Tag Archive | laura boswell

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!

And Like THAT…She’s Gone…(Not Really)

keyser_poofAh, “The Usual Suspects.” Still one of my all-time top 5. One of those movies that if you’re cleaning the house on a Saturday, channel surfing, and it pops up, you drop everything to watch it again. (I would also include “Godfather,” “Casino,” “Goodfellas”–all pretty much the same movie, now that I think about it–and “Jaws.”

Anyway, The Ladies Room is still alive and well, but she got accepted to the Yale Writers’ Conference, so between that and a rigorous Washington Nationals  baseball schedule, this blog has gotten a tad dusty. Nonetheless, I’m saying hello before I head to New Haven for the next two weeks to be all Ivy League and Highbrow and Academic and stuff.

While I’m ecstatic to be accepted, the timing is rotten. I will be missing the NBA Finals, the NHL Finals, the College Baseball World Series, the FIFA scandal and the French Open for…poetry readings.

flaAt least tonight I WILL get to see the finals of the Women’s College (Softball) World Series. Michigan forced a third and final game with current champion Florida, and I have really gotten into the whole shabang. Not because I want to support women’s sports (though you should) but because these ladies are just so amazing to watch, so powerful and, though I shouldn’t say this…gorgeous. Seriously. If you have a problem with women “jocks” or joke they aren’t attractive, these gals could own the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. They wear full makeup, elaborate braids, hair decor and ribbons.

And eyeblack. Oh and they can also knock a ball into Greenland. Good luck, ladies, well done.

So with that, I will bid you, and sports, adieu for a few days for studying and writing as my vacation. By choice.

Unless “The Usual Suspects” is on.

Down in a Blaaaaze of Glory? #FreeUAB

OK, these guys bounced back--here's hoping UAB can too.

OK, these guys bounced back–here’s hoping UAB can too.

Did you have an older sibling who was better at you than everything, and never let you forget it?

That must be kind of how it is for the second tier sports teams out there – you know, the overly hyphenated, the ones with a region in the title (Southeast Missouri Central at St. Louis University etc.), the ones named for Hogwarts-like mascots (go Gryffindors!) or Colonial silversmiths. The kinds of schools that would appear in a Key and Peele skit while the major state teams get all the glory.

Or take the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers football team. In a state where the Tuscaloosa team is number one, whenever someone mentions “Alabama football” or even “UAB” people still have to stop and think “Huh? Where? Aren’t y’all some kinda dragon or something?”

Truth is, the school has nearly 20,000 students in a historic city that is a hard-won bastion of civil rights progress. The football team, at 6-6, is eligible to be invited to a bowl in this post-season.

But on Tuesday, it all came to an end. The UAB football program is being revoked due to the scientific research from a team of “Office Space” Bobs stating “the numbers just don’t add up” and that “football just isn’t sustainable.”

I’m not from Birmingham, but my family is, so I feel an affinity there. I also played “non-revenue” sports for a Division III college. They didn’t pay me a dime in scholarships. And I loved Every. Single. Minute. Sports made me what I am today.

Which is why I feel so badly for these players—no matter how feasible the research behind the numbers around crucial spending that just can’t be done without more revenue, my heart goes out to them, especially the freshmen and other players across the country punished for circumstances beyond their control. There is nothing like walking through an airport terminal in your school travel uniform, feeling the pride, getting the stares, even the occasional autograph from an eager kid. It didn’t matter if 6 people came to our games; the memories light up my heart to this day.

(And the meal per diem wasn’t bad either!)

Usually such a sanction is because of cheating or someone’s bonehead crime/mistake (Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Jameis Winston, etc.). But this, so far, appears to be simply a numbers game as the big conferences like the Big 5 (the Southeastern Conference, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific-12) grow bigger, and smaller conference’s like UAB’s Conference-USA grasp at straws.

I guess I should be happy that it’s not women’s programs being unilaterally cut here. At least they have Title IX to protect them; these guys, as one passionate player tearfully decried at the announcement, came from all over the country, thousands of miles, expecting to play. What now? For their scholarships? Their futures?

The announcement also affects all those tangentially related to the football program—cheerleaders, band members and so on. In other words, this is the first time since 1995 a Division I football team has been shut down—what will happen next remains to be seen. I just hope UAB at least gets to finish their season in a bowl. #FreeUAB.

 

 

Oh, What a Record?

Hey ladiiiieeess! We're droppin' some serious baseball knowledge on ya!

Hey ladiiiieeess! We’re droppin’ some serious baseball knowledge on ya!

As I watched the Giants’ Travis Ishikawa* belt the winning home run in the National League Championship Series, it got me thinking about the first Japanese hitter to get America’s attention with his bat.

Back in the 90s, I didn’t know who the Beastie Boys meant in “Hey Ladies” when they claimed “I got more hits than Sarahadu Oh!”

But the lyric was certainly deserved. Oh holds (but not without debate) the all-time world record for home runs with 868. Not Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds—Sarahadu Oh.

Oh was born in Japan to a Japanese father and Chinese mother. He played his entire career in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, debuting in 1959. His first season, he only hit .161 with seven homers, but after a little wax-on, wax-off practice (OK, some actual, real samurai and zen training), he soon was hitting .300 with at least 40 homers for eight consecutive seasons. By his 14th season, he’d hit 500 taters.

Meanwhile in AMUUURRCA, Aaron was advancing on Babe Ruth’s HR record of 714, and eventually passed it in 1974 (despite death threats!) As a goodwill celebration, Aaron and Oh, who was six years younger than Aaron and had already hit 600 homers by age 34, met in a home run hitting contest in Tokyo in November 1974. Aaron won 10-9.

Which is just one of many problems many baseball purists have with Oh’s record. He only played in Japan while America had more seasoned players. His seasons were shorter—130 or 140 games as opposed to MLBs’ 160+, so he couldn’t wear down with injuries as fast. Japanese parks were smaller. And so on it goes…

Aaron retired in 1976, but Oh continued to play, passing Aaron as world leader on September 3, 1977. He retired in 1980 with 868 home runs and 2,786 hits. He led the league in home runs 15 times and was elected MVP nine times.

And well, if you doubt his records, here is one you can believe: dental records. *Ishikawa (whose father is Japanese American and his mother European-American) met his now-wife, a dental assistant, after he was hit by a pitch in the face.

For Merely the Cost of One Vuvuzela,* You Can Cure “Sporticus Toomuchicus”

WASHINGTON, DC – Hospitals across America are spilling over with men of all ages, babbling, drooling, confused. Their hands are cramped like steel around TV remotes, tortilla chips and guacamole smeared on their shirts.

My balls are bigger than yours, soccer.

My balls are bigger than yours, soccer.

Women, meanwhile, are taking up 357 magnums (of wine) against this apocalypse and locking themselves into their compounds with their girlfriends, small dogs, Wok & Roll fried rice, and the new season of “Orange Is the New Black.”

What is happening?

“We’re not sure, but for now we’re calling it Sporticus toomuchicus, or ‘Oversportssaturation,’ said Dr. Gina Brower, attending ER physician at George Washington Hospital.

“It’s going to be tough for them,” she continued, stifling what seemed to be a small giggle. “I mean, a man can only watch so many sports. He only has two eyes and one brain. Well, maybe one brain. We’re not sure about that either.”

With that she hastened away to assist a patient, screaming and covered in blood. Or possibly hot wings sauce.

It’s an occurrence unlike that we’ve ever seen on the calendars before. Conditions were already difficult last week with concurrent professional hockey playoffs, professional basketball playoffs, the French Open, and the possible Triple Crown all jockeying with each other for attention (ha ha, see what we did there? “jockeying?”).

But now, the twisted conjurings of Wednesday’s full moon and next week’s summer solstice have added even more simultaneous ingredients to their dark magic: the men’s golf U.S. Open and the men’s soccer World Cup.

"I'm not laughing at you," says Brower. "I'm laughing at you...a LOT."

“I’m not laughing AT you,” says Brower. “I’m laughing at you…a LOT.”

In other words, as the NBA and NHL finals continue, now two other major world sports events have added even further layers of pressure to a country of men already reeling from Rafa Nadal’s fifth-straight consecutive French Open title and Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes’ perfect, 300-foot laser to punch out the Angels’ Howie Kendrick at home plate—possibly the best baseball throw ever.

Members of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee seemed confused at soccer’s sudden surge. “Starting a major tournament on a Thursday? Well, that’s just crazy. No one’s going to watch that,” said one rep who asked to remain anonymous as he stealthily began filling out a bracket of some sort.

Meanwhile, athletes themselves expressed frustration. “Wait, what do you mean ‘World’ Cup?” asked a puzzled Lebron James, massaging a calf cramp and drinking a Lebron-Sprite 6 Mix as we threw up in our mouths a little watching him drink it. “But I thought Miami was the World Champions. We have to share? Damn, I’m going back to Cleveland.”

“U.S. Open?” said Tiger Woods, sipping from a coconut on a Barbados beach. “Oh you mean that tournament I won six years ago as my last major before I completely jacked up my family’s lives? Nah, my back still hurts,” adding “Yeah babe, right there,” as he urged a massage from his girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. Who looks nothing remotely like his last wife. At all.

Surely Landon Donovan, the only soccer player most American’s would recognize but was cut from the team last month, could help us understand.

“F*&% off.”

Finally, in New York, we spoke with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he practiced for Game Four against the L.A. Kings.

“Oh yes, well you see, soccer is a game of grace and strength. Being a goalie myself, I understand how the forwards and the defensemen must collaborate to…”

(Editor’s note: Being Americans, we kinda dozed off there, sorry.)

Despite our own lack of interest in the World Cup, it does seem we are in the minority. Men, and actually, quite a few women are in for some difficult days ahead as they attempt to follow multiple major contests until finally, July 4 everything ends and we can enjoy our AMURRRCAN independence holiday.

Then there’s only pro baseball for three months.

So be careful what you wish for.

Editor’s note: Most of this story is fake. There is nothing wrong with watching lots of sports. We women really do like sports. And wine. And some Americans even like soccer. *And those godforsaken vuvuzelas have been outlawed for the World Cup. So go USA!