Loompa to one kid who looks like a ringer brought in from the local college baseball team. I'm also pretty sure there was a six month old on the opposing team's roster. I think I saw him hike up his Huggies as he crawled to the home plate and popped out his binky to concentrate on his swing.
I haven't been to a Little League game in ages, so I forgot how random the rules can be. There's something like a two-fouls-in-a-row-equals-a-base-advance-for-whoever-is-occupying-first-base rule. Maybe one that says you get a point if you keep your finger out of your nose for a whole hour.
In my nephew's class, stealing is allowed, which is banned in younger classes. And boy, do these guys steal. You have to give them credit. They just lower their heads and bolt for the next base if they have the slightest chance of making it.
On second thought, it's not very daring, considering nobody has told the pitchers that they should be keeping an eye on the bases, especially second. Though Z's team has a pitcher who isn't allowed to chew gum and pitch at the same time because the chewing throws off his... throws. So I'm not sure the kids can handle holding a ball AND turning around to look at the kid hopping around on second base. I'm pretty sure the pitchers average noticing about one steal per seventy during their tenure on the mound.
What I enjoyed most was seeing how laid bare these kids personalities are when they're at bat. Z is a total jock, holding his bat like a pro and taking swings even if it might not be the right pitch. He oozes calm and normalcy. You can see Timid Boy, ducking and rolling away from every pitch, cringing at the very sight of a ball. Hot Shot thinks he's Alex Rodriguez and cops 'tude for show when he doesn't like the call. High Maintenance Kid stares mournfully at the Ump as the call is made, trying to sway the guy into saying it really was a ball and not a strike, then his expression goes stormy as he tries to contain his emotions. Then he falls into a state of quiet discontent, bottling emotions not to be released until he has a coronary blowout around the age of 45. Self-Flagellation Guy mutters his way to the plate, convinced it's going to suck, then when it does suck, he mutters his way back to the dugout, shaking his head and taking out his rage on his helmet. Spastic Kid hops merrily to the plate, pops a surprise base-hit, then hops merrily around, eventually hopping his way to home plate. Then he hops off to the dugout, happy and bouncy and unaware that life stinks.
Life in the stands is slightly less interesting. Mostly, on our side, we're just trying to fend off bugs and pop flies over the fence. I thought I was being well-prepared by slathering sunscreen on before I headed to the game, and instead, I sat in the shade while bugs snacked on me. I'm pretty sure the lotion was putting up a big 'Suck My Blood' invitation for the local insect population.
Somewhere around the sixth inning I realized I hadn't exactly eaten that day, and I made my way to the concession stand to get a pretzel. Hovering at the head of the line was my younger nephew, B, completely mystified by the concession volunteer's announcement that he was a quarter short for the pile of candy he was trying to purchase. I passed a dollar up, saying he was lucky his aunt had gotten a hankering for junk food, and he ran off without a word. I swear, that kid hasn't spoken to me in two years. I wouldn't recognize his voice. The lady said she was sure he appreciated my kind gesture and I said that I'm sure he'd thank me if he wasn't a terminal mute.
I ordered my pretzel, a little unsure about why salt was considered a separate topping. I mean, sure, I can see people ordering unsalted pretzels, but salt listed next to mustard? Confusing. After three confirmations, they finally accepted I wanted a salted soft pretzel, and they handed me a plate.
It looked like the snowy peak of Everest, with a pretzel on top. I've never seen so much salt in my life. It is no exaggerations for me to say that the amount of salt sliding around on my paper plate could have been used to top two dozen other soft pretzels.
I've finally seen a heart attack on a plate.
And boy, did it taste GREAT!
Z's team finally succumbed to defeat. The final score was 12-2, I believe. My brother, one of the coaches, says I jinxed them. Maybe. Or maybe it was the other team's five million stolen bases.
It's all good though. Z's team was crushed until somebody mentioned free ice-pops at the concession stand. Then the agony of defeat vanished in the mad rush to get there before the treats were gone.