Fielding Complaints

by Dave Bittle. 0 Comments

As a recovering side-line shouter I admit to being at a fragile point in my recovery—I’m prone to sudden verbal outbursts when watching my kids play sports. Not entirely different from a Tourette's sufferer, I too struggle to overcome autonomic proclivities to yelp, bellow and bark unsolicited, unwanted and unhelpful tics from the side-lines of athletic games for which my daughters play a part.  For this reason I was asked, nay forced, to take part in a painstaking three-step program for well-intentioned but annoying side-line parent boosters. And though unpleasant for all, it was thought to be necessary according to my straight-talking daughters, who, unbeknownst to me, had decided that my vociferous side-line hullabaloo and rabble rousing had reached critical excess.  Step 1: The intervention—tuff love I think they call it. Cornering me as I shuffled from kitchen to family room, still heavy-eyed, cup of coffee in one hand, bear-claw in the other, I was defenseless. “We have a problem” they say. “The way you cheer during our games embarrasses us.”  “Wait what?” I say. “Please move, I just want to sit down and read my paper.” Blocking access to both, I had little choice but to stand there while they persisted, going on about how my shouting had made them uneasy. “You yell too much during our games.” They said. And on...my thunderous cheers of support were, in fact, not supportive at all, but rather, embarrassing. Huh?  And on...my pleas from the margins of the fields, parks and courts to discontinue twirling lacrosse sticks, braiding teammate’s hair, and holding playmate’s hands, though well-intentioned, often made them cringe. My motto then and now: Run fast, go-long, and score often, but save the twirling, braiding, and hand-holding for after the game. And on…they just wanted to hide behind the nearest bleacher, goal net, or opposing team member each and every time they heard me holler my special kind of encouragement.  And on, and on, and on…taking great care to provide many examples of their dad’s overzealous nature.  “Man, you two must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.” I say. Step 2: The counter attack—admit nothing, deny everything and make counter accusations. With no time to prepare, I was beginning to feel shut in, a little stressed even. Still, wanting to be taken seriously, I thought is wise to remove the mass of bear-claw frosted sugar from my cheek. With both hands full, I used my only free wiping part, my under-forearm.  Regrettably, while doing so, I unwittingly smeared still more of the wonderfully tasty, industrial strength, bear-claw frosting all up in my hair. No time to clean it now. ”Yeah…well…mom cheers too!” I say.  “We’ve already talked to mom.” they counter. They’ve prepared—it’s obvious. The little bits of bear-claw icing now falling like confetti from my frosted dome gets them to giggling…I must look silly.   Sensing a shift away from the conversation, a shift away from me and my “problem,” they gathered themselves, refocused. Stopped giggling. “Seriously dad. You embarrass us when you yell our names like you do.” It was clear a more aggressive defense was needed. I reminded them that, comparatively speaking, my side-line shows of support had been mild. To my mind, several events amongst many stand out as good examples. Like the dad who (I’m not making this up) chased his tired and crying nine-year-old daughter around the cross-country course, with bull-horn in hand, blasting “Katy, if you don’t run I’ll embarrass you!” Now that guy was embarrassing—though he was too foolish to know it. Yes, that guy was a real piece of work.  Or the dad who bellowed—much to his daughter’s dismay—“Don’t tarnish my family name.” during her lacrosse game. Though in his case he may have been kidding…not sure…I hope.   And who could forget the dad who, no-so-affectionately, and repeatedly, kept calling his son “Forrest,” as in Forrest Gump, every time the poor boy got near the ball—this unfortunate kid will no doubt spend an eternity trying to please an unpleaseable father. Now he was embarrassing. And an idiot.  But me? I’m not embarrassing, I don’t make fun of them, I just encourage, “GO GIRLS, GO” I shout, using my coffee cup and bear-claw as mock pom-poms. Unimpressed, they just glare. Note to self, comparing yourself to the most egregious offenders in the room, so as to make your behavior seem less repugnant, is not an effective rebuttal strategy. Apparently their baseline for acceptable parental conduct is a considerably less animated, more laid back, still and calm individual.  Step 3: The capitulation—never easy. Dismissed out of hand were all explanations intended to illustrate my simple desire to show them my support and encouragement—knowledge of these truths was of little comfort to either of them. Threatening to ban me from all future sporting events, they both made me promise I’d put a sock in it. “No more ‘Cheering’” they said, using their quoting fingers for added effect. Like I said, not fun.  In the end the girls no doubt want me to continue to pay the registration fees for all their various lacrosse, basketball, soccer and cross-country activities. And naturally they’re asking that I continue to pony-up for all necessary equipment and clothing expenses. Here too, they’d surly like me to continue to Sherpa all essential lawn chairs, coolers, water bottles and team snacks from the car to the game and back again. But rest assured, they don’t want any more enthusiastic spectating, especially using their real names. In other words, show-up, but shut-up!   

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