Sports are dumb. There. I'm glad that's out of the way. I kind of hate them. I hate the fact that for some of my formative years I allowed the outcome of sporting events to alter my mood. I hate the fact that when I think about the year 2004 it feels all weird and disgusting because I remember the Red Sox beat the Yankees after being down 0-3. That never happened before. Oh yeah, I root for the Yankees. Those evil capitalist pigs who outspend everyone in the game and win because of it. I used to root for them just because they were my team, I think in later years I started rooting for them because everyone else hated them. Don't get me wrong; Yankees fans are some of the worst slime you will ever meet. They strut around like they are responsible for the 26 World Championships. No, they're terrible and I don't really associate myself with them. However, there is a far worst beast out there in the realm of sports fandom and it's the whiny "Why Not Us?" fans. If there is anything that can take the charm out of an underdog it's a fan base that whines about teams like the Yankees making it impossible for their poor team to catch a break. This reached it's crest with the '04 Red Sox who were riding a wave of sentiment like "My father may live his whole life without ever seein' the Sawks win the Series" or of course the aforementioned "Why Not Us?" Well they finally won it. My life wasn't ruined. In fact the deciding game was pretty much decided by the first inning, and as I sat there sucking down a six pack at my pal Horgan's house we knew before hand it was over. You can feel these things coming sometimes. But our lives certainly weren't ruined. If you flipped the calendar back a year the two teams were in the same situation and the Yankees wound up winning on little Aaron Boone's home run in extra innings. It was a fun moment, it was exciting; I was with friends at a diner and we got caught up in it and hurumphed and whatever else. And then an hour later we were still drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes talking about something else. Didn't change my life, it was just a nice memory.
Now, I assure you I'm not really trying to make any point here, if anything I'm really just trying to get to the bottom of this here rant where I countdown my personal top three most embarrassing moments in sports, but I feel like I want to get this out of my system. There is a long held belief in certain circles that competition is a good thing, and maybe that's true. That it brings out the best in people, that it motivates and drives people and that its a good thing for kids to learn. But it's not really competition any more is it? At least on a professional level? It's a bunch of millionaire jocks playing each other, and while there are certain exceptions of players who are driven mad by the idea of what their legacy might be for the most part these fucking guys are going out, playing their game and hitting clubs with each other afterwards. Meanwhile Charlie from Queens on the carphone is calling up WFAN because his world is falling apart because the Mets aren't going to make the playoffs this year.
I love sports radio. I listen to it on late night drives to keep myself awake. Oh man, the hosts are mostly hyper-active man-boy-snobs; quick to shoot down callers points or condescending if they have a differing opinion. And the callers are mutants straight out of science fiction novels. My personal favorites are the ones who can't get the question out. They're too busy saying weird shit like: "Hi Mike first time caller, long time listener". Who in their right mind gives a shit how long Elmer from the Bronx has been listening or how frequently he calls? And those are always the creeps who spit out gems like "Do you think the Yankees are going to sign Derek Jeter to an extension?" Real stupid shit. The thing that drives me nuts, that makes me question my sanity the most is the guys, and occasional gal, who call up and talk about their team in the first person: "Do you think WE got a shot at Super Bowl this year?" I'm not going to insult your intelligence, dear reader or poor lost soul, with a cheap, "Oh yeah what position do you play 'Marv' from Paterson?" joke. No, no, no. I'll just let the sadness that comes with someone diluting themselves so much that they need to verbalize some kind of connection between them self and the group of millionaires playing a children's game like they're all in the same club, linger out there for a while.
So anyway what's all this about? Nothing really. I just kind of realized I'm sick of sports insofar as being a fan. The Yankees won the World Series last year and while I was glad, I really don't give all that much of a shit. They spent an insane amount of money after missing the playoffs the year before. Got all, ALL, of the best free agents and they won. They were supposed to win. And they did. Good. No, I think I'm kind of enjoying sports more from a combative standpoint now. If you're upset about teams like the Yankees then how bout this: If your poor team (oh let's just say the Mets, who had the highest payroll in the National League for years and managed to do nothing with it) can't afford to keep up with they Yankees then you should stop going to the games, stop watching the games, stop buying merchandise and demand whomever owns your team to sell it to someone with more money. A Russian BILLIONaire just bought the New Jersey Nets for Pete's sake. Someone out there with enough money can use the Yankees as a business model and overpay for excellence until everyone is priced out of the game. By then you'll have a whole line up full of players with size 10 heads because they'll be pressured to live up to their billion dollar contracts and shoot HGH until they're dragging their foreheads on the ground. It'll be wonderful.
Now, anyway, that you've indulged me in that misguided rambling nonsense let's get down to business. This was supposed to be the meat of the piece with a little bitching about sports at the top, but it appears I got carried away. Must be in a bad mood.
So anyway, IN ORDER, my top three most embarrassing sports moments.
#3. I don't know what year it was but I know it was the first year I played soccer as I tried my hand at Football and well it didn't' fit. (see #1) Anyway I was on the dark blue team. We were good. Well, our team was good. It seemed like every team had at least one Latin American or European kid on their team who was the only one who can control a ball. Now before you accuse me of being a racist I'm only saying that because they introduce soccer at a younger age, so calm down and stop point your finger you reactionist. So anyway, the kids who really had no idea what they were doing and weren't fast were defenders. I was a defender. I knew that if the ball came to me I could kick it (toe ball) pretty far, or at least I thought it was far. But for the most part I was the kid who was pretty terrible but had to play at least five minutes because, you know, there are participation rules. So I should mention that my all time grade school crush was on this team. Her father was an assistant coach and the head coach was my 2nd all time grade school crush's father. They were both laid back and as chill as a 10 year old could want a soccer coach to be. So anyway a ball comes rolling up to me with no one around it, I get ready to kick the hell out of this thing, really make an impact in the game. GET THAT THING AWAY FROM MY GOAL! and then maybe throw a wink at one of those two gals; "Hey, see what I did?" But instead I was called off by the goalie who shall remain nameless. A good guy and more importantly a good goalie, who would scoop the ball up and punt it away, presumably further than I would have. So, dejected I let the ball roll by, I turn to watch him kick my chance at soccer immortality away and like a black and white checkered comet the ball lands right in my head. The next thing I remember people were standing over me. My mother slapping me lightly in the face (her "if it's not bleeding I don't want to hear about it" policy in effect) I was helped off the field to light applause by the coaches while their daughters giggled to themselves.
#2 Ok this took place in my second year in minor leagues. In Little League you had to play one year in the minors and then you could get drafted to the Majors or linger in the minor leagues until you were 12 presumably playing like a star against kids younger than you to boost your esteem. So I didn't make the majors my first year.....or wait shit, did I? I can't remember. No maybe I did. This isn't even like an ego thing I just can't remember. Well let's just say I know I was either 10 or 11. Probably 11. I was catching. I always wanted to catch and it was the first full year I did. There was a girl on the other team. She was tall and pretty and I think older. There were a few girls who played Little League but most of them played in the completely un-sexistly titled Princess League right behind the Little League field. So this girl was already attractive because she was good. Anyway, somehow she ends up in a rundown between third and home. I chase her up the line and dump the ball off to the third baseman, the pitcher covers home, I get behind the 3rd baseman to take the next throw if she decides to change directions again. The pitcher dumps the ball to me and she stops and takes off for home no one is covering, so I decide to do what any self respecting Thurman Munson type would do and I lunge at her with the ball in my glove. I missed. Probably by a lot. But I did manage to land on the glove with my stomach knocking the wind out of myself for the first time. I could breathe out but not in. "I can't breath, I can't breath" I yelled frantically. Everyone freaked and ran over. Again I'm on my back with parents and coaches and classmates looking over me. Well I was ok in about 2 minutes. But I came out of the game anyway, and I spent the rest of the evening trying to explain how freaked I was and that I wasn't being a baby. but I might have been. Anyway, somehow I ran into that girl after the game, in street clothes she was all glamoured up and she gave me a peck on the cheek which was sweet, but I think of what would have happened if I would have caught her, and I lunged at her; probably would have either bruised her back or knocked her over or God knows what, and how do you live that one down? So there was a good chance this could have been #1. But it's not.
Ok so we had my first black out and potentially harming a girl with a baseball glove, but those both pale in comparison to the heavy weight champion of embarrassing sports stories:
#1 I was 7. Pee-Wee football. Almost everyone on the team hates me. The coach is the father of my arch nemesis from school. (We'll omit his name because he is no longer with us which will probably be the topic of a future rant but lets stay on topic here). I've been beaten up in school by some of these kids. We scrimmaged against the older kids (the terrifying 8 year olds) And I kept getting knocked down from one kid in particular and he stepped on my hand with his cleats. I didn't know anything about football then, and I didn't even particularly like it, I had no friends there, I really have no idea what the hell I was doing there. (I should also mention that this spurned me to embark on my soccer career which, after #3 I did go on to be a fairly decent goalie, sorry I'm trying to keep a smidge of dignity here). We were finished practicing one day. It was kind of hot and I was slamming through Gatorade even though I'm sure I probably didn't deserve it. We didn't have our pads on, I had my jersey, (Green with yellow numbers #25) and green sweatpants on. The coach get all Vince Lombardi and starts giving an intense speech about our "road game" against Oakland. I had to pee. There was no way I was going to interrupt this speech. This man was going for an Oscar. He transcended football, fuck Lombardi he was Patton leading his troops into battle, and you do not interrupt a general while he's giving marching orders to ask if you can go pee. So I held it. And I held it. And I held it, and then I stopped holding it because it was running down the front of my pants. These were "light" green sweats by the way so there was no mistaking that something was amiss in the front of my pants. I did what any 7 year old would do when put in an impossible social situation: I raised my hand, stood up and started crying in front of the whole team. Holy shit my spine is shivering just thinking about this. It was almost a quarter of a century ago. (alright I just scared the shit out myself with that math) So anyway, the coach, to his credit, was great and lead me over to the wooded area to dry out and went to find me another pair of pants. I stood there, grabbing the warm, wet waistband and tried to find a way to maybe "air them out". One of my fellow teammates went over to pee against a tree and asked "You alright?" and I, now relaxed, "oh yeah, they're starting to dry out a little now," like this kind of thing happens all the time. Oakland wound up kicking the shit out of us that weekend. Needless to say that was it for me and football.