What Shall we Play?

Friends, relatives, readers and other compatriots know I love playing games, especially with my children. It’s hard to find a game we can agree on. I tried to convince my children to try Cribbage, especially when they were younger and starting school. I thought teaching them how to add up to 121 would help them out with math and help to kill a little time here and there. They were against that. Anything that involves cards is usually boring. They might occasionally tolerate a game of Fish or War, but playing cards is mostly boring.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Kicking a soccer ball is also boring. Batting practice in the backyard? Boring. Seems like everything is boring. I never thought my children would turn down the chance to have someone pitch a whiffle ball to them, but here we are. Even video games is a struggle. I feel like I’m trying to negotiate something huge with my children. I also feel like I need Scott Boras or Gordon Gecko to hammer something out with my children.

Sometimes, we can agree on something and by “agreeing” I mean playing a game the children want to play and if I don’t agree to play the game, there will be no game. The Boy likes to play “Call of Duty” on PS4. This would be fun if I new what I was doing. We play a game where two people are out in the field and try to find and “neutralize” or “eliminate” each other. Both players start at different parts of the playing field, track each other, and… well, try to win. I’ve been playing games like these for a long time, since “Medal of Honor” came out for Playstation. PSOne. Whatever people call it today. I’m pretty good at it. Not great but I win some. I lose some. In this PS4 installment, I lose all the time. It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter what weapons I have with me. I lose. He finds me. He gets me. He “eliminates” me. He loves it. Me? Not so much but The Boy loves it. I try to get him to play other games. I try to get him to play a baseball game on a console. I figure if playing baseball is “too boring” than maybe a faster-paced video game version would be better for him. It’s not. Still boring and he just wants to play “Call of Duty”.

This was the last time I explained ANYTHING about the game to The Oppressed.

I also try to convince The Oppressed to play a game with me. Again, this involves a little negotiation on my part. Usually the only negotiation involved is what game we’re going to play. The Oppressed agrees to play with me if I agree to play a Harry Potter version of Trivial Pursuit. I love Trivial Pursuit. Do I like Harry Potter. Let’s say I don’t hate the franchise. The Oppressed, on the other hand, LOVES Harry Potter. We went to Universal Studios a few years ago. We drank butter beer. The kids got wands. The Gringotts ride was incredible. The whole time there was fun. I may have watched 30 or 60 minutes of Harry Potter out of the entire 8-film series. The Oppressed has read the books and watched the movies. She knows a few things about what happens to who and the tools and spells and enchanted items utilized. I know there’s a kid named Harry Potter. There may be an owl somewhere in a scene and I think someone who was in “Die Hard” is in the movie.

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, buy this game. You will love it. The questions cover spells, characters, production, quotes and magical charms. All things The Oppressed knows and loves. I was out to a pretty good start. I got two wedges before she got one. I liked my chances. I also remembered what it was like in 1986 when the Red Sox won the first two games against the Mets. I tempered my excitement. Those two pieces of the pie I got? Those were the only pieces I got in the entire game as The Oppressed ran the board on me and filled up her Slytherin token. She was happy and excited as she answered the questions and then explained to me where in what movie these things took place. I have no idea what she’s talking about and I’m honestly surprised I got any questions right, let alone earned a wedge. I will say my worthy opponent was very graceful and helped me out with a couple of hints when it came to the questions. Not for the wedges, those I did earn on my own but there were times when my daughter helped me out.

A look at the Hogwarts action.

So, my performance wasn’t ideal. It usually isn’t when you are looking at subject matter you know almost nothing about and your opponent is a walking encyclopedia on the subject matter. Oh well. What matters is my daughter and I got do do something together and my daughter was away from a screen for a little while. I had fun playing with her and, somewhere in Britain, I hope J.K. Rowling appreciates the additional royalties.

Reflections of Another Baseball Season

“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings…”

Seasons inevitably change. Things come and go. That’s life. That’s the way it is. The end of one thing and the beginning of another gives us the chance to reflect on what was and what may follow.

The weather continues to get warmer and the school year is winding down. Both are reasons to be happy excited if you are a young man (or young lady). Unfortunately, we recently observed an ending: The end of the baseball season.

Baseballs laying on the grass.

At the level I coached this year, the focus was more on fun and learning than scores, winners, and losers. Therefore, at the end of our 2021 season, I look at the improvements each player made. The Boys of Spring came to me in the cool, damp days of March and April. I did what I could to fix holes in their individual swings and flaws in their fielding and throwing. I kept it as simple and basic as I could. I reminded them to keep their glove down on the ground. I told them to relax at the plate and don’t swing for the fences. Improvements were made during the season and I’m glad to have played a small part during the journey.

Children and adults on the baseball field.
Another deep conversation before resuming the game.

There were also the deep, stimulating conversations we had during the game. These usually consisted of, “I’m tired.” “Can we go home?” “I need water.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” We had eight players on our squad this year. Five or six of them wanted to play first base at once. A simple bunt down the third base line would have meant a sure double. Luckily our opposition wasn’t so baseball-savvy.

One child spent the whole morning asking when we’d be done. I told him we had two more innings. He responded, “NO!” I apologized and quickly amended it to three. Apparently, this was not the answer he was looking for either. Another was excited to learn we share the same birthday month. We are now officially “Birthday Twins”.

The complaint department handled grievances regarding the lineup. I always tried to make sure the same person didn’t hit first or last every time. Occasionally, one or two of the players would try to change the lineup. By “change”, I mean write his name down and no one else’s. Other methods of altering the lineup included running to the dugout and being the first to get his helmet and bat thereby superseding the written lineup. I called Rob Manfred to make sure this was indeed a rule. I’m still waiting for confirmation.

There were displays of strength such as boys seeing if they could throw the ball over the fence instead of at the intended target. There were boys running away from the ball. This was when I reminded them they had a glove to protect them. There were two runners on a base. I reminded them it was one at a time. The boys told me about school and Pokémon. I told them about Mel Ott and George Brett. I traded stories of school with the children and bourbon and scotch tips with my assistant coaches.

It was a season of fun and learning. We taught baseball and smoothed over bruised egos. I hope the children enjoyed themselves. Thanks to my assistants D and R for their help. Thank you to C, D, J, J, L, M, R, and W for their (unending) feedback on my coaching and showing me the ways I can improve upon myself.

And I think I inadvertently hit two or three batters. Sorry about that.

Players lined up at home plate after a game.
Waving good-bye to another baseball season.