I can't think of any sport, other than baseball, at which the spectators don't sit along the sidelines, parallel to the play of the game. In baseball, we look at the players looking back at us. It takes a lot of concentration.
As the inning count increases, my attention span shortens. If the scoreboard isn't lit up with the runs, the inning, and the outs, I can't keep track. I'm not one of those moms who can explain to other moms about infield fly-balls or balks. For some reason, I can't even remember if baseball progresses from the bottom to the top or the top to the bottom.
Other parents fling out motivational phrases like, "protect the plate," which to me sound like permission for bad table manners. Meanwhile, I inadvertently slip up and yell something offensive to my sons, like, "Good catch Doodle Bug" or "Rip it Beau Bubby."
My boys think if they educate me I'll quit embarrassing them. They have me watching Sport Science on television.
Right after an episode about baseball, at one of my 12-year-old's middle school games, I saw an opportunity to redeem myself to the other parents. Boys walked into the warm-up circle and slipped a weighted sleeve over their bat barrels. One child clutched three bats plus the weight, barely able to lift the load, and struggled to take a practice swing. "Mm-mm," I told all the moms, with authority, "you know that's a myth." Even though I can't keep up with strikes and balls, they turned in my direction.
"What is," questioned one mother.
"It's a myth that warming up with a donut on a bat helps them swing faster and stronger at the plate," I assertively replied.
"Oh," said another mom, "I had no idea why they do that. I thought they were trying to build up their muscles."
I told them about the television show and how my children and I had learned about proper warm-up techniques. I wowed them with my knowledge of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles. I shared my expertise on batting strategy and scientific truth. Everyone nodded. Someone suggested that I find the clip on YouTube and e-mail it to the coach. "Yes, yes," they all encouraged.
Meanwhile, my son, number 5, in the dugout awaiting his turn at bat, had no idea I was holding class in the bleachers. He had no idea his mama had been charged with the mission of updating his coach on matters of baseball physiology. He had no idea how I was now embracing the game, having achieved status amongst my peers.
He self-assuredly walked to the circle next to the fence in front of the bleachers, stopping to take a practice swing on the way. He took another swing upon arriving in the circle. Then he bent down and picked up the weighted sleeve. All the moms turned toward me. My son, they now felt certain, would strike out or hit an infield blooper. Besides that, I was losing credibility by the second.
"Psst. Hey, number 5," I whispered. "Take that weight off your bat. Don't you remember? "
He glared up at me, cheeks red, turned away and swung the weighted bat harder. All the mamas cringed.
"Hey," I whispered again, "you know you shouldn't do that."
He later informed me that I had gone from being only embarrassing to being mortifying.
Do you think he's going to be upset when he finds out I e-mailed the YouTube link to his coach?
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)