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The Baseball Game With My Kids

photo-1Took my kids to a minor league baseball game to see the Las Vegas Pizzas. Not really. In real life, they’re called the Las Vegas 51s but check out the picture to the left. It’s my daughter yukking it up with a big piece of pizza. So we started calling them the Las Vegas Pizzas because we pretty much call stuff whatever we want. Freedom of speech. Linguistic outlaws. What if the sky was actually a freight train?

So anyway, like I was saying, I took the kids to see the Las Vegas Pizzas. Before the game, we were swimming and the kids didn’t want to stop because they said the game would be boring. I told them to shut up and dry off because I bought the tickets at an incredibly discounted rate. As soon as we got there – BAM – my daughter met pizza.

The visiting team was the Albuquerque Isotopes and I immediately taught my kids the virtue of showering them with disdain. In no time, they were yelling things like ALBAJERKY! and ISODOPES! My kids are probably the coolest kids in the whole world. For instance, every time 3rd baseman, Zach Lutz, came up to bat my son would yell I LIKE ZACH LUTZ AND I CANNOT LIE.

I rest my case.

However, by the bottom of the 4th inning the kids were moaning about how they were hot and how they were bored and how they hated me for leaving their mother until I went all Tom Hanks on them with the THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL bit and I even threw in a Field of Dream’s IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME for good measure. Because seriously, YOU have to build enthusiasm if you want  excitement to come. That was the esoteric message throbbing at the heart of Field of Dreams and it’s a message my kids need to learn so I told them we could leave when I said we could leave because I said so. Do they own cars? Do they pay car insurance?

I keep resting my case.

Anyway, you know the deal. Parents plan a really super fun exciting time for the kids that exists only in the heads of the parents as some kind of goofy hope that relieves them of all their parent guilt while, at the same time, redeeming their own childhoods, climax, tears, resolution. Kids have a miserable time and ache for TV. Parents hate them. Parents hate themselves for hating their own kids. Parents fantasize about the movie Leaving Las Vegas and drinking themselves to death in a hotel room at the Tropicana. The kids hit the parents up for money for ice cream before hooker Elisabeth Shue can step in and love the parents back to health via compassion, understanding, and extreme sexual situations. Parents fork over the dough in a swamp of self-pity, self-loathing, and other self-related maladies. We’ve all been there.

But then something weird happened in the top of the 7th. Matt Angle, that no good rotten Isotope from Albuquerque (PAH! – that was me spitting in disgust), smacked a homer into the right field stands to tie the game. The kids took offense to this. I was outraged. And in a sneaky way that no one saw coming, the kids and I, together, became absorbed into the beautiful drama of baseball. In a fit of 21st c. mysticism, we dissolved into one entity that was actually not an entity at all but a whole and negated balance of communal feeling: hatred for those blasted Isotopes and raging enthusiasm for our beloved Las Vegas Pizzas. We watched every pitch in riveted silence and then filled the breach with frenetic chatter about every form of what if and maybe. I never once imagined drinking myself to death.

In the bottom of the 7th, Las Vegas Pizza Eric Campbell homered over the center field fence to restore our lead. High fives. Chest bumps. My daughter yelled NEW MEXIGO HOME! Ha ha ha. Stinking Isotopes. But then, it’s the top of the 9th. Just three outs away from the win and Las Vegas Pizza right fielder Eric Campbell (Yes! That Eric Campbell) MISSES a line drive and the IsoJOKES are in position to tie, which they do as my kids chastise Campbell with taunts and invitations to wake the hell up. I noticed we were having a good time but shooed away the self-consciousness in an effort to remain in the goodness of the time.

Bottom of the 9th. Pizza Zach Lutz (YOU OTHER BROTHERS CAN’T DENY) singles. Pizza Eric Campbell (OMG ERIC CAMPBELL DON’T LOUSE IT UP) walks. Some other Pizza gets out, another Pizza walks, the bases are loaded, and my kids are officially losing their minds. No one wants to go swimming. No one wants to watch TV. I did hear the vendor screaming COLD BEER but I silently recited the serenity prayer. The fate of the world hung on the next batter, Pizza Reese Havens. COME ON, REESE HAVENS! No past. No future. The rest of the world is an abstraction created by philosophers in small white rooms. There is only Reese Havens. We inhale deep. We hold our breath every pitch until the count is full.

I’m clutching my daughter’s tank-top. She clenches her fists. My son chokes me with both hands around my neck. REESE HAVENS WALKS! REESE HAVENS WALKS! THE PIZZAS WIN IT ALL 4-3! I SAID THE PIZZAS HAVE DONE IT! IT’S 4 TO 3!

As we walk through the parking lot, our collective participation in being Las Vegas Pizza fans gives way to the splinters of our old identities. We have to drive home. We have to go to bed. We have to wonder what just happened and remember to love it.
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