Robert's relationship with Little League baseball is a timeline of such fecklessness as to demand its own separate post. (A post that is destined to arrive during this solstice-month blopgasm.) Today, however, it's all about me, and my eternal struggle not to become That Dad.
During Robert's first two years in the league, life on the sidelines was smoooooth sailing. The first year was tee-ball, when no one is ever called out and Everyone's A Winner! And last year the team stunk, and the parents writhed with euphoria if our boys made it off the field with all their limbs intact.
This year is different. This year, the team is good.
Really good, actually. As of this morning, they were in a battle with today's opponent, the Yankees, for the second-best record in the league, which means 1) a first-round bye in the playoffs, and 2) Daddy gets to take the kids to the beach next Saturday. I was invested in this game. Because I wanted beach, dammit.
And then, to my wincing eye would appear the ump for today's game, a lovely guy whom I'll call Hopalong Half-Ass. Ol' HH was an assistant coach on Robert's team last year, and he was really terrific with the kids. Volunteered lots of his time, never demanding, always nurturing, knowledgeable, and supportive. Overall just the nicest, calmest, mildest man you'd ever meet. Like the mayonnaise in the spicy fish taco that is organized sports.
These are all great qualities for a coach. For an ump, however, they blow. Hard. He's not the most decisive guy, and when stuff happens and we all look to him for the call, he sort of shrugs back at us and asks, "Did anyone see that?"
And sure enough, in today's first inning, the Yankees' biggest kid, a colossal endomorph who looked as though he routinely grinds people's bones to make his bread, hit a monster shot that landed about ten feet foul. Ol' HH, who never left his position behind the pitcher, had no line on whether the ball was fair, so he actually said, "That was a great shot. Let's give it to him." And sent the kid around the bases with a two-run dinger.
I was working the concession stands with two moms and their small kids nearby, and the voices in my head pleaded with me. "Don't guy up. DO NOT GUY UP. It's a game, it's for the kids to enjoy themselves. Except how can they enjoy themselves when they're getting RIPPED OFF BY THIS MILQUETOASTARRRGH!
Thus the internal war raged. The seemingly placid me sweetly offered change for the ring pop, while screams of "BEACHDAMMIT!" echoed in my brainpan.
I've seen dads like this. The ones who hop up and down and scrape at their bald spots and scream, "My life is so empty! Please Lord give me this one break in this symphony of bleakness!" And yet, when the stakes are raised and that's my kid being put at an unfair disadvantage, I have to launch at my Inner Asshole with a handkerchief soaked in chloroform.
I'm happy to report that I was spared a bout of apoplexy when one of our guys hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the last inning to win the game and cement the team's second seed in the playoffs. And I'm happier still that I was able to offer Double-H a free Powerade and thank him for umping a great game, while Inner Asshole made plans to fetch the beach chairs from storage.