Monday, June 15, 2015

Rules are made to be broken

I recently had what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. I’ll eventually get to that, but let me blather on about some other stuff first.

Back when I was a kid, I played a lot of sports. Summer was for baseball, fall was for football, winter was for basketball and spring meant track season. And for every sport I played, I honestly believe that my parents personally observed 99.9 percent of all the events I participated in. And I’m not talking about just elementary and high school sports. They came to nearly all of the slow pitch softball games that I played when I was in my 20s and 30s. In other words, they have seen me compete a lot.

And in all that time, there has been one explicit, no-exceptions, standing rule — if I get hurt on the field of play, they are, by all means possible, to stay in their seats. They are never to come out on the field until a member of the coaching staff informs them their presence is needed and/or an ambulance makes an appearance.

That doctrine has always worked well. Over the years, they have witnessed countless twisted ankles and knees, a couple of minor concussions and even a broken ankle my junior year in high school. I give them credit — in all those years, not once do I remember them ever coming out onto the field of play.

When my wife and I attended our son’s very first T-ball game, I informed her of the “no-parents-on-the-field-until-they’re-invited” rule. She tensed up, looked at me the only way a nervous mother can and in a shaky voice told me she couldn’t make any promises.

Since that night, I have never been able to fully enjoy any of my son’s sporting events. Every time I attend a game, half of me enjoys watching the competition while the other half is waiting to tackle my spouse the second she springs from her seat to rush the field when junior stubs his toe or gets a hangnail.

After saying that, I need to admit that in all those years and a whole bunch of games, I have never once seen her go out on the field of play. I’ve looked at her after he’s been hit by line drives on the pitcher’s mound and I’ve seen her want to get up, but I’m proud to say that she never has. She has always nervously sat there and bit her lip and crossing her fingers that everything will be alright.

Here comes the out-of-body experience part of the story. The other night, we were at my 9-year-old daughter’s softball game. I should probably explain that at this stage, the girls are still learning the finer points of playing the game. You won’t probably witness the most awe-inspiring form of athletic competition, but they are pretty equal in abilities and they seem to have a good time.

It’s fun to watch the girls, too. My daughter pitched a little that night and once she settled down and found the strike zone, she did pretty good. There aren’t too many hard hit line drives like my son used to experience, so as parents, we can sit there and enjoy the experience.

She was the lead-off batter in the bottom of the first. She got on base with a walk. I can’t really remember if there was a hit or a wild pitch or what, but I can remember her rounding second and heading for third where there was going to be a close play.

About two or three steps from the base, her foot landed a little strangely. She made it just before the ball, but for some weird reason, she wasn’t able to stop on the base. Instead, she doubled over, grabbed her knee and fell flat on her back. By past experience, I could immediately tell that she had twisted her knee. It makes me a little nauseous just thinking about it. Things got a little fuzzy after this.

After all of those years of preaching to people that parents should not be allowed on the field of play until they are called upon, I broke my own rule. I’m not even sure how it happened. One second I’m in my crimson red lawn chair behind the fence along the first base line watching my little girl fall in writhing heap, and the next second I found myself purposefully striding down the third base line to check things out — uninvited. I’m not sure how I got there.

When I arrived, the umpires were helping her to her feet and the crowd was applauding, glad to see that she could stand up. The base umpire and I helped her to the dugout, and I spent the next several minutes tracking down ice packs and making sure she was semi-comfortable. Once we got the tears stopped, she informed me that she would be OK and that I could go back to my seat.

As I returned to that lawn chair, I didn’t even want to make eye contact with my wife. When I finally did, she calmly asked how our daughter was and I told her that the knee twisted pretty bad but hopefully the ice would keep the swelling down. She was glad to hear that.

She then proceeded to laugh at me and ask about the lifelong rule I had just broken. I told her to cut me some slack. That was my little girl crumpled in pain out there.

My wife — she can be so cold-blooded and insensitive at times.

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