In just a few days, filled with restless sleep filled with feverish hallucinations of bloodied bodies and beer sedated eyes, the Jackson County men’s league softball playoffs will be upon me. I will step up to the plate, take my spot by third base (or wherever I have to due to babysitter issues, overtime, a fight with a girlfriend or a myriad of other reasons behind an absence), and try to forget that I play on the worst team in all the land.
Our position on the standings is a prophecy that we all knew we would eventually fulfill ourselves, even if we didn’t realize we were doing it at the time. It should’ve been clear to us when we walked onto the diamond our first game and saw our opposition wearing matching uniforms complete with stainless pants and freshly bent caps. The evidence should’ve become even more vivid as they ran drills in the few minutes between innings while we feverishly extinguished cigarettes and choked down the last bits of foam at the bottom of our beer cans.
See, we knew we would have our fair share of losses, but we had fooled ourselves into believing that we’d lose due to our inept bodies, not because of a failure of spirit. Now, I can’t speak for the rest of my team but I feel like I’ve become increasingly transparent as I try and deflect the pain of being a perennial loser. “It’s just bar league softball. Who cares? We just wanted to have fun.” I’d much rather be using excuses like: “We just had one bad call against us. We couldn’t pull it out in extra innings. That play at home could’ve gone either way.” I can’t do that though, because even those uninitiated with the bastardization, high pitch, cousin of the American pastime knows that flukes don’t account for double digit deficits in the score.
I think the most painful thing about the whole deal is that the teams we play aren’t from cities across the country. These opponents of ours are coworkers, old friends, even family. Their tales of glory share the same neon bar light that our excuses do. I can’t deny it any longer, I want my own legend with a three month lifetime. I would absolutely love to here just once, “Hey Jon, tell us about that time you had an unassisted triple play.” Hell right now I’d be willing to tell someone else’s story if the person asking had me confused with someone else. “Why yes, I Bob, will tell you about my walk off homerun.”
The funny thing though, is that even with our perfect record (the wrong kind) we have a spot in the all or nothing competition at the end of the season known as “the playoffs”. I know we didn’t earn that spot and the only people we have to thank for this spot are all those who chose not to pay the registration fees for their own team, leaving the league with a perfect amount of teams to fill out the bracket.
I’d like to say that there’s a possibility of a true underdog story here, ripe with all the trimmings of a direct to DVD movie. The only problem there, is I know it’s not true. I’m not discounting to possibility of achieving some semblance of success, but I doubt the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team ever had to call up one of their girlfriends’ cousins’ boyfriends who didn’t own a stick to come and play goalie.
Who knows though, maybe we will do something special. Maybe when it’s all on the line and we’re giving 110 percent, and there’s nothing left to lose, we’ll finally click and win one. I just hope that I’ll be able to flash a bit of ego afterwards and not say “Who cares? It’s just bar league softball.”