Sunday, May 23, 2010

Games People Play

Our temple softball team lost again today. So far this season the team has an ignominious 0-6 record, a sharp turn from the last few seasons as one of the elite squads of the 17-team league. I care, but not as much as when I used to devote almost every spring, summer and early fall Sunday for nearly 30 years to the team. As the starting pitcher for almost all of those seasons, I felt a certain responsibility to show up each week to keep us competitive. It was only after we secured another pitcher, a better pitcher, that I found myself liberated from that responsibility.

I retired last year, one year after we finally won the league championship. I brought a bottle of champagne to the game (just in case we won) and celebrated in traditional style after the final out, showering all the players in the bubbly. I kept showing up the following season, but after turning 60 last year just before play began, I decided lounging in bed beat out pitching batting practice, coaching third base and getting into the occasional game. This morning I “managed” to roll out of bed near 11 am, about the time the last out was made in today’s 8-3 loss.

It wasn’t that way during the first 22 or so years of my “career” in the temple softball league. Before I joined the team, we’d lose by double digit scores. That’s what happens when your pitcher in a fast-pitch league lobs the ball over the plate. We continued to lose after I began pitching up to speed, but the scores were much closer.

And then, a few years later, as it does to many sports teams, the players all seemed to mature at the same time and we rose to the top of the league. At one time all our infielders shared the same first name—David. I called them my Magen David (Shield of David) infield. We made it to the championship game against one of the league powerhouses. Over eight innings we outscored them 3-2. Trouble was, in the first inning none of our trusted first basemen was present, one being on the injured list with a broken elbow sustained in a game earlier that summer, another at a wedding in Washington and a third out of town on a business trip. We were forced to play a scrub—Alan—at first.

The first two batters hit ground balls to short. Alan could not handle either throw. By inning’s end we had given up three unearned runs. One of our wayward first basemen arrived before the start of the second inning, we played flawless ball thereafter, but the deficit was too much to overcome against the opposing pitcher, Joel, who, I should note, joined our team about six years ago and pitched us to that first and, so far, only championship season.

“My Team” Wins: The most intense rivalry in sports, or at least in baseball, is generally acknowledged to be between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. That probably explains why I, a dedicated Yankees fan, care more about how Boston fares than how the Tampa Bay Rays do, despite the fact that the Rays currently are in first place, beat my Yanks twice last week at the Stadium in the Bronx and seem pretty invincible. Maybe it’s also because I can’t get too angry with a Tampa Bay team whose manager looks like a slimmer version of Drew Carey, not that I’m a big Drew Carey fan.

I want to win it all, but if we do fall short of that objective, all I really care about is finishing ahead of Boston. So each night I check the box scores to see Boston’s results. I get very disappointed when they win. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but no one ever accused me of being rational.

I have the same “my team vs. their team” mentality for football. I root for the NY Giants. Since my brother abandoned New York to take up residence in Washington some 40 years ago, and subsequently switched his allegiance to the Washington Redskins, I console myself after any Giants loss if the dreaded Skins also lost. The last few years, I gleefully add, I’ve enjoyed most fall Sundays, Giants win or not.

Glee”-fully Speaking: The TV show Glee is a sensation, but not one that Gilda or I have marked on our must-see list. We tried watching it one time, but couldn’t get into it. Probably didn’t give it enough time to ferment in our brains.

Equally lost on us is the frenzy over the last episode of Lost. We should have engendered an attachment to that show. It began filming not far from Ellie’s apartment on the North Shore of Oahu while she spent eight months there six years ago.

Ah well, chalk it up to another missed viewing opportunity, along with 24, Six Feet Under, The Wire and lots of other TV shows that one day, one day, we say we will have enough time to view on DVD.

Video Game Challenged: I can trace the beginnings of my decline as a comparatively capable functioning member of society to an exact date, 30 years ago—May 21, 1980. That was the day Pac-Man made its debut and signaled my transition from a generally accomplished person to klutz.

I played Pac-Man, occasionally. I remember taking business trips with some of my publication salesmen. Every free moment they’d be playing Pac-Man. Perhaps because I wasn’t too good at the game, I never developed an obsession with it. Or with Donkey Kong, Mario or any of the other “juvenile” pursuits.

Since video games did not turn me on, I wasn’t too disappointed our children didn’t spend hours upon hours in front of a computer screen zapping away at aliens and assorted bad guys. I was much prouder of Dan’s accomplishments on the playing fields and Ellie’s in the theater.

Speaking of Proud Moments: Ellie won her battle with the NYC Transit Police. You may recall she’d been accused of turnstile jumping, even though she had an unlimited monthly Metro card that would have obviated any need to slip through without paying.

After several appearances at Transit Court, the last with the policeman who cited her testifying, Ellie won. The judge dismissed all charges.