I’ve never been super athletic.  Even before I put on a small-child’s worth of weight, I was never much of an athlete.  In little-league basketball, I was rarely (if ever) passed the ball and in baseball, I was put out in right field and battled last in the order so I could do the minimal amount of damage.  But at the end of a game, I still got a Capri Sun and a Kudos bar and at the end of the season, I got a cheap plastic trophy that was bought in bulk.  That’s the thrill of victory for an 11-year-old.

But I started doing sports again this year not because I wanted Capri Suns and Kudos bars (although they are delicious), but simply to hang out with people, get a little bit of exercise, and have fun on a Sunday afternoon.  My friend invited me to join his kickball team, I paid $65 to GoKickball, I got a hideous lime green t-shirt that I’ll only wear again when I don’t mind wearing something that will be ruined, and we were underway.

I had played kickball a couple years ago but our team wasn’t any good.  I don’t think we won a single game.  However, we still had fun, but winning is always more fun.  Well, a win that you earn is more fun.  For me, anyway.  Not for the captain of “Ballistic Ball Blasters”.

My team, the Steamerducks, had a great season.  I took pride in my minor accomplishments (I caught a fly ball!  I got on base!  I made a sacrifice RBI!), but our team had players that were masters of bunting, fielding, and kicking the bejeezus out of the ball.  Going into yesterday’s semi-final match, we had only lost once (to the undefeated champions, The Dirty South Crunkball All-Stars–more on them in a second) and a tie against the Ball Blasters.  The semifinals would function as a tie-breaker to see who would face the All-Stars in the championship match.

Because it’s a co-ed league, GoKickball requires that each team have at least four female players on a team.  Due to a miscommunication among our team, we only had three.  While the rules state that the opposing captain can demand a forfeiture, he can also accept a concession and let the game go as planned.  Since we only had three women, we offered the Ball Blasters’ captain the concession of only giving us two outs per inning instead of three.  He said no.  He wanted the forfeiture, but we could still play for “fun”.

And this was part of a pattern I’d seen from a couple other teams all year: taking this shit way too seriously.  It’s not that my team and I didn’t care.  We had a batting order and assigned field positions and one of the players even brought her own iPod boombox so we could have some hype music.  But it was all in good fun.  We played hard on the field and then went about our day.  Other teams…not so much.

The All-Stars were undefeated and it was clear they had picked over the rules to do so.  GoKickball makes the mistake of saying that the catcher can stand equal with home plate and then interfere with the kick to make the ball go foul, and since you can foul out, it basically breaks the game.  Why the catcher doesn’t have to stand behind the batter is beyond me, but the All-Stars found this loophole, put a gigantic guy as close to home plate as possible and then obscured the batter’s vision as the pitcher, who clearly had practiced throwing a wicked curve ball, rocketed the giant red rubber orb at the hapless batter.  They, along with another team, filmed the game and I can only pray they were doing it for the memories and not to study tape and improve their game.

Keep in mind: there are no scouts at these games.  No one is going pro in kickball.

But back to the Captain of the Ball Blasters.  He wouldn’t accept our offer.  More infuriating, he said he would have accepted it during the regular season, but “this is the tournament”, he explained.  If this guy had a hard-on for the rules all season, I could at least respect his decision.  I think it would be ditching the spirit of the rules for the letter, but at least it would be a consistent approach.  But no, he wanted the forfeit because this was the tournament and he wanted to give his team a guaranteed path to the championship round.  Not one they earned by beating an evenly matched team (our records were both 6-1-1) that was providing a pretty huge concession, but because he wanted his team to have a shot at a cheap plastic trophy and possibly some house cash at a local restaurant.  I would have been happy to win those prizes as well, but personally, I would want a championship that I earned with my team.

I’m not against people having a competitive attitude.  I’m obnoxiously competitive.  I can’t play movie trivia with anyone any more because I’m a sore winner and I can’t play first-person shooters with people because I’m a sore loser.  But this wasn’t competition.  This was a guy who wanted an unearned victory rather than trust that his team could make it to the championship based on their own merits.

After much discussion among our team, we decided that since some folks had driven pretty far to come to the game, we would simply play “for fun.”

And then we beat them 5-2.

So the captain of the Ballistic Ball Blasters was right: he did need the forfeiture to make it to the championship and making sure he knew that was incredibly fun.

Monday, May 9th, 2011 personal

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