Happy Monday morning, sports fans! I’ve no doubt that you’ve been hearing all about a certain athletic milestone that occurred this weekend; but before I give you my own account of that, allow me to fill you in on an equally remarkable feat that unfolded last Thursday at Momma Johnson Park.
Fresh off Week 1’s moral victory, we assembled in the ghetto of Hoboken for our early bird special 7:00 game. The lack of time allotted for pre-game imbibing did not keep this from being one for the record books. For starters, we finally met our last two newbies, Rachael and David. We also had a special guest in Elena, friend of Jeff, because we were without most of our lady starters, and each team must have a minimum of four ladies, according to the Zog Rules. These fresh faces fit right in with the crowd.
More memorable, but nowhere near as personable, were our opponents for the evening, the White Team. Now, I think I’m a fairly decent judge of character. I give people plenty of chances to ingratiate themselves. But sometimes…sometimes it’s just instinctual. Like the time my brother had a party at the end of the school year. People’s parents were coming to pick them up (this was long before anyone could drive), and my dog–the happiest dog in the land–went Cujo crazy when one girl’s step-father showed up. In her thirteen-and-a-half years on this Earth, my dog never reacted to a person so violently. I spent the next two weeks waiting to see this guy on the eleven o’clock news, being led away in handcuffs, accused of any number of unimaginable crimes. It never happened, but that doesn’t make him any less guilty in my mind. It just means he never got caught.
So, much like my dearly departed labrador, the hairs on my neck were standing straight up the minute I laid eyes on the White Team; even more so when I spotted one member of their squad in serious pre-game conference with our umpire, a non-threatening fellow who probably wanted to be anywhere else. This gal was wearing form-fitting athletic wear, two tight braids, and a serious game face. I don’t know what they were discussing, but it came down the grapevine rather quickly that she, too, refs for ZogSports. No doubt she was making sure our umpire knew the rules as thoroughly as she did.
Since we arrived first, thank you very much, the ump gave us his clipboard to make the batting order. Without Spitz this season, the task of assembling a line-up can take some time. Not because we’re trying to strategize, mind you; just because we’re trying to count. The whole time that Brandon assembled the order, the White Queen stood just outside our group, barely containing her impatience. When we were finally done, she took the board from Brandon and marched off to her dugout.
Her behavior didn’t improve any once the game started. During the second inning, I sat out and quietly sneered when Her Highness made it to first base. I was vindicated shortly thereafter, when she got herself caught in an avoidable double play and ended the inning. Lips pursed, she jogged off the field and said to the umpire, “They’re blocking the baselines.”
I’m sorry. You’re going to have to back up the truck for me one second. First of all, you aren’t out because Volpe stood in your way. You’re out because you bolted for second base like a Wal-Mart shopper who spotted a free sample when there was only one out and your teammate kicked the ball towards first base. Volpe caught it on the fly and then stepped on the bag, while you were halfway to Weehawken. He was going to make the play no matter what. And guess what?
Unfortunately, the rest of the White Team didn’t suck as much as she did. Midway through the game, we trailed 3 – 1. We were up to our usual foibles in the field. Rachael took a pop fly to the chin, a jarring but ultimately painless baptism into the sport. Kish pegged an advancing runner so hard that the ball ricocheted into the outfield, allowing another runner to make it home. George had apparently mixed muscle relaxants with his pre-game beers; his arms turned to rubber by the fifth inning, and his throws from third to first barely passed the pitcher’s mound. This all pales in comparison to the outrageous offensive feat accomplished by Jeff, when he booted the ball sky-high into foul territory. Careening down from the heavens like a red-hot meteorite over an adjacent playground, the ball managed to strike a small child square in the back of the head, knocking him right off his swing. You can laugh; he shook it off. But wow, I wish I had filmed that.
Going into the fifth inning, things were pretty bleak. We were still behind, and our umpire had suddenly decided that our game had a time limit that needed to be strictly enforced. But when the chips are down, divine providence tends to shine down on me and my motley crew of overgrown kindergartners. Feeling the need for one of our patented rally claps, we tried to make up for lost time. And oh, did we. By the time I came to the plate, we’d gotten another run, and the bases were loaded. The White Team’s pitcher (shockingly, not Miss Thing) was totally rattled, and the wheels came off spectacularly. I worked the count like a pro and that poor son of a bitch wound up walking in the tying run. I trotted on to first base with a shit-eating grin on my face, taking immense pleasure in watching the White Queen’s face turn red.
In the end, we couldn’t produce another run, but our defense was rock solid. And so, the game ended in a tie…again! We now hold the estimable and nearly impossible record of 0-0-2. That’s the Turquoise Team for you. We don’t win games; we just keep other people from winning them.
But wait! The story doesn’t end with handshakes at home plate. After our customary if half-hearted display of sportsmanship, I found myself face-to-face with my nemesis of the evening. Having dropped the facade, more from defeat that courtesy, the White Queen says to me, “You look very familiar. Did you go to Lafayette?”
I replied, “Uh, yes. I did.” Now, I never really like encountering strangers with whom I share such a tenuous connection as having gone to the same college. Two reasons why. First, I admit that I was, quite frankly, a little angry that she was able to recognize me, because I was thirty pounds heavier when I was in college. So, what the fuck, lady? Are you saying that after all these 5Ks, squat jumps, and torso rotations that I’m still the same flabby fat-ass helping himself to another pint of Ben & Jerry’s at WaWa on a Saturday night? My softball-sized biceps disagree with you, madam.
Second, despite having gone to a small college, there were plenty of people who I never once crossed paths with, and playing six degrees of freshman English with a rando like her is never enough to hold my attention. This time, however, I decided to have some fun. Having given her nothing more than my first name and class year, I remained perfectly stone-faced while she tried to figure out how she knew me.
“Were you an engineer.”
“Were you in DU?”
“Did you play lacrosse?”
Having reached the end of her rope, she laughed nervously and said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you at the bar,” and ran off.
Since we were on the early shift, there was ample time for post-game drinking. We went to the West Five Supper Club, the one-time Lounge 11 and the all-time official ZogSports establishment. Pitchers in hand, we found ourselves a table to play a little flip cup on. While we may have earned a reputation for being an insular group over the years, we also know how to separate our game time intensity from our post-game frivolity. So, with no malice or ill will, we invited the White Team to a friendly game of flip cup. We got one round off before, one by one, they started disappearing from the table. By the time everyone on our team had refilled their cups and regained their focus (there was food and music; we’re easily distracted), we found ourselves facing off against no one. So, congratulations, White Team! You tied in kickball and forfeited flip cup. A stellar night all around for you sourpusses.
Another Zog team, the Brown Shirts, quickly came to fill the void. I only played a few rounds of our table-spanning match before deciding to leave. But I think it’s clear that Week 2 is going to be hard to top.
MVP of the Week: David wins this week’s honors, for his smart play both at and behind home plate.
Weekly Not En Fuego Award: This goes to Brandon, for his repeat crime of busting the guts out of a kickball. This back-to-back distinction hasn’t been seen since the days of Josh.
Quote of the Game: “Elena. Does that have a D in it?” ~ Brandon, making the batting order