“THEY ONLY BEAT US BECAUSE THEY’RE LOUSY CHEATERS!”
Those were the words being shouted by a giant of a man. His face was red with anger as he stomped away, furious about the 1-run loss. My wife told him to be quiet, and his response was to lay into her with F-bombs and other choice words. As I came back from the dugout and was told about what happened by other people, I had to question what would cause someone to even react that way?
Were there questionable calls? Yes, every sporting event has them. Was it a close game? As close as it can get! Were the stakes high? It was the playoffs! Many people would understand being angry with a 1-run playoff loss where you could point to several close calls on the basepaths. There’s just one problem with this Sasquatch storming off in disgust like he’d just lost the World Series….
He didn’t even play. He wasn’t even the coach. He was a spectator. Are fans allowed to get that angry? Certainly! But the magnitude of the game certainly didn’t warrant that kind of outrage It wasn’t Game 7 of the World Series he was watching. Not even the college World Series. In fact, it was about as far away from the big leagues as you can get. The team that this man had accused of cheating just before cussing out one of their fans was the Garden City Giants of the GCYAA Mustang Division. A team comprised of 9 and 10 year-old boys.
Let me repeat, just for emphasis. After a team of 9 and 10 year-olds beat another team of 9 and 10 year-olds, a man accused them of cheating, then cussed out a parent, in front of several of the players. Talk about classy!
My son is close to finishing his 4th year of little league. As I write this, they are headed to the semi-finals, taking on the UNDEFEATED Tigers in a rematch of the 2012 World Series AND a rematch of the closest game these Tigers had all year, an 8-7 extra inning loss. I’ve been lucky enough to attend EVERY game he’s played over the years, and there are few things dads love more than seeing their kids make the big play.
But I’m obviously not alone in this: Parents all over our small city swarm to Moeller Fields every Monday and Wednesday to root on their kids, cheer for their success and encourage them in defeat. And it’s certainly not unique to my small town. Little league baseball is as American as apple pie, with over TWO MILLION kids playing ball each summer. And with two million kids come millions of parents, grandparents, big brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. The attendance at a typical little league game is often a nice little melting pot of different types of people.
So, for those of you who are inexperienced when it comes to little league attendance but may one day have a child on a team or be invited by a friend or relative, I don’t want you to go in unprepared. You’re NOT just going to see a (poorly played) baseball game. You’re going to experience all kinds of people. And here is a nice little guide to just what kind of people you’re inevitably going to see behind the fences and on the bleachers on any given summer day.
The People You’ll Meet at a Little League Baseball Game:
THE FORMER ATHLETE – Most prevalent in men, this one can occasionally be a woman, but it’s rare. They are relatively easy to spot: They’re almost always wearing tank tops to show off their muscles that they may no longer have as well as soccer or basketball shorts. Their shirts(which normally have sleeves cut off) are often adorned with the high school that they went to, because hey, why grow up? The dead giveaway though is the Oakley shades, which of course is proof that you are an athlete, because that’s what athletes wear. The former athlete isn’t really that bad except they can put too much pressure on the kid, but their kids usually know the game. You actually find this character most often IN the dugout, as the coach. Positives of the former athlete are obvious knowledge of the sport and kids who share the knowledge. Negatives are that they aren’t much for conversation that does not involve local sports, drinking beer or reliving past glories.
THE FORMER ATHLETE WHO’S REALLY LET HIMSELF GO – See everything I just said about the former athlete, only they look like Chris Farley.
THE NEVER WAS AN ATHLETE – Please note: There is nothing wrong with not being athletic. Personally, I fall somewhere between the former athlete and the never was. I played sports growing up, but I certainly wasn’t the star player. Not being an athlete is nothing to be ashamed of…but the “Never was an athlete” type certainly is ashamed, as they try to come off as the former athlete and fail miserably. At first glance, they LOOK like the former athlete. In fact, they often go overboard, wearing the most expensive clothes you can find. Their children will also have the most expensive gear there is: A brand new bat bag, brand new bat, brand new glove, cleats, batting gloves, eye black, belt and I’m guessing if you checked, a diamond encrusted jock strap. So how do you tell the former athlete from the never was? It’s pretty simple. Listen to their advice. The former athlete will offer up legitimate help to their children: “Get your arm up! Use your hips! Follow through on the swing!” The never was doesn’t really have any insight to offer, but it certainly doesn’t stop them from shouting. Their most popular phrases are: “HIT THE BALL!” and “CATCH IT!” And if their child doesn’t, they shout it louder, with more emphasis. Two EXTRAORDINARY pieces of advice, by the way. Fun Fact: We have several of these in the stands at our games.
THE ENTHUSIASTIC NON-FAN – Confession: This one is totally my wife. In fact, it’s almost always moms. They love their kids and they want them to win and get a home run and throw a perfect game and everything else they hear their husbands talking about that they’ve never really paid attention to. The enthusiastic non-fan is actually quite fun to be around. They get excited over literally EVERY play, even though they have no clue what’s going on. An example: In a close game this season, my son was at the plate with two outs and a runner on 2nd and 3rd. He hit a routine grounder and was tossed out at first. My wife was OVERJOYED, proudly stating, “WE SCORED A RUN!” I then tried to explain to her the rules of a force out, without much luck. Eventually she accepted that we had not scored a run, but countered with “At least Isaac got a hit!” …I didn’t have the energy to explain the difference between a base hit and hitting the ball.
THE LOUDMOUTH – Possibly the worst type of fan there is. The only reason they aren’t the ABSOLUTE worst is, in my experiences, the loudmouth seems to be hit or miss in attendance. Probably because their kids ask them not to go to games to save them some embarrassment. But when they do show up, you and everyone within 75 yards of the field are WELL AWARE of it, ESPECIALLY the poor, poor umpire. Not afraid to shout at maximum volume, the loudmouth RARELY shouts words of encouragement or things anyone wants to hear, but in fact the exact opposite. They are the most unaware of all the fans, thinking they are both wise and hilarious and not coming close to being either of these things. Their biggest flaw is that they choose to insult other players rather than build up their own. Because hey, what 10 year-old DOESN’T deserve to be shouted at by a stranger with, “HE’S AFRAID OF THE BALL, HE CAN’T HIT!!!” after a strike is called on them? The loudmouth sucks pretty bad.