Some people don’t understand a cute girl’s obsession with sports. They say, “Wow.” Or, “That’s really cool.” Please. I was cool when you were still playing with Transformers in the backyard, dude. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about him. It’s about how when chaos, disappointment, and heartache make itself the dominant force in my life, I can push everything else to the side and in an afternoon — find Him. I’ve yet to decide if Him
is the only earthly father I’ve ever known, or the one that has always loved me from the place ballplayers go when they die. I’ve yet to decide; I’ve yet to care. I simply know that when all else fails, find a game — and, inevitably, you will find hope. Whether it’s the bat swing that finally makes contact or the sound of a carry bouncing off the glass and vibrating every thing that’s not already shaking from my foot stomping and screaming,”I will kick your mother AND your sister’s ass, if you intercept that ball, you little bastard,” somehow, if only for a second, I’m back in that little white house where nothing can hurt me.
(Except, might I add, for my great Aunt Polly’s walking stick upside the head had my language not been a great deal cleaner… My brother always maintained, tis the 8th wonder of the world — how Aunt Polly couldn’t see, but found your head with her cane EVERY time!)
Curse word concussions aside, it’s what I find with every swear word that cleanses deep inside. Every play produces passion. Every down discovers hope. Hidden inside of a girl, a grown woman, who thought life would be different and he’d (read: Him) be here to protect me. For the flags thrown, the failed snaps, the Music City Miracles and the “That’s WHAT I’m talking ABOUTs!,” I remember.
I remember summers spent at Greer Stadium, our noses pressed to the concession stand counter. My cousins and I ordered our ice cream in a hat, and we’d catch a glimpse of that shiny red plastic and shout, “IT’S Cardinals, it’s Cardinals, IT! IS! CARDINALS!!”
And then they’d serve us our already melting ice cream in a shiny, red Cincinnati hat.
Somehow, despite the disappointment and defeat, that chocolate and vanilla swirl never tasted so sweet. See, I knew what the whiney, “BUT I wanted a BRAVES…. hat!!!,” little sissy of a brat squealing at at the window next to me, did not: Barbie would turn that ballcap into an arm chair, and there was always next time. Whether it’s a pre-season match up or the last inning of the World Series — to an athlete, there is always next time. You got to want it to win it. And you better want it bad.
Every play brought out passion. Every down discovered hope. Every flag thrown, every foul called, every botched season, or blown lead, all held the potential to be the sixteen seconds left on the clock before God came down and decided to play. Every snap held the possibility of a Miracle. A Music City Miracle.
And in the years that my “father” has been gone, in the moments when my hope begins to fade, when time is bigger than I could ever be, and someday just seems so very far away — the sounds of the scorebord grab hold, and much like a well trained receiver, refuse to let go. A football great once said: “Gentlemen, it is better to have died as a small boy than to have fumbled this football.”
And if you don’t know who that was, go back to your Transformers and I won’t tell you.
I wrote this piece in 2011 for job Clay Travis never gave me. And every time I read the words of “girl” OKTC posts, I know he’s as sad about that as I was.