We brainstormed team names for hours, crowded around a table on the deck of Finn’s Pub, sipping light beer and trying to think of something nasty.
We were going for irony, with an undercurrent of fierce intimidation. That’s what we would inject into Flagler’s recreational coed softball scene — our footprint. That would be our gift to it.
What if we call ourselves Team Nunya? we joked. So when people ask “What’s nunya?” we can fire back, “NUNYA BUSINESS!” And then we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh … Talk about egg on their faces!
We had one goal: inspire fear into the hearts of our competitors. It was going to be easy.
A group of mostly employed under-thirtysomethings, we decided on Business Casual. The kicker was, we’d wear black tuxedo T-shirts, to really drive the point home.
Over the deck and across the street, the ocean answered back in static roars, applause from Mother Nature’s stadium of salt and waves.
We were going to be kings out there.
Somehow, I manage
Four errors in, and the inning’s still going. You can’t miss us out there, Three Stooge-ing under the shine of harsh fluorescent moons, Bad News Bears-ing with our skinned elbows and bloody knees.
Two games left, and our record is 0-10. No wins. Ten losses. We’ve scored 46 runs and allowed 160.
We sounded a lot meaner on paper.
It’s fun being the underdog, I think, back in the dugout, grinding my spikes into sunflower seed shells on the concrete. I white-knuckle fence wire and review my batting order, again, wondering whether if I just switch Matt Clay with Johnny A. — no, Mally with K-Loh — I’d find the magic combination, and we’ll be unstoppable.
I make fake signs to no one from my place on the bench, scaring the other team into thinking that we actually have a plan. I tap my nose and shoulder, pull my earlobes, dust off my vest and pocket square.
When it’s obvious I have their attention, I take out my cell phone and make a call to the nonexistent bullpen.
All I need is a mustache and an extra 40 pounds, I think, and I’ll have everyone at the fairgrounds calling me “Skip.”
A few games ago, Moey and I collided. We were both charging an infield fly — as you do — when his face met the side of my head, we collapsed and his nose started leaking red. Last game, Kait was playing catch and took a hard one off her glove. Now, she’s on the disabled list with a purple stain where her left eye used to be.
I adjust the dip stuffed inside my lower lip, spit and secure my batting gloves. I stare the opposing pitcher square in the eye and point my bat over the left field wall. Then I promptly pop out to short.
You’d never guess it by looking at me, but this isn’t my first winless season in Flagler coed. No, no. The Cavalieres, we have a long history of not competing in noncompetitive sports — which could be why we adopted the “Can’t win ’em all” family credo.
Really, it’s on our crest, right next to a bowl of Sunday pasta and an engraving of a stick figure overreacting to a New York Mets loss.
A few years back, after the core team split, my cousin Craig got a group together, and we couldn’t buy a win. I pitched that year, pulling out my patented smile-and-headshake move every time new feet crossed the plate, extending the other team’s lead that much more.
Headshake, smile, shrug — the move’s a classic. It’s got so much more cachet than crying.
Still, at the end of the game, and the season, and the year, winning’s not the point — I know that. It’s about being there, with family and friends, rejecting the idea that you have to grow up once you’re officially a “grown-up.”
It’s about talking trash and never, ever, backing it up.
My softball career has been a constant and horrible Rodney Dangerfield routine, and I’m OK with that. This year, Business Casual, we get no respect. Zero. None. And that’s fine, if not a just a tad confusing, considering we’re all wearing bowties.