Well, that was a strange baseball season for Orioles fans. Which I nominally am.
I’m pretty sure I quit caring about them when they ran Eddie Murray out of town. They went from first to third between 1983 to 1984 and never got close to first again ’til after my give-a-shitter broke; they weren’t all that competitive except for the ‘store-bought’ seasons in 1996 and 1997. And after every other manager adopted Earl Weaver’s boring style of micromanagement, they weren’t all that special or successful after all.
Oh, I’ve paid attention to them, as my wife is a fan. Got dragged to the games. Sparsely attended, ineptly played games. Yep, I guess you could say that the best thing about having kids was not getting dragged out to Orioles games, ’cause it was too big a pain in the ass and too expensive to waste babysitting on. But the kids got bigger and I got dragged out to O’s games again.
Usually, in most of their shitty and pointless seasons, the Orioles could hover around first thru the middle of June, and cease to be competitive by the All-Star break. Hey, usually, half the Yankees’ starters have groin pulls that won’t let up ’til then. By the All-Star break, the Yankees starters are back. What the hell, it’s a stupidly long season if you’re playing thru October or November. ‘Don’t bust a nut legging shit out before the Equinox,’ the old championship saying goes, ‘or something that looks like a grapefruit stuffed in a wool sock will pop out of your asshole.’
So it came as something of a surprise when the pages of the calendar folded over and the Orioles were still in the hunt. If you ask me, it was like watching a typical Orioles game from previous seasons, only in reverse: clutch hits are made (sparsely), opposing pitching falls apart by sixth inning, lead increases, game eventually ends. Successful, but not that exciting. Perhaps that’s all there is to the old National Past-Time. Perhaps that’s all there ever was to it.
I remember as a kid being thrilled by televised baseball; I also remember completely losing my shit when on special occasions my folks would take me to Memorial Stadium and I’d get to actually see something happen at the plate that contributed to victory, like watching Eddie Murray crush the ball for extra bases, as if it were a function of his own effortless will. I mean, maybe I thought that stuff was thrilling because I was a kid and didn’t know any better, and then again, maybe that stuff actually was thrilling in a way that watching the Camden Yards Cancer Bat Crew get hit by pitch and hope their pitching holds out for a few more innings isn’t.
Oh, I got caught up in the Orioles playoffs alright. For a day or two there, I was seriously considering making a trip to the sports nerd store and getting a Nate McClouth baseball card. I didn’t even give a shit that he wouldn’t be in an O’s uniform on it. That’s how badly I’d let baseball get under my skin.
For me, the most positive aspect of this weird baseball season was the Golden Boy getting caught up in the Orioles this year. Which was cute, in its way. He suddenly remembered that he wanted to play baseball this upcoming spring. (Following some iffy seasons in t-ball we thought we’d sidestepped that nicely last year, with a soccer clinic, and not-so-nicely this year, with a hypercompetitive psycho soccer league for seven-year olds.) It’s been a treat, teaching the Golden Boy to throw, catch, and hit. Now, if only I could get his other activities to chill the fuck out so I could do this more often with him…
The Golden Boy had his birthday a few weeks back; he wanted a sports-themed cake with a graphic based on the old 70s-80s Orioles logo combined with a Ravens jersey and a bit of the classic Heisman pose. Y’know, this:
I must have taught myself to draw by reproducing the old Orioles graphic, on which this design is based, hundreds of times during class between fourth and fifth grades. So I could draw it without stress — as if by muscle memory — squeezing icing through sandwich baggies with the corners cut out. Piss on your fondant and airbrushes, Cake Boss.* That’s what an ignorant young sports fan does rather than classwork, or listen to their boring old teachers rattle on about whatever the hell it is they wouldn’t shut their traps about, I’m drawing a complete blank here:** draw cartoon sports team logos with great big John Buscema feet.
As summer turned to fall, the Golden Boy wanted to leave soccer behind and try out football. We almost went for the pads and tackling league, but got a whiff of what a time-eater that was gonna be (and I was at the end of my tether during hypercompetive psycho soccer league season) and opted for a flag football league that practiced once a week and played on Saturday mornings. We’ve got friends who put their kids in a pads and tackling league — they seem kind of miserable, kids included. BULLET DODGED.
The thing about football is, because it’s such a physically complex game, even the most coordinated kids aren’t that much better than your Klutz Q. Klutzmans. At the beginning of the season, anyway. At this point in the season, I’m watching the games and resisting the urge to become defensive. I feel the disappointment… what? the Golden Boy’s kind of clumsy and not very aggressive. DON’T JUDGE ME! Oh well, at least we got this far in the season… the Golden Boy would rather eat broken glass than play basketball, so we’ve got the winter off…
**Hey, all I remember being taught in fifth grade is that Martians talk like the Pointer Sisters on ‘Automatic.’ If it’s 1984 and a radio is being played in your classroom, you have the coolest art teacher possible.