Maeve on Super Bowl Sunday.
When her dad bent down to take her photo, she bent down too,
like they were going to swap stories and share secrets.
I’m not into sports — at all. Just ask anyone who knows me. I don’t know a time-out from overtime, an inning from a quarter, a match from a game, a foul from a fumble, an umpire from a referee, even a play off from a tee off from a kick off. You get the idea.
Because of that, it’s amazing (and simultaneously very embarassing) that I was a cheerleader for one season in junior high. In fact, I am convinced I only made the team/squad/gaggle of girls or whatever it’s called, because the judges transposed the tryout numbers pinned to my shirt.
Not only was I awful, but the fundamentals of cheerleading just weren’t — aren’t — me. I don’t like to yell. In fact, people often ask me to speak up in general conversation. And I particularly don’t like addressing crowds, forget rallying some sort of team spirit from them. I don’t know why I tried out at all.
When my name was included in the posted list of those who’d made it, I think I blacked out. Although everyone around me was quite congratulatory, I’m sure they were actually shaking their head in disbelief when I wasn’t looking.
So, there I was, donning a short skirt and itchy sweater and lamely cheering on the boys’ basketball
troupe squad team. I had pre-game stomachaches that had nothing to do with nervous hopes of winning. It was the cheering … and the leading. One particular cheer required each girl to yell her name, letter by letter, and rhyme it with some sort of peppy, spirit-inducing chant. The others in the Short Skirt and Itchy Sweater Club chastised me for being too quiet. And who could blame them? Cheerleaders should like to cheer, after all. (And here’s another tip for all you cheerleader-wannabes: Be able to quickly deduce whether it’s your team that scored — before you cheer. Learned that one straight from the trenches. I’m just sayin’.)
Since you will rarely read anything sports-related in this little space o’ mine, I will burden you with my only other sports story. Let’s get them out of the way all at once, so I shant ever have to think of them again.
My father coached girls’ little league just about every year I played. When Spring rolled around, the sign-up sheets would appear and dad and I jumped into the fray.
Not only did I hate softball, I was terrible at it. I would plead with the softball gods to send balls in any direction other than mine. And, if the darn thing ever miraculously made it into my glove, I never knew where to throw it: first base, second base, the pitcher? Who knew, it all happened so fast. And with everyone yelling, pointing and screaming at me, I couldn’t tell. My solution? Just throw every ball to the pitcher. (I used to promise my allowance and lunch money to my fellow outfielders if they would run over and catch the ball when it came my way.)
Eventually I was made catcher. Given my still-limited understanding of sports, I don’t know what this means about me as a player. It seems like an important position should a play need to be made, but at the same time, they had me weighted down in gear and tucked safely into a nice little corner of the field. I’d just kneel, well-disguised, behind the batter and pray for the inning’s end. Top of the inning, bottom of the inning, side or front of the inning — the lingo never made much sense to me. Just make it the sixth (and final) one already!
The first time I ever went to bat, I put the helmet on upside and backwards. Or maybe it was inside out (is that even possible?). Whichever way, my family has the photos so that embarassing record is preserved.
The best part of this angst-ridden ridiculousness is this: Decades later, The Softball Years came up in conversation with my parents. Seems I wasn’t the only one with angst. When I casually mentioned how crazy it was that I ever played at all, considering the best part for me was getting a T-shirt with the team name ironed on and free ice cream cones dipped in sprinkles when we won, my folks just looked at each other. You know that look — that private, conversational look a couple makes that speaks silent volumes.
They asked why, then, I would continue to sign up each Spring. My answer: “Because, dad, I knew how much you liked to coach.”
A moment of silence.
Moments of laughter.
Another moment of (now-awkward) silence.
What? I asked. Seems my dad only signed up to coach each year because he “knew how much I liked to play and he wanted to show his support.” And considering my total lack of ability, that’s a dad’s love for ya. Volunteering to coach a team whose most atrocious player was his own kin.
So, how do my Old (mental) Sports Injuries relate to my beautiful little girl above?
On Super Bowl (of ice cream) Sunday, we went to some friends’ house to “watch” the game. Given my lackluster sports history, I define this as being social, eating unhealthy food and watching the commercials.
Since I knew Maeve might become bored to toddler tears, I did as any good mom would do and brought entertainment. Books, Mega-blocks, Aquadoodle, snacks — we were good to go.
Before I tell you how she took to the Big Day of Football That I Just Don’t Understand, let me say that these friends have a television that is the size of my car. I’m not kidding. I think they parallel parked it in their den. Let me also explain that Maeve’s exposure to our average-sized television is limited to a 13-minute program — every other day — depicting animals at the San Diego Zoo.
So, given those factors, it quickly became apparent that entertaining her on this Super Bowl Sunday would be the least of my worries.
Seems she was perfectly content standing squarely in front of the gargantuan high-definition picture box, pointing and yelling, “Ball!” “Ball!” “Ball!”
Seemingly before I could dip even a single chip, she was toddler-chanting: “Go … go … go!” as players ran across the field doing whatever it is they do to score.
And when they did score, she let out a “Yaaaay!” alongside the adults and, without missing a beat, she’d take a drink from her sippy cup and eat goldfish crackers. This kid’s got the sports-routine down.
I ask you: Wouldn’t it be some sort of evil World Series of Kick-in-the-Pants Irony if she grows up to like sports and 20 years from now she’ll yell “Yaaaay!” from a sports bar, only to throw back a beer and grab a handful of shelled peanuts?
Or, gasp, if she grows up to play sports? Or, good goddess help me, to cheer for sports?
Silence, please, while I consider these possibilities.
Can I cry foul? Call a time out? Do a rain-delay dance?
(What? Go ahead, put me in the Parenting Penalty Box. See if I care.)
Oh, alright, fine. If Maeve likes sports in the coming years then maybe I will learn to “like” them too. For her, I would do that. Ya know, throw the sweaty towel in the ring, or whatever sports-lovin’-people say.
Who knows, maybe being the mom of Sportsy Sportsina of Sportsville could actually work in my favor.
I mean, there’d be free T-shirts and ice cream, right?