Monday, September 15, 2014

"We are the (B-side) champions, my friends!"

Some of my earliest - and fondest - memories are of playing baseball.

I must have been really young - like 3 or so - when my Dad first taught me how to swing a bat. He bought me this big red plastic bat and a plastic ball, and while Mom stayed home with my napping baby sister, he took me out to the park to practice my swing. Over and over again, from only a few feet away, he would lob that plastic ball at me until I finally figured out how to make contact. The most memorable batting practice was the day I cracked the ball right between his legs. He fell like a tonne of bricks, in obvious pain but delighted nonetheless that he had sired a little slugger.

From that day forward, he stood a little further back when he pitched the ball to me...

I've been playing baseball ever since. Dad enrolled me in fastpitch when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. Throughout junior high, I dabbled as a windmill pitcher before moving over to first base. (I've always been better at catching a ball than throwing one accurately). I played in a league right up until the day I graduated from high school. During most of my university years, I was too busy drinking at the campus bar and playing euchre to play ball. But I missed it. So when the opportunity came up to join a softball league the summer after I graduated, I jumped at it. It was a super small Thursday night league, with only 5 or 6 teams. But it was better than nothing. And it felt great to get back out there, even though I was rather overweight and out of shape at the time...

The next summer, I was a little leaner and I had quit smoking. And I was asked to join the Parliament Hill Softball League. I agreed to join the team as long as I could play first base. The captain told me I had to earn the position. Which meant I had to be able to catch the bullet-fast throws from the short stop. So he "let me" play first base my first time out.

That was 16 years ago. 16 years and a couple of iterations of the team later, I am still playing first base in the Parliament Hill Softball League. Every Friday night. (Well, unless the Ottawa Redblacks are playing at home. I am a season ticket holder, after all...)

This year's iteration of the team is the Forbes Beauty Co. Nailers, so named because we are sponsored by the best boutique spa in all of Ottawa, Forbes Beauty Co in the ever-trendy Hintonburg 'hood. (Check her out on Twitter @FBCspa). She's the best sponsor ever because she gave us hot pink shirts. Our boys look particularly smashing in hot pink! (#realmenwearpink)

She is also a good luck charm. Because this past weekend, we played in our softball tournament. And we won! Woooooooohoooooooo!!!!

Okay, so we won the B-side of the league tournament. The "Best of the Worst", as we like to call ourselves. But still. We had to win 4 games, in a row, to get there. And we never win 4 games in a row. So who cares if it is the B-side! We won! And there was a trophy! And we drank beer our of it!

#realmenwearpink! Before we went on our winning streak!

"We are the (B-side) champions, my friends!" Taking home the (B-side) trophy!

I am super proud of us for pulling this off.

I am proud because we played through a freezing cold downpour on Saturday, making the field a soupy, quick-sandy mess.

Look at that infield. Yuck!

A girl gets dirty playing first base on a day like this. My leg after diving (or maybe tripping) while making a play.

These cleats weigh 5lbs more than they did on Friday, and I am sure they will never be clean again...

I am proud because despite the shitty conditions, we had fun!

Me, my second baseman and my shortstop. Just a little dirty...

I am proud because we frankly don't have such a great record, yet we found a way to pull off the wins anyway, and when it mattered, we all played our best damn softball!

I love Friday night softball. And I love my teammates. I am hard pressed to think of a better or more fun-loving group to spend my summer Friday nights with!

So what the hell am I going to do with my Friday nights now that the season is over? Probably mope around a little until I figure out something else to keep me busy.

And start planning for next year. Because we have a title to defend!

Or maybe, just maybe, we'll win the A-side....

Here's to you, Forbes Beauty Co. Nailers! #bestoftheworst #realmenwearpink #bestdamnpeopletospendmyFridaynightswith

See you back on the diamond in May!

Victory tastes good!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For shame...

When I was a teenage girl, my bedroom was wallpapered with posters of all the stars that I loved most. The list is more than a little embarrassing. I mean, it includes the New Kids on the Block and Kirk Cameron... You know, the regular crew that appeared in all of those teeny-bopper magazines back in the 80s. But it also includes professional athletes. Like World Series winning David Justice of the Atlanta Braves and the forward-who-once-had-the-hardest-slapshot-in-the-NHL, Stéphane Richer of the Montreal Canadians. Okay, also a little embarrassing... But my point is that I didn't just idolize sitcom stars and singers. I idolized professional athletes. 

I admit it... I idolized guys like Richer and Justice partly because I thought they were cute (oh so embarrassing). But I also just really loved sports. I loved what these guys could do. I loved how talented they were. I loved how they led their teams. When they won, I won. When they lost, I lost. My life became wrapped up in their on-the-field/on-the-ice performances. As did the lives of most of my peers who idolized their own respective professional heroes. We'd gather around at recess to trade baseball and hockey cards and talk about our heroes. Because that is what they were to us young, impressionable kids. These athletes were our heroes.

Which is why I am disappointed in the NFL. No, disappointed isn't a strong enough word. Sickened, is a better one. Sickened with a healthy dose of enraged.

By now, everybody knows the story about Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. On Feb 15, he was caught on surveillance tape dragging his fiancée out of an elevator. He admits that he hit her, and in an interview with the League and the team, at which Rice was present, she tells everyone that she provoked him and that he's actually a good guy. One month later, they get married. Following a hearing, the NFL gives Rice a 2-game suspension. Then yesterday, TMZ released full video surveillance of the entire elevator episode, so the world can now see first hand 8 vile seconds during which Rice punched his fiancé in the face - twice - causing her to fall backwards so that her head hit the handrail, knocking her out cold. He then dragged her body out of an elevator.

The NFL claims that it hadn't seen the video before making its decision on a 2-game suspension. Now that they have, they have suspended him indefinitely, and he has been released by the Baltimore Ravens.

Neither the NFL nor the team should have had to see the video before making these decisions.

And here's why. Because millions of little boys grow up watching these guys on the field, and end up wanting to be these guys both on AND off the field. And when they see their idols smacking a woman around with no repercussions, it sends them the wrong message. How does that stop the devastating cycle of violence against women? It doesn't. And the league and the franchise should have known that, even before they saw the severity of the assault.

But here's what really bothers me about it. Millions of little girls also grow up watching these guys on the field. They idolize these men. Some of them dream of ending up with a guy like that.

And some of them do.

What are we teaching our girls if one of the biggest mass producers of media for public consumption, the NFL, is condoning domestic violence through its abhorrent protection of players who hit women?

We're teaching them that it is okay to be hit. Especially if the guy doing the hitting is semi-famous and adored by throngs of fans. Especially if the guy doing the hitting has a SuperBowl ring or two. And especially if the guy doing the hitting is just so important that his team couldn't possibly live without him for more than 2 games.

The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens want us all to think that they did the right thing today by taking action against Rice and unveiling a new "policy" on domestic violence. Don't let them fool you. All they have done is sent a message that violence against women is okay. Or at least it's okay until you get caught on video.