Sunday, May 06, 2007

Actually, If They DO Win It's A Shame

A few years ago my friend and colleague G was fired from his position as baseball coach for our school. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but here's the basics: G was starting a promising freshman at a position theretofor occupied by a mediocre senior. The senior's well-connected parents and their well-connected friends pitched a fit, and the principal told G to start the senior instead of the freshman. Being both a man of principle and a stubborn Italian, G refused. Being, above all, a man of politics -- and a stubborn Italian to boot -- the principal fired him.*

G is an avid baseball fan who loves coaching perhaps even more than he loves teaching, so I probably don't need to tell you that he took this hard. (Although not hard enough to cave. When the principal asked him for a letter of resignation G scoffed, "I didn't resign; you fired me.") Anyone who knows G can see how much he's missed coaching baseball, which is why we were all so excited for him when a rival school hired him to coach their bad news bears this season.

G's Bears played our Silver Spoons on Friday, after getting trounced by the Spoons earlier in the season. Now, I'm no
Roger Angell, but I know a good baseball story when it bites me in the ass. So for the love of the game -- but even more for the love of G -- I lifted a long-standing ban on attending high school sporting events and ventured out to Silver Spoons Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The score was 1-0 Bears when I arrived at the bottom of the 1st. I crossed my fingers and sent up a prayer to the gods of baseball and justice as I joined the lone fan in the Bears bleachers. "Who are you here for?" this baseball mom asked me, scrutinizing me as if trying to determine which of the teenaged team members I might belong to. "I'm here for G," I explained.

Over the course of the next inning, the Bears bleachers filled with one part Bears fans and two parts fellow Spoons there strictly for G. And the Bears kept winning. Spoons heckled the cheering defectors sitting on the Bears side, shouting things like, "Mr. [Principal] says none a y'all are graduating" and "first one back on the Spoons side gets a diploma," which elicited laughter from both Spoons and Bears fan, but didn't even register with G's fans.

Oh, and the Bears kept winning. At least until the 5th inning, when the Spoons scored two runs on Bears errors and turned the game into a nail biter.

The score was 3-2 Bears at the bottom of the 7th (and last) inning. The Bears pitcher struck out the first batter. (I think. I was busy biting my nails, so I might be a little off. The first batter definitely did not get on base though.) The second batter hit a short fly to the pitcher, for two outs with no men on. Which brings us to the third batter for the Spoons, who, PS, is a kid I teach. There were some strikes and a ball and maybe a few fouls (I SAID I wasn't Roger Angell), and then, with a 1-2 count, my kid hit a line drive to third base.

The Bears third baseman bobbled the ball for what seemed like an eternity and then, when he finally got his hands on it, overthrew first base. By approximately 8012 miles. "That's it, it's over" I thought sadly as I bit my nails and watched the batter round first base. But then I heard G shouting, "Make the tag!" and I blinked back tears just in time to see a Bear (the first baseman, I think) make baseball's most beautiful tag. A tag that, if you've been keeping track, ended the game. 3-2 Bears.

G's Bears went crazy. G's fans went crazy. G himself went a bit crazy. "I love you, G!" a Bear yelled genuinely, jumping into his arms and remaining there until just before additional Bears doused G with the contents of the water cooler. I don't know that I've ever seen a happier G.

The best part, though? Two dejected-looking Silver Spoons broke with their team to shake G's hand and congratulate him on a game well played. Oh, and the second-best part is that the Bears are going to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Because, as a poster in the stands noted, my buddy G rocks.

*from coaching, not from teaching


Chris said...

Hey! I went to Super-Anonymous High School too!

Great post, as usual.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Ah, sweet, sweet revenge!

I was once pressured to change a student's grade. When I was a grad student, I taught undergrad acting 101 at Pitt. It was a popular class with jocks, because the grade was based almost solely on participation. At midterm, I gave a mostly absent football player a C, and I got called in by my department head, who was getting shit from the football coach. At a school like Pitt, this was a VERY big deal. I said "On the first day of class, I told every student that you only had to do one thing to make an A, and that's show up. If he can't do that, then I can't help him." To his credit, my department head did back me up.

Phil said...

So when are you gonna start coaching.

Big Orange said...

Killer moniker there, the "Spoons". Almost a deadly-sounding as the Saints or the Dolphins or the Browns or the Buckeyes or that college team who's mascot is a turtle...

Meanwhile, maybe I'm focused on the wrong thing but I'm curious re: this ban on attending high school sporting events.

Grant Miller said...

Roger Angell - never heard of him until now and I love elegantly written essays on baseball. I will have to find his stuff.

Frank Sirmarco said...

Somewhere, Jerry Bruckheimer is salivating like Pavlov's dog.

I'm thinkin' Ray Ramono as G, Bob Hoskins as the mean principal, and Steve Buscemi as the cannibalistic serial killer who helps them find the terrorists.

It's a Jerry Bruckheimer film; you had to expect him to take a bit of artistic license...

lulu said...

I can't believe that you would sit on the enemy's side during something as important as a high school athletic event. I hope your principal took time out of his busy schedule to scold you.

Dale said...

Excellent post and G is so happy he peed his pants! Warming in many ways.

Neesh said...

Not sure how long after these things are posted that you still read comments...Ahem.

You are an incredible writer, an inspired teacher, and imperviously loyal. Boy, am I one lucky bitch!

Can you shoot me a copy of "Under A Magnolia Tree"? Please include all copyright and usage fees as I intend to hang a copy in my home. You have quite the eye, albeit somewhat lacking in iron.