I was in the middle of getting the air out of the house water pipes, when one of my kids wanted me to play catch with him in the alley.
Getting the air hammer or "bang" out of the pipes turned out to be pretty easy. I shut the main water feed off, then opened one cold water faucet on the third floor, the highest point in our house. Next I turned on another faucet in the basement sink, the lowest point in our plumbing system. This drained all the water out of the pipes. Finally I closed both faucets, and turned the main water feed back on. It worked. Now when someone turns off a faucet, it doesn't sound like machine gun fire.
Playing catch with my kid, however, wasn't so simple. That is because I am a lacrosse-dumb dad.
I grew up in the Midwest. When somebody asked you to play catch on a fine spring Saturday, you grabbed a baseball glove. In Baltimore, I still grab a ball glove, but often I am wrong. The other day, for instance, my youngest son wanted to play catch with the lacrosse ball. He grabbed his stick and skipped out the alley. I followed him and held my breath.
I can catch a baseball -- sometimes with my eyes closed. But catching a lacrosse ball with a lacrosse stick is an adventure. When I play "catch" with my kids, I spend as much time chasing the lacrosse ball as snaring it.
One of the parts of this dad business I enjoy is passing along bits of sporting wisdom to my kids. In basketball, I tell them to shoot the ball off the backboard. In baseball, I tell them to get the baseball glove close to the ground and let the ball roll in. But when my kids have a question about lacrosse, I direct them to strangers.
Last summer when the older kid wanted to disown me for being a lacrosse know-nothing, I found two young lacrosse players in the neighborhood to act as surrogate fathers. These young men taught my kid how to "cradle" and "dodge." I am still not sure what these terms mean. But when my 11-year-old son uses them,I now nod knowingly.
One of these dads-for-a-day told my kid his lacrosse stick was illegal; it was too long. My son came home and ordered me to saw 4 inches off the stick, making it 36 inches long. I immediately picked up a saw and shortened the stick. He was delighted.
But that was last year. This spring he told me his stick was illegal -- this time because it was too short. Besides, it had a "bad pocket." These shortcomings, my son told me, had to be rectified immediately.
One of the nuances of lacrosse that I have picked up is that players seem to have a personal connection with the proprietor of the store that sells them equipment. Baltimore folks talk about going to Bacharach Rasin, or Lax World, or Krauter's, to "get a new stick," the way Londoners talk about getting a suit on Savile Row.
So, to solve my kid's stick problem, I knew I should go to a store where I knew somebody. One night this week I went streaking around the Beltway, with both kids and both sticks in the back seat trying to get to Lax World.
Having met owner Joe Gold at a beer tasting, I knew him as a connoisseur of the world's finer suds. But I learned later that to lacrosse fans, Gold was known as the feisty midfielder on a championship UMBC team, a forward for the Pittsburgh Bulls professional team, and brother of Mark Gold who was a star lacrosse player at UMBC.
My kids and I arrived at the store. Introductions were made. Measurements were taken. Preferences for "heads" and "pockets" were discussed. Then there was sawing and gnashing. All I did was sign a check. The kids emerged from the process delighted and anxious to test their new equipment.
I learned good lacrosse players were not necessarily born with a stick in their hands. Some of the stars have dads who don't play the game. Gold didn't have a lacrosse stick in his hand until he went to Brooklyn Park High School. His younger brother, Mark, picked up the game when he was forced to play catch with his brother.
John Tucker is coach of the Gilman School team. He played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins as well as for the Philadelphia Wings professional team and didn't take up the sport until he was 15 years old. He learned lacrosse by playing in the bottom rung of a league at Archbishop Curley High School.
And Melvin R. Manson, who supervises recreational lacrosse leagues in Towson, said he grew up in Highlandtown, playing soccer. He learned about lacrosse in a police boys league, at the age of 13.
I thought about these success stories the other day as I chased the lacrosse ball down the alley. The stories give me hope that someday my kids will master the fine points of this mysterious game, even though they have a lacrosse-dumb dad.