Tag Archive | ladies room sports

Swing Shift

I already knew I was getting a swingset for my sixth birthday—it would be impossible to hide a large box from a snoopy child, or surprise me with it erected in the backyard where I constantly tripped around, wrestling the dogs or plucking honeysuckle blooms to sip with my neighbor Colleen, our always-bare feet hard as hide. So my father invited me to help install it.

Long before McDonald's was sued for hot coffee, millions of baby butts fried on these. AND WE CAME BACK FOR MORE!

Long before McDonald’s was sued for hot coffee, millions of baby butts fried on these. AND WE CAME BACK FOR MORE!

I considered his time with me a gift in itself.

Enter our Sports Essay Contest! Deadline Sept. 8!

I churned at a bucket of cement with skinny wrists as I watched him dig four deep, perfect circles into the grass with a post-drill. He filled each hole from the bucket I could barely lift, then hoisted the entire clanging gym set assembly above his 6-3 frame in one smooth motion and settled each leg into its home to dry, tightening screws and ensuring the angles.

Handyman, hunter, homicide detective. Was there anything my Daddy couldn’t do?

Actually, to call it a “swingset” was an insult to that sparkling edifice of entertainment. Over the years it became so much more—babysitter, princess castle, reading nook, pouting place, “home base” for countless games of hide and seek. The patches of worn turf beneath it didn’t grow back until I was in high school.

It was also massive, like an elephant suddenly appeared in the yard. I didn’t understand my father’s bipolar disorder then, but if I benefited, so be it. When I asked for a swingset, I expected the standard lineup of a plastic swing, a teeter-totter and midget metal slide that would burn your backside in the summer.

Instead, Daddy backed the truck into the driveway that weekend bearing the Aston Martin of jungle gyms. Once completed, its steel frame arched beyond our roof eaves, with glossy red and blue stripes spiraling around poles that extended from a spine of monkey bars I would race across, hand over hand, back and forth, or stop and dangle from for minutes at a time just because I could.

From each end, sturdy silver bars extended in bright T’s, supporting swings, a trapeze, a thick, knotted rope, and a set of black rubber rings on chains. Flinging my way from one station to another, I grew thick calluses across my palms that would eventually crack and tear off, leaving raw pink divots. But I didn’t care—I raced to the gym set every day after school, wheeling, swinging, twisting, spinning, because it simply felt so good to move, to be dizzy and dirty and alive. Life was easy. Then.

On his good days, Daddy would join me on the gym, doing pull-ups from the monkey bars or pushing me on the swings as our Lab rabble leaped over my ankles. I ate his attention; I never knew when the next dark days, the tears, the whiskey, were coming.

I loved showing off my rings skills. These were my favorite piece of equipment, as I fancied myself an Olympian someday; gymnastics were the only sport for girls my age then. I would lock my arms and hold my sweaty legs outstretched, then whip them under and up again, the momentum whirling me into a flip, sticking the landing on an old dog bed as Daddy whooped his approval.

I felt so strong and sure, with kinesthesis so reliable, I was stunned the day I lost control rolling through space and crashed into a nearby stump. The bark ripped my shin to the bone, the torrent of blood so orange and fierce it didn’t look real. It hurt, but I didn’t cry; I was too embarrassed. Worry–an unfamiliar emotion–quietly nagged me: What did I do wrong? What if I fell again? as Daddy wrapped a beach towel around my leg, set me in the truck, and rumbled us off to the emergency room.

"All kids should have a swing set." The hospital, not so much.

“All kids should have a swing set.” The “hospital,” not so much.

My mother had to lie down when she saw me, but Daddy wasn’t fazed at all. In fact he seemed excited. An adventure! He chattered away, punched at the radio buttons, cracked jokes, and even stopped at 7-11 for Slurpees along the way. He assured me I would be back on the gym set that very day.

By the time the nurse called us back I was almost looking forward to getting stitches. Daddy distracted me with armpit farts and teased the still-pimply intern assigned to my care. Did he have a girlfriend? This gal here’s available! What time was he off work? Watching the nervous young doctor clean my leg, Daddy went for the superfecta, explaining how those little bits of raw pink flesh, flicked onto the blue paper sheet, resembled the evidence he’d recently found in a car trunk that had transported a murder victim’s battered body.

The doctor raised an eyebrow. I smiled. I was nine. And I was fascinated.

What I didn’t see was the toll such work extracted from my father’s soul. I thought he had the most exciting job in the world, and that he shared it with me because he saw me as mature, a peer. But really, I was the only friend he had who wouldn’t judge his moods, or punish his worsening drinking bouts. When he looked into my eyes, his reflection was still that of hero.

When drinking finally did take him a few years later, the gym set lost its allure. Not because I was sad, although I was, but I was 13 now. I’d rather go to the mall than swing on dirty metal bars. I liked wearing makeup and having soft palms to couple-skate with, not that it happened often.

Eventually the gym’s rusted husk collapsed, and my mother had it hauled away to the junkyard. I grew up and learned that life had mortgages and migraines, consequences, shitty people, and too often, the very worries and depression my own father had experienced. And I didn’t have him any more to dissuade them with Slurpees and jokes.

But I had our memories. I never became a gymnast but I did play sports all the way through college, which helped me find work that I loved. And it all began doing ring routines for my father on that gym, where I learned to stick the landing, even when he could not.

DEADLINE EXTENDED! Enter our Sports Essay Contest! New deadline: September 8! Prizes!

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Bo Knows Baseball Position Numbers, Do You?

bojackson

Bo knows…he’s awesome. Still.

I admit, I never liked baseball growing up. I didn’t play, and we didn’t have a team, except for the double-A “Memphis Chicks,” short for the region’s native Chickasaw Indians, and no one ever thought to be offended.

I also found the game to be as exciting as milk. (Even the “South Park” kids hated it for stealing their summer.) The three most memorable things I recall were:

Bo Jackson living in the apartment next door to my sister while he played for us en route to becoming one of America’s all-time greatest athletes

—The “Medicine Man” mascot—a white dude in a loincloth and buffalo horns (again, no one was offended, and I kinda think we should have been?) and

Looks like I wasn't the only one excited to meet The Chicken.

I wasn’t the only one excited to meet The Chicken.

—Meeting the San Diego Chicken when he (she? Aren’t chickens girls?) visited our ballpark. He was a lot shorter than I expected.

Baseball was also confusing to a seven-year-old word nerd. A “hit” only counted if a player hit the ball and reached base—but the way I saw it, guys hit the ball—like made contact with the bat—all the time. And didn’t the word “strike” also mean “to hit?” (Hell, the games wouldn’t have been so interminable if they played my way.)

Who’d-a thunk then that I would eventually wind up working for a baseball team, handling their public relations and keeping score—a skill that I have found not only fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but literally a game-changer for me. Because once I understood the positions, it was logical.

baseball positionsImagine you are standing behind the batter’s box, like the umpire, facing the field. The players are numbered in a sort of backwards question mark order:

1—Pitcher
2—Catcher
3—First baseman
4—Second baseman
5—Third baseman
6—Shortstop
7—Left fielder
8—Center fielder
9—Right fielder

Once you have that down, the game, specifically defensive plays and outs, are not only easy to spot, but fun to record. It’s pretty obvious on offense when you see a player single (1B) to first base or hit a home run (HR). But to understand the announcer when he says “a 6-4-3 double play” or “F8!” is more satisfying because you understand the numbers, and those numbers translate into images in your scorebook. If you think baseball is all math and stats, remember there is a lovely visual component to it as well.

Baseball (softball too) became fascinating to me when I realized on a scorecard you can see patterns develop right before your eyes—kind of like a photo in a darkroom, or knitting a sweater—but with men in tight pants. For example, marking this in your scorebook column…

F-7, ♦, L5, 6-3

 …isn’t some maddening Morse code, it’s simply:

  • a flyout to left (out #1)
  • a 2-run homer (you color in the diamond for home runs – my favorite part, as long as it’s my team)
  • a line drive out to the third baseman (out #2), and
  • an out from the shortstop (position 6) to the first baseman (position 3, thus three outs, and the half-inning is over with one run scored).

When you process a game visually, noted by your own hand, it is imprinted in your memory. Plays happen fast, but when you’ve recorded them, they are yours forever. My friend Bob has a scorebook he kept with his dad in the ‘60s, and he remembers each game, right down to the weather that day. These are some of his most cherished memories, not of just baseball but his now departed father.

SCORECARD-yankees-20080921-640

The Yankees scored seven runs in this 2008 game against the Orioles. (James Teresco, Creative Commons)

I will get into the basics of scoring in a later post. But for now, scoring keeps your head in the game (handy for parents whose children are in weekend-long tournaments) and makes statistics and trends easier to follow. And unlike other sports’ box scores, just columns of numbers, you can “see” an entire baseball game’s progression just based on a series of numbers and symbols—sort of like Neo in “The Matrix” when he finally understands everything in binary code, 10010110101.

There are many tutorials on the interwebs about how to score a baseball game (here is just one), and any paper game program or scorebook will also have a key. But even if you are just watching (or, OK, still bored off your butt waiting for little Timmy’s turn), maybe now you will follow along a little more because just like Bo knows, now you now who is who too.

PS–Don’t forget to enter our sports short essay contest! Free entry, great prizes! Deadline August 31!

Enter Our Essay Contest!

chesternatscloseDEADLINE EXTENDED to Sept. 8!!! It’s the first-ever Ladies Room Sports Essay Contest! 

We thought we’d try something new and fun. After a couple months traveling (and pneumonia. Seriously. Pneumonia. In July.), our blog is back–and that could mean a $150 Visa Gift Card for you! And FREE entry!

Send your non-fiction piece, up to 500 words, about what you love (or hate) about sports, today or in your past. Taking your kids to the ballpark. Winning your first Field Day race. Losing your girlfriend to the quarterback. Or have you witnessed someone else’s sports story? How have sports, however tangentially, affected you or someone you know? Dugouts, dunks, dodgeball–we want to read it!.

Winner receives a $150 Visa Gift Card, and second place a $50 Visa Gift Card! Winners and various other selections will be published on the Ladies Room Sports blog.

Judges will consist of members of the esteemed Yale Writers’ Conference. And possibly a small dog.

Seriously though, we are looking for essays on how sports have made some impact, good or bad, on people’s lives. We also welcome more traditional sportswriting as long as they are short essays/creative non-fiction as opposed to a regular game summary. Think beyond the box score!

Send your entry (one per person, please, attachments or in email body are fine) to laura.boswell@ladiesroomsports.com. Deadline is September 8, 2015. Previously published work is OK as long as it fits the guidelines. And PS – Ladies Room editors will merely facilitate, so if you know us, it’s OK! Like the Publishers’ Clearing House says, “Go ahead, send it in!.” Please submit non-fiction only–but don’t worry, fiction writers and poets, your spot on the varsity team will open soon.

And finally, this is our first try at this, so please bear with us as we work out the kinks. Send questions to the address above and we will help asap! Enter now!