Archive for October, 2008

Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear

October 28, 2008

The basketball flew in a majestic arc, a tan-orange sphere against the darkness of the Keaney Gymnasium rafters. In the lights of the old place, it took on the half-bright, half-dark look of a partial moon on a clear Rhode Island night.

The night I met Maureen Hogan …

POW! Right in the kisser.

Hogan was a solidly built point guard for the University of Rhode Island women’s basketball team, called the WRams (or Women Rams) to separate them from the real team sports — the male Rams. Ewes would have been less icky and at least could have been excused by something … if only how often Rhode Islanders say “yous.” But don’t get me started on men’s sports vs. women’s sports. Especially considering how much better the URI women’s teams did back then.

Anyway, Hogan decked me beneath the basket, both of us going down in a heap.

And I was mortified. Was she hurt? (I’d never forgive myself.) No, but she was angry that with all of the space along the end line of the basketball court I had managed to plant myself directly in her path. I’d been fiddling with the aperture and adjusting the lens, which of course distorts your sense of physical reality. Besides, a nice shot was coming right at me. Alas, it would be a close-up of the gymnasium’s parquet floor. She untangled herself, shoved me aside as I tried to apologize, then trotted back into the game as the loose ball was put back in play by URI’s opponents.

Hmmph. Like it’s my fault. Maybe if she’d caught the ball she wouldn’t have clobbered me. Yeah, that’s it.

 

The Coach with company under the basket for a men’s game.

OK, so there stood the Softball Coach, face red, as the crowd, players and coaches waited expectantly for the fool — me — to run away and hide. At least it felt like that. In those moments, life seems over.

If you run away, it is. Or might as well be.

Besides, as sports editor of the Good 5 Cent Cigar, the URI campus newspaper, I needed a women’s hoops shot to finish the next day’s edition. So for three more quarters I stayed, still the only photographer, but well out of the way of the action.

Just one more sordid tale from the Softball Coach’s love/hate relationship with the camera. See, I’m hoping to use much more art with this new blog, but over the years have lost confidence with my abilities behind the lens even as the act of picture taking gets easier. Go figure. And I’m a little iffy on the jpeg technology, to be honest. Not today, but this will be my first art-bearing blog entry. (See what I mean?)

I won’t run away from the challenge. Even if I get flattened in the process from time to time.

How ‘Bout Them Cubbies?

October 6, 2008

As the lone Red Sox fan in the newsroom, the Softball Coach was asked in 2004 by the Baltimore Sun to write a playoff-preview story about how it felt to get so close — or not so close — year after year without shedding the Curse of the Bambino.

Well, I wrote that it felt like garbage. That it never got easier or better. That I feared and dreaded to my soul that my dad would die without the Red Sox having won a championship in his lifetime.

I also wrote that I feared winning the championship almost as much as I feared losing again.

Anybody can be a Yankees fan, I reasoned, while it takes a special breed to stay faithful to the teasing, bumbling, luckless BoSox. Would being a Red Sox fan become nothing more than loving a front-runner?

Ahem.

So here we are. Feeling sorry for Cubs fans … again. More hopes dashed. Swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers, of all teams. Now, a century without a ring. The Red Sox hadn’t won one since 1918.

Now, they’ve got two World Championship rings, and everywhere you go, at least one guy’s wearing a Red Sox cap, weathered by rubbing it against cement or whatever so that it looks 50 years old. “Hey, I’ve been a fan since the beginning. Yup. Born and bred.”

And the Softball Coach looks at Johnny Come Lately and thinks: “Why, I oughtta slap that hat off your head.”

But it’s too late. The Red Sox are winners. Everybody likes a winner. And nobody wants to look like they just joined the party (even if they did).

So, cheer up, Cubs fans. So you lost again. You got to see some great baseball at a great ballpark this season. And there are so many great things to do in Chicago to pass the time until 2009. Rejoice that you live in a great place.

And the next time somebody asks how it feels to have gone a whole century without winning a World Series, tell them it’s fine. The beer’s cold, the sun’s warm and the hot dogs are awesome. The blues clubs stay open until 4 a.m.

And a Cubs logo would look horrible on a pink hat anyway.

Vlad the Impaled

October 2, 2008

Many of us have been in Vladimir Guerrero’s cleats, so it should be a lot harder to ride the guy for the baserunning brainlock he suffered in Game 1 of the Angels-Red Sox playoff series. But …

OK, his was a potentially multimillion-dollar mistake and mine cost me probably a beer. Stay with me here.

Vlad’s on first. Bloop over first baseman’s head. Guerrero, channeling the freakishly fast Vlad of his youth, turns second and heads screaming (in his mind, anyway) for third base. The throw beats him there by a stinking mile, killing a potential rally. Ouch. Angles lose, 4-1.

Oh, and did we mention that the third base coach was hollering and waving to get Vlad to stop at second base?

“Vladdy being Vladdy,” teammate Torii Hunter was quoted as saying, which, to those of us who’ve followed the career of one Manny Ramirez, quickly translates to: “Geez, what a dope!”

True story: We’d made the playoffs after several seasons in the cellar. Single elimination. Your Softball Coach was the leadoff hitter — and an aggressive baserunner who hadn’t been thrown out at second, third or home all season. Heck, I’d stolen home on an appeal play when the pitcher lollypopped the throw to first base. I’d seen him do that in an earlier game against another team. Just like I’d seen our current opponent’s centerfielder lob throws back to the infield. So, fly ball to deep center, the Softball Coach tagging at first, knowing he can make it to second and determined that, if the CF makes a lazy throw, he’s taking third, too.

Softy being Softy. Out by a mile and three quarters.

The shortstop had a cannon for an arm — yeah, I’d seen that before, too (my bad) — that more than made up for the outfielder’s gaffe. Rally dead. On the bench, my teammates’ shoulders slumped. The game was far from over, but we were toast.

“Good try,” a teammate called to me, which translates to: “Geez, you’re an idiot.”

My recklessness on the basepaths had of course helped get us to the playoffs, but …

Tell it to Vlad. Or Bill Buckner, whose MVP-caliber year in 1986 went right through his legs. Or Mitch Williams, who served up a World Series-losing gopher ball to Joe Carter in 1983 after saving 43 games for Philly that year. Or Ryan Dempster, who lost his rhythm — or his mind — last night and walked the bases loaded with a 2-0 lead, then gave up a grand slam as Cubs fans collapsed. Dempster had been about unbeatable at Wrigley Field during the regular season.

What can you do but buy your own beer … and suck it up.