There are a lot of dumb sports in the world like shin kicking, cheese rolling, and all that crap that’s in the Summer Olympics. But the one sport that lets middle-aged adults pretend they’re back in high school and/or get away from their families for a night is good old fashioned slow-pitch softball. You’d think that a sport run by successful, hard working adult males in every community would be a hoot and a half. But no. Why? Because middle-aged adult males are just as stubborn as teenage males. If not worse.
And having just completed my first season in adult recreational softball, there are a few things that have made me scratch my head.
4. You Play Better When You’ve Been Drinking (or High)
When I was in high school I made the mistake of taking 2 Aleve before a game. My back hurt and that’s the story I’m sticking to. But instead of the Aleve being a performance enhancer, I was legs were shaky and my arms were weak for the entire game. Now, I feel like taking a couple of Aleve before a game would make me feel like I was 15 again. The same goes for alcohol. Drinking before a game in high school (aside from being moronically reckless) would have destroyed me. Now? I’ve seen guys down beers before the game to play better like we’re in a bowling league. The weird thing is – it works.
I came to this realization when I noticed a marked improvement in my team’s performance after dunking anywhere from 2-4 beers before a game. In my experience, alcohol makes you sleepy. Maybe it works differently for people who’s livers have been hardened to this sort of thing for decades. But when you have the rules that softball has, I suppose you can even walk onto the field gacked out on heroin and you’d be fine.
3. The Rules Are Designed for Defense, But They Don’t Work
Ever wonder why most softball games average a score of about 20-19 in the span of 7 innings with a 1-hour time limit? Me too, especially when you consider all of the rules are seemingly designed to give every advantage to the defense. First, every at bat starts with a count of 1-1, meaning your at bat is already practically half over before it began.
You’re allowed to play with 4 outfielders for a total of 10 players versus the customary 9. You can only score a maximum of 10 runs in an inning, which is actually a welcome relief if you’re playing against a team that always seems to find a way to hit the ball in the one place you’re not occupying. You’re also limited to the amount of home runs you can hit each game. Our limit was 4. I thought we’d do that in the first inning. But 300-foot fences are still surprisingly distant even with the special ironman bats…
2. The Right Bat Can Make You a Super Hero
When I first started purchasing my equipment for softball, I figured I’d buy my own bat instead of being that guy who always uses everyone else’s (I was told that wasn’t cool). So I found an aluminum bat for $40. I had gone through high school with aluminum bats and I was a .600 hitter, so I had no reason to believe I’d struggle, especially considering I was stronger, in better general shape than I was in high school, and hitting a larger, slower ball.
Then I went to the first practice and was shocked to find that I could barely get the ball halfway into the outfield, even after swinging hard. Then I picked up a composite bat and with half a swing pinged a ball off the fence. I’ve watched 50 year old men take swings that wouldn’t even dent a toddler’s head somehow hit a ball over the fence. For whatever reason, serious technology has been invented to make hitting a softball more about science than skill. And if you’re willing to fork over $300 to be the Terminator of softball, then you can go right ahead.
And so with all of that you’d think everyone could be happy and have a good time and not have to worry about umpires. But you do because…
1. You Don’t Even Need Common Sense to Be an Umpire
I understand that umpires in these sorts of leagues don’t get paid well. But I understand that umpires in these leagues do it because they genuinely enjoy being out there. Apparently, however, you can be completely ignorant and still get the job (relatively) done.
Here’s the scenario – It was the final inning. We were down 9 with 2 runners on. As the pitcher lobbed me the ball, the opposing manager thought it was the best time to toss an unused ball across my line of sight to our dugout. Instinctively I swung and hit the ball to 2nd base as the other ball drifted in front of me, but I didn’t run because common sense would indicate that’s a clear violation and a dead ball. Not to this umpire, who I’ll call Butthead because that’s what he is.
“Are you just going to let them do that?” I asked
“I cain’t control wut the other team does,” he responded as if I had just threatened to stomp on his puppy.
The problem with his response was the fact that his entire job description is to control what the teams do. Without him, no one would ever be a good sportsman and say they were out if they actually got out. No one would take strike 3. But according to Butthead’s logic, he’s just there to pretend to run the game. It’s all a big illusion. Softballception.
Butthead then said I was out and acted as if this sort of thing was completely normal.
Even better was that the next time I saw Butthead, I kindly asked who we could talk to about changing the rule. Butthead, still believing he had just heard me threaten to stomp on his puppy, told me that it was all my fault and that I was a moron for swinging in the first place. So common sense and common courtesy are not a requirement to be an umpire. If I was the kind of person that sends Christmas cards, he would certainly not be getting one.