Not a game for crybabies

Kevin Cowherd

April 15, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

Anyone with common sense knows that wiffleball is our greatest backyard game, better than badminton or volleyball or any other sissy sport where the participants don't even bleed.

Wiffleball is for anyone who doesn't mind slamming into the grill and sacrificing a little knee cartilage to stab a hot grounder up the middle.

It's for anyone willing to shrug off a full-speed collision with the swing set and subsequent lifelong fainting spells in order to track a fly ball.

Look, if you're one of these crybabies who freaks out over every little compound fracture, maybe this game isn't for you.

But if you're not afraid of an occasional six-inch gash across the forehead from a low-lying tree limb -- and let's face it, that's why they have reconstructive surgery -- maybe you have what it takes to play this game.

The beauty of wiffleball is that the whole family can enjoy it -- or it can lead to bickering and bruised feelings, as is more likely the case.

Certainly, both these elements were present at our first family wiffleball game of the new season.

The day dawned sunny and warm -- perfect for a harrowing ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance should someone snap an ankle sliding into home plate.

In the interest of saving time, I quickly chose up sides: me and my 9-year-old son against my wife, our 6-year-old daughter and 11-month-old son.

Right away, my wife started complaining that the sides "weren't fair."

"Look," I said, "we gave you the baby, didn't we? What is he, 27 inches tall? Which means he's got something like a six-inch strike zone.

"Now how do you pitch to someone that short? Believe me, he'll draw a lot of walks for you guys."

But my wife, who has always been over-protective of the children, insisted the baby was too young to play.

In fact, she made him sit and drink his bottle and watch from his little stroller. He didn't look too happy about it, either. Not that I blame him.

In any event, the whole issue of the baby's eligibility caused the game to begin under a cloud of controversy.

Things did not improve greatly in the first inning when my daughter came up to bat.

"Remember, she's only only 6 years old!" my wife said.

"She's got a bat in her hands, doesn't she?" I snarled.

I mean, what was I supposed to do here? Was I supposed to let a 6-year-old take me deep over the fence? How would it look when word got around the neighborhood that little kids were rocking me for extra base hits?

Quickly, I fed her two fastballs that were a blur -- WHAM! WHAM! -- as they crossed the plate.

Then I threw her a big, sweeping curveball that broke from somewhere out by the lawn chair.

She waved at it feebly for strike three and headed dejectedly to the sidelines.

"Now she's all upset!" said my wife.

Look, my thinking on the whole issue is this: She's young, she'll get over it.

Years from now, I don't see her reclining on an analyst's couch and sobbing that her life's all screwed up because daddy once struck her out on a wicked 0-2 hook.

At least I hope that's not the case. That would be taking the game a little too seriously, it seems to me.

Anyway, my wife was up next. But even as she took a few practice swings, there was another chorus of complaints that I was "throwing the ball too fast."

"Suit yourself," I said. "But believe me, you don't want any part of my curve today. You saw what happened to the kid."

Nevertheless, I dutifully fed her three killer breaking balls. She managed to get the bat on the last one, topping a weak dribbler in front of the plate. But we gunned her down at first base. Even the baby applauded.

(Speaking of the baby, why he wasn't in their lineup I'll never know. He seemed like exactly the type of savvy lead-off hitter they needed. And that strike zone of his would have given us fits.

Anyway, to make a long story short, we never did finish the game. The other team walked off the field in the second inning, trailing 33-2.

You talk about crybabies. Then they had the nerve to accuse us of "rubbing it in."

The good news, however, is that there were no ambulances screeching up to the curb disgorging anxious paramedics.

Oh, sure, I managed to rake an arm against the metal roof of the tool shed chasing down a double.

And, yes, the cuts got all red and swollen and infected.

But you know what?

It's a good kind of red and swollen and infected.

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