Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Dandees

I’m sitting here now watching the NCAA Women’s Softball World Series, as I’ve found myself doing the past few years come early June. Just one of those things that eases into my viewing schedule, and I enjoy watching. The games are usually competitive: a shorter field, more strategy, more singles and home runs, good pitching, and the girls have a strange cult-like way of cheering from the bench that resembles the inspired lunacy you see in Japanese baseball.

(I’ll be watching the Little League World Series later in the summer, although I’m mildly annoyed that they now refuse to show kids crying when they lose … about the most honest moment in any sport.
They’ll show these kids spitting all over the field and grabbing their dicks, emulating their idiot idols in the major leagues, but they won’t show the kids crying. I often find myself rooting for the more well-mannered kids from the Far East.)

But I have to admit, the main attraction to softball is how attractive some of these women are. Those tawny, long-legged ones with great asses: good-looking tomboys. Last year, I was crazy over Cat Osterman, the legendary Texas pitcher who now plays professionally in Cheap Trick’s hometown, Rockford, Illinois. I could wax poetic over her talents, but the truth is I simply loved the way her ass gently quivered in her tight pants after releasing each pitch. And as softball games are televised just like baseball games (with the left/centerfield camera focusing from behind the pitcher’s back as she throws), that meant every pitch. Along with the unexpected eroticism of women’s olympic curling (again, it’s all in the camera angles), two of my favorite women’s sports to watch.

When I decided to write about this, a convergent thought occurred to me. When I go back home to visit Pennsylvania now, I make it a point to go out driving with my Mom as much as possible. Again, with Dad’s passing, I had the concept of time being finite driven home completely, and realized I should spend time with Mom whenever I can. I hadn’t made the connection earlier, but thinking about women’s softball, it opened a door to the memory of Mom and me driving to my sister’s softball games back in the 70’s. She was part of a pre-high school league (the equivalent of teener league), and her team was The Dandees.

If I wasn’t mowing lawns or playing baseball in the neighborhood, I’d pack up lawn chairs (and a few cans of A-Treat Cream and Root Beer sodas) with Mom and head out to watch the Dandees play. At the time, I must have been 10-12 years old, that quizzical age boys reach where they haven’t hardened into their adolescent stance – not as precocious as an eight-year-old, sort of a weird philosophical boy’s age. I think this picture was taken when I was 13, but there it is. What a total fucking dork I was – which I’m now vaguely proud of. That’s one of those 70s t-shirts, with red shoulders, and “Elton John” lettered over a severely-faded picture of his Captain Fantastic album cover. (I recall that album being my favorite for a good few years in the late 70s.) You’re not seeing my striped white tube socks pulled up to my knees and shitty Fayva sneakers. Or my John Denver wire-frame glasses.

These drives we take now remind me of both of us getting in the car on a summer’s evening and heading off to whatever field the girls were playing at. Since their league was unofficial, they had to take space wherever they could find it, which often meant cruising to remote farm fields or Little League practice fields – never the well-kept high-school fields. Thus, the need for lawn chairs, since there were no stands. It was usually just the mothers of these girls, a few fathers, and some kids like me who tagged along because there was nothing better to do.

The local high-school softball coach, Doug, ran the show, and he had that stoic, fatherly way about him all good male softball coaches (there aren’t many) have. The Dandees somehow got uniforms, light blue with orange lettering if I remember correctly, which was a miracle. There was zero money for their league – no admission and no concession stands. (Little Leagues often made a small fortune selling soda, pizza, french fries and ice cream at their games.) It was no frills. I don’t know if the situation has been remedied since then, or if these leagues still exist in the same way, or girls simply start playing softball in junior varsity without any previous leagues.

The Dandees kicked ass. They were a perennial powerhouse in the league, thanks to Doug’s tutelage, and as a result, our local high school was a softball powerhouse for years to come – still is, from what I understand. The key to kids at that age, maybe at any age, is solid, no-bullshit, fundamental coaching, and that’s all the guy did. Taught the basic skills, what to do in given situations, and the girls either bonded and played well, or didn’t.

Understand that they’d be playing on some truly shitty, remote fields, in shorts, so it was nothing for a girl to go home with a long cut up her league after sliding over a rock, or poison ivy after digging a foul ball out of a clump of bushes. Some girls went for cheerleading, or in the 70s getting stoned all the time, but you had those relatively rare girls who dug sports and wanted in on the action. With guys, there were dozens of guys in each class, like me, who played neighborhood sports of all kinds, but didn’t go out for high-school sports for various reasons. With girls, pretty much every one in a given class who was into sports was on the playing field or court.

We’d often make a big deal about “softball dykes” when we were kids, but with the Dandees, I don’t remember that being such a big deal, maybe because we’re talking girls in the 12-14 age range. Some of the girls were on the bigger side and leaning butch, but that didn’t necessarily translate itself into some bulldog image to be ridiculed. I suspect they were like that when they were eight, and are like that now, whatever their sexual preference.

The truth is, the girls seemed to have more fun, a better concept of team work and didn’t have that dickheadedness that so many guys in sports suffer from. I think the worst part of high-school/organized sports for me was the rah-rah bullshit, as opposed to the simple pleasure of just playing, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, and understanding that’s how the world works. There was rarely that sense that you had to lose your cool when you lost, or humiliate a fellow player who fucked up. (It happened sometimes, but that was just as often longstanding personal beefs that came out in a given situation like that.)

It’s interesting to note the issue of sexuality with sports, because I’d be willing to bet lesbianism is an open secret in sports like softball and women’s basketball. It’s sort of just there and accepted, not a big deal. Whereas a gay guy in men’s sports (save figure skating?) is considered a big deal, even now. I’m just not seeing the real relation between competence in sports and a person’s private sense of sexuality – beyond the stereotypes we’re fed growing up.

On Saturday, I was in the gym, hitting the weights as I’ll do a day or two a week when not boxing. As noted much earlier, I lift weights for the simple reason that as we get older, it makes perfect sense to keep our bodies in reasonable condition. Beneath the bluster and hyper-macho bullshit so many serious weightlifters attach to it, it’s just a basic form of exercise that makes sense.

As I was coming into the locker room, there were three blockheads sporting all the usual affectations that lead me to believe these guys are frightened and need to intimidate people with their looks: bad facial hair, lame tattoos (barbed wire around the biceps, dumb tribal tattoos, dragons and snakes on their shoulders, etc.), shaved heads (to cover receding hairlines), bloated, stuffy-looking bodies due to far too much weightlifting and no real physical conditioning. Guys like this over-populate every gym I’ve ever been in – which is fine. Most of them mind their own business, the same way I do.

But these guys were carrying on about “some fag” they just ran into onto the floor, mimicking a stereotypically gay accent and saying things, that implied to me, that this guy, whatever his orientation was, was actually pretty nice to them, but they thought it was a riot that this “fag” must have been “hitting on” them for approaching them and being friendly.

It was the dumbest conversation I’ve heard in awhile. If you haven’t seen the movie Idiocracy (now available on DVD), I’d recommend renting it … and then realizing that people are this dumb now, as the futuristic movie gets into the whole “you sound like a fag” rebuttal to anyone who speaks intelligently. These three guys were standing there, chuckling away, under the assumption that everyone around them was heterosexual and digging their cool verbal takedown of “this fag who hit on them.” There was also the implication of how they were carrying themselves, standing in the middle of the room in towels, trying to make eye contact with guys around them, that they saw themselves as the center of attention in the room, the truthsayers.

What do you say to guys this stupid? That a public display of something like this is just plain embarrassing, and leads me to believe each of these guys has a mental image buried deep in his sub-conscious of him sucking a great big cock? What’s the point? So I can get in a senseless tangle with three deeply insecure Queens juice heads?

I can't stand dealing with self-satisfied pricks like this, whatever the situation. And I really have no burning issue with their opinions – whatever they believe, it’s fine by me, wouldn't want to get into the hornet's nest of mixed signals their bodies and words imply. It’s just that false sense of security and the lack of recognition that they’re in a public place spouting this shit that should be done privately. Sort of like people spouting deeply racist shit publicly (and I’ve seen this go on in all directions) and not having the common decency to recognize they’re way out of line for doing so.

But it’s that lame attitude that drove home the concept to me of sexuality and male sports … and how we could learn a few things from women’s sports like softball. When I watch these softball games, this is one of the under-currents I sense, beneath whatever fleeting attraction I feel towards some of these beautiful women on the field, fully recognizing chances are good some of these girls aren’t batting on my side of the plate! Whatever. The Dandees seemed pretty cool to me back in the 70s, playing their asses off in farm fields for hardly anybody, and it’s a kick now to see something like a televised world series for softball on ESPN. I’d like to think Mom is watching back home, but knowing her TV viewing habits, she has one of those grotesque cop shows on as she works on a crossword puzzle.

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