Monday, June 28, 2010
[In telling the following tale, I have no desire to again piss off anyone I've previously pissed off. Therefore, I'm specifically not using the name of one of the main characters. I'd still rather share a few beers with him than anything else.]
Flake (n) – Someone who doesn’t conform to the normal on-field or locker room standards in sports.
Hello. My name is Sully, and I’m a flake.
(Some of you: "Hi, Sully!")
Hey, never mind that stuff. I’ve got a question for you. What’s brown and sticky?
Some of you laughed (or at least smiled.) Others are clicking off of this page even as we speak (which we aren’t actually doing, since I’m typing and you’re reading, and OOPS! There goes the rest of them!)
The problem with being a flake is that some people have no sense of humor. If one of the main joys in your life is making jokes, the humorless fucks will never be best buddies with you. The best you can hope for with them is to not end up trading punches.
The problem with people who have no sense of humor is that most of them don’t realize it. They think because they laugh every so often they have one. No. It’s what you laugh at that counts. Chuckling while you pull the wings off of a fly doesn’t prove anything aside from your psychosis. And when you tell someone without a sense of humor that they have no sense of humor, they usually get pissed off. That's actually the best test for finding out if someone has a sense of humor, by the way. If they have a sense of humor, they'll crack a joke instead of getting steamed.
Anyway, I’ve always been a flake, a wing nut, a goofy bastard. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, if I wanted to have it another way, then I wouldn’t be a flake. The true test of flakiness is if a person is absolutely content with being one. If you desperately want to be perceived some other way, then you aren’t truly flaky. You’re just a malcontented dweeb.
Why am I telling you this stuff? I figure it’s a good preface to telling you about something that happened a couple of weeks ago.
I own a catcher’s mask. Since I’m a catcher you might already have assumed that to be the case, but it never hurts to be sure everyone knows the specifics. Two years ago, during a game, the mask broke. It’s one of those goalie-style catcher’s masks, giving full coverage to the entire head. A snap fastener on the back of it somehow sheared off. When it did, I tried to repair it, but couldn’t quite get at how to do so. A guy who was on our team at that time graciously offered to take the mask and have it repaired. He said he knew someone who could do it, and he said he’d bring the mask back the next time he played with us. I was happy to hear that. I liked that mask a lot, and it had been a fairly expensive purchase. I thanked him. I expected to get it back in a week or two, and told him I’d be happy to pay for the repair.
I didn't see that guy, or the mask, for two years.
In the meantime, I played, I retired, I came out of retirement - I'm the Brett Favre of fast-pitch softball - and I borrowed masks from other teams when I was catching – always the old-style face-protection-only mask, which I hate - and I thought about buying a new mask, except I was playing first base or DH'ing more often than I was catching, and someone I know was contacting the guy on a semi-regular basis to retrieve the old mask and what I heard on my end, every so often, was that the guy would be bringing the mask to some game or other and I’d be getting it back soon. So, I never bought another one. And I never saw my mask.
This year, I found out I was going to be playing in a league that the guy who had my mask also was playing in. I figured this presented a swell opportunity to get my mask back. I e-mailed the guy at the start of the season and asked him if we could hook up someday before or after one of his games. He never answered my e-mail. At that point, I figure the guy isn’t even acknowledging my existence, let alone acknowledging the fact that he has my mask. I assumed we’d run into each other someday when our respective teams were either playing each other or scheduled back-to-back on the same field, and I’d talk to him in person then, but for the moment, since he seemed to be ignoring me and had been in possession of my mask for two years, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind concerning his intentions. Put it this way: it no longer appeared as though he was doing me a favor.
OK, there’s your background. Here’s where being a flake comes in.
Due to rain outs , holidays, and a team dropping from our Sunday league, the Bombers hadn’t played in three weeks. Jack Atton, our manager, sent out the following playful e-mail:
Good morning. My name is Jack Atton, and I was wondering if anyone would be interested in playing some softball this Sunday 9:00 a.m. at Smith Field??
Being a FLAKE, I responded...
Gee, Mr. Atton, I'd love to play! I have my own glove and everything!!! Some guy named XXX stole my mask, but I'm willing to play catcher without one!!! Gee Whilikers! Can we play TWO, maybe?!?
No biggie. The guy with the mask had never answered my e-mail, and also had never responded to any of Jack’s team e-mails (at least publicly) even though he was still on the e-mail list and nominally part of the team. I made my little jokes and forgot about it.
Except now, the guy answers that e-mail and he’s pissed:
Anyone can come to XXXXX to get mask at anytime I will leave in my backyard if you guys want. I have plenty of masks of my own. I have tried to get it back but went out of my way to get fixed and that was my part. I do not appreciate being accused of stealing a mask.
OK, I truly have no desire to piss off anyone. I answer his e-mail:
Hey, XXX, no offense - really - but I tried contacting you about the mask before and got no response. You've had it for close to two years now. As I understand it, XXXXX was trying to get it from you for a while, too, but somehow the mask never got back to us. Maybe 'stole my mask' wasn't the best way to put it, but it did get you to respond, right? :-)
Seriously, if you had it repaired, I appreciate that, and I want to pay for the repairs, too.
Lets clear the air. I have always tried to get mask to XXXXX... I will leave mask in my backyard for you to pick up if you want. I want it out of my basement as soon as possible. I have enough of my own junk down there. I only happened to see email because of yesterday so i have never get any contact from you. Please lets get this done today or tomorrow.
OK, fine. I'm happy, as long as I get my mask back and it’s fixed. I have some further private correspondence with him. I still offer to pay for the repair and even offer to buy him a beer. I don't want there to be any chance of hard feelings because I do actually like the guy. I remember, during one of the first games I played with him, that I had a horrible game - truly horrendous, something like four errors in three innings - and while I was sitting on the bench with my head down, mumbling to myself, XXX came over to me, put an arm around my shoulder, and said some kind words, something to the effect of we all have bad days, it's just a game, etc. (and I really wish I could give you his real name while I'm telling you this good stuff, because I don't forget niceness like that and he deserves his props for it.) However, each succeeding e-mail response from him seems more terse than the previous one. I’m trying to make nice, but he seems pretty much tired of talking. Maybe he was really busy; I don't know. In any case, it's a classic flake/not-a-flake interface.
Meanwhile, some of my teammates are graciously adding fuel to the fire, sending out e-mails such as this...
Too late to apologize, Sully... an all points bulletin has already been issued in XXXXX to be on the lookout for a semi-nude man in a catchers mask, cursing your name!!
Sorry, XXX, Sully is really a bully!
After all is said and done, it ends with XXX saying he’s putting the mask on his back porch and I can come by to pick it up whenever I want. I send one last one-word e-mail to him ("Thanks") and also send one to the team saying this...
I've arranged with XXX to pick up my mask tonight. Just want to make it clear to everyone that XXX did NOT steal my mask, OK? It was a joke.
... which is the sort of thing a flake often has to end up saying, unfortunately.
I drive to his place and get the mask, although not without a small bit of trepidation. What the hell, this guy is already pissed at me for calling him a thief, and I didn't feel I was really able to make peace via our e-mails, so driving to his place and inviting myself into his back yard, then leaving the back yard with what might appear to be a piece of his property, doesn’t exactly thrill me. I would have rather had a brew or two, but he could shoot me in the back and claim it was justified because I was a prowler.
I told the paranoid part of my brain to shut the fuck up, and I went and got the mask because, hey, it's my mask and it was the thing I had to do. He didn’t shoot me, of course. He DOES shoot off an e-mail to the mailing list that contains a joke...
You can call off the all-points bulletin. Sully has his mask back and with a free repair!
... so he does have a sense of humor and I guess we're not mortal enemies. In case I didn't make this point clear already, I'd still like to have a beer with him.
And I figure that’s that and happily ever after, etc., except the very first game I wear the mask again, it breaks in the second inning. Same exact problem. Whatever repair was made didn’t work.
I took the mask home and repaired it myself, which is what I should have done two years ago and everybody would have been happier. I duct-taped the crap out of it. It is now Frankenmask.
Truth be told, I kind of like how it looks. But, I’m a flake.
Meanwhile, back at Smith Field…
BOMBERS – 18 Courtesy Flush – 6
BOMBERS – 23 Courtesy Flush – 5
I’m loving this season. The Swingers (who were rained out of their only scheduled game this week) have won 6 of their last 7, and are now 6 – 5 – 1. As long as we don’t fall apart completely the rest of the way, we should make the playoffs. And, if we keep winning, there’s a real chance we could finish first in our division and receive a first round bye.
The Bombers now stand at 7 - 1, which is the best start in team history. And that makes perfect sense. We’ve got a loaded lineup, very good fielding, a fine pitching staff, and team chemistry is great. Jack Atton has done a swell job assembling this squad since I handed him the manager’s reigns 4 seasons back, and (more important than just putting the pieces together) he keeps everyone involved and on their toes. It’s almost impossible to manage a team and not have at least one or two guys feeling they're not being utilized correctly, but so far so good for Jack. He’s made all the right moves and everybody likes him. That’s an amazing accomplishment.
The unfortunately named Courtesy Flush (now there’s a name that would make me feel just fine about being a Master Batter, and if you don’t get that joke it means you didn’t read last week’s report) hasn’t had much success since entering the league. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve won one game up to now, and this is their third season. But, you know what? I give them all the credit in the world. They show up every week, they play with enthusiasm, and they are improving. They’re just a couple of good players away from being truly competitive, maybe only one player away if they can latch on to a lockdown pitcher. They have a decent enough nucleus so long as the good players don’t become discouraged and start dropping out.
With scores like we had this week, the usual superlatives about hitting won’t do. Almost everybody put up numbers that would be outstanding if they came against a higher level of competition, but aren’t so much when graded on the curve. That’s not to say anybody should be ashamed. You can only play whom you’re playing, and if your good numbers are less impressive because they were had in fairly non-competitive games, it’s not your fault. However, if I start listing every instance of a couple of hits or RBI, we’ll be here until next week. I’ll limit the shout outs to three truly outstanding performances.
Pat Atton had about as good a day as it’s possible to have in the leadoff position. He went 5 for 6, drew two walks, scored 7 runs, and had 7 RBI. Wow. Hell of a good job. As a former leadoff man, I truly appreciated the artistry of his day.
Big Jay Atton pitched both ends of the doubleheader. He ran his record this season to 5 – 0 (9 - 2, when you throw in his Swingers stats) and he’s been fairly much lights out much of the time. At the plate, he blasted a homer, and he leads the team in that category.
Final kudos to the newest member of the team, Charlie (he’s so new, I don’t even know his last name.) He’s a good outfielder with speed to burn. He’s also a hellacious hitter, cracking a double and two home runs. He had an astounding 10 RBI in his Bombers debut. Hell, I’ve had entire seasons where I didn’t rack up 10 RBI.
(Hey, I was a leadoff hitter, remember? It was my job to get on base. It was the other guy’s jobs to drive me in.)
Speaking of me, I went 2 for 3, drew 3 walks, scored 5 runs, and had two RBI. I hit two solid liners for the hits, and actually got good wood on the ball for the out, too, and that was nice after the slew of weak grounders and trivial pop-ups I’d had recently. If you’ll indulge me for just a little while longer, I’d like to tell you about my final at-bat.
The score was already 18 – 5. As I came up, the bases were loaded with nobody out. For some reason, Courtesy Flush pulled the outfield in to about 40 feet behind the infield. I mean, it was the most I’ve been dissed as a hitter in my entire career. I was already 2 for 3 with two walks, and both hits had been solid line drives. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking. Maybe they were just grasping at straws at that point, hoping to luck into a double play if I hit an at ‘em shot. Anyway, the temptation to try and stroke one over their heads was strong. If I hit anything that got past them, it might have been the cheapest grand slam in history. But I’m too old to start playing the game the wrong way. I was facing a pitcher who was having control problems and he didn’t give me a pitch good enough for me to go against what I knew was the right thing to do. I took four straight balls and walked to first, driving in a run. And I did literally walk to first base, slowly. I mean, if they were going to diss me that badly, then I felt I had a right to say, "I did the correct thing in this situation. I hope you realize that." I mean, they’re a nice bunch of guys, but still...
And that does it. No games for the Bombers next week. We’re off for the 4th of July. We resume play on the 11th versus the Moe Howard Club (and there’s a team name I really dig!) Tonight, I’m back behind the plate for the Swingers, and I'll be wearing Frankenmask. Life is good, man. Life is good.
Soon, with more better stuff.