The Fall Little League season is almost upon us. For many this is a cause for anticipation and excitement, and it is for me, too. I look forward to cheering on the team, to seeing those moments when an underdog player makes a miraculous play, to watching the interplay between the boys as they stumblingly try to act like the men they will become.
There’s just one thing: My sweetheart is the coach.
What this sometimes means is that while I sit in the stands, I have to pretend that I don’t hear the conversations going on behind me. It’s like selective amnesia. For instance, any sentence that starts with “What the #&@%…” I do my best to ignore. There was one occasion when a particularly vile pair of parents was sitting only six feet behind me in lawn chairs. They were going on and on about how the coach (my sweetheart) didn’t know what the %#$@ he was doing and so-and-so shouldn’t be playing this or that position. This is par for the course, and I chalked this up to their own insecurities about their son’s talents on the diamond; he was, after all, the kid who had missed several fly balls recently because he was gazing out over the fence and talking to himself while the ball was hurtling toward him. My sweetheart had also had to reprimand him for using his bat to check and make sure the other boys were wearing cups during practice. But when the boys were coming in off the field and my sweetheart hollered, “C’mon! Hustle!” they made a comment I couldn’t ignore. While sprawled in her lawn chair, unceremoniously flashing everyone due to her Daisy Duke shorts and poor posture, the mother said, “Heh… hustle? The coach doesn’t look like he’s ever hustled a day in his life.” This was a not-too-subtle jab at my sweetheart’s weight, which I think is perfect but she apparently found portly. Based upon her husband’s physique, she favors the scrawny-and-doughy-with-an improbable-beer-belly type. At that point, I turned around and smiled at them. She stared at me slack jawed, and dropped her Marlboro 100 on the ground; the beer in a cup koozie between her legs nearly spilling as she reached for the cigarette. I returned my gaze to the field, and when her husband began to speak again she hushed him, and in a stage-whisper said, “Shhhh! It’s the coach’s old lady!”
This year, I have resolved to get myself a T-shirt that has that very phrase on the back, so that those sitting behind me can read it. I doubt this will keep the comments to a minimum, but perhaps a few of the more choice ones will be delivered in a whisper.