My daughter's softball season is coming to a close. They have two games left to play before the playoffs and have a comfortable 9-3 record. They are already the lead team in their league and don't have to play in the first round of playoff games because of it. Based on whom they're playing in these last two games, I'm going to guess they're going to end the season at 10-4. Not bad, all things considered. They should also win their league championship without any problem, unless there's an upset like last year. Of course, last year, she was on the underdog team that caused the upset and displaced the champs to win the championship. We're not hoping for an upset this year.
I've come to the conclusion, though, that sports are just weird. At least, they make people do weird things and say weirder things. During the course of the season, my wife and I have been taking note of the odd things that people say, especially during the games and especially by the coaches. Some of them have invoked the "what the heck?" reaction from us, and a couple of them we had to seek clarification for.
So, for your edification and enjoyment, here are some of the best things we've heard repeated all year:
1. "That's ice cream." -- Generally, this means that a pitch is too high. It's called ice cream because everyone wants ice cream. Of course, it's used to mean that you don't really want it, which doesn't make any sense to me. Seriously, why call the stuff you don't want "ice cream"? It seems much more reasonable to call the stuff you really do want ice cream and to call the stuff that's too high something else. The idea, though, is that you think you want it so you swing at it, but everyone does want ice cream. No one just thinks she wants ice cream, so it seems like a bad choice of terminology to me. Maybe they should call it "wax fruit;" that's the kind of thing a kid might pick up, thinking she wants it, just to find out that it's not what she thought it was (and I've actually known several people that have done that).
2. "It's all you." -- This is something that's usually said to the batter but, sometimes, to the pitcher as well. I don't really understand this statement of the obvious. Of course, it's all "you." Who else would it be? Except, when it's said to the batter, it's not exactly true, because the batter has to get a pitch she can hit before "it's all you." At any rate, who else is going to hit the ball besides the batter and who else is going to pitch the ball if not the pitcher?
[Let me pause for a moment and make a clarification.]
The coaches stress, and I mean stress, how the girls should swing at pitches that are not strikes. If the girls can get walked to base, that's what they want to see happen. And I don't mean the coaches for our team; I mean all the coaches. You can hear it every game--coaches chastising their girls for swinging at "balls." At least, that's the case before there are two strikes. Once they've hit two strikes, everything changes, so the girls get these conflicting messages, both of which gets them yelled at. Of course, the real problem is that "balls" are the norm with most of the pitchers and "strikes" are more of an accident. To put it mildly, it can make it difficult for the girls to know what to do.
[Okay, let's go on.]
3. "Good eye!" -- This is something that's yelled any time a girl doesn't swing at a "ball." Of course, most of the "balls" are two feet over their heads or rolling on the ground toward them. Or they're dodging out of the way. It doesn't take a good eye to know those things are balls. The ones that are actually close? Well, most of the time, the pitcher has already thrown two that aren't anywhere near the strike zone, so the girl has forgotten she should be trying to hit the ball anyway.
4. "Now you've seen it." -- This is when an actual strike is pitched. This is to remind the girl of what a strike is like and to not let another of those go past. On the one hand, I understand saying this, but, on the other, if there have just been three "balls" pitched and, suddenly, there's a strike, it's not likely that "having seen it" is going to inspire the batter to know if she should swing at the next pitch or not.
5. "The next one is yours." -- This is often said after a girl gets a strike, whether it's a pitched strike that she didn't swing at or a pitch that she swung at whether it was a ball or a strike. The thing here is that there are so many wild pitches that saying this makes no sense at all. It supposes that it's up to the batter. The next one isn't anyone's if the pitcher can't get the ball over the plate, and, since this is the case at least 75% of the time, it makes saying this rather ridiculous.
6. "Swing at anything close." -- This one is, in many ways, the worst. Because they spend so much time stressing to the girls about not swinging at "balls," it's more than a mixed message when they start yelling this once they have two strikes. And that does happen. Actually, the main pitcher for our team is quite good, and she actually strikes girls out on a fairly regular basis, hence our 9-3 record. So you start out with the girls getting reprimanded for swinging at "balls," but, once they have two strikes against them, the coaches, the parents, everyone are all yelling, "Swing at anything close." The message being that's it's better to strike out by trying to hit the ball than to have a "strike" called when you didn't make any attempt. Which is a fine message as long as you aren't yelling at the girls for making the attempt at other points when they're at bat. What I stress repeatedly with my daughter is, "If you think you can hit it, swing at it." That allows the girls to develop their own judgement about what they can hit and what they can't hit, because, really, it doesn't matter if the pitch is a "ball" if you can hit it. Every time I hear someone yell this, especially a coach, I can't help but think, "Make up your mind."
7. "Way to battle." -- I kind of hate this one. If a girl has two strikes, and she hits a foul ball, someone will inevitably yell, "Way to battle!" You know, way to keep the "at bat" going. Of course, this foul often is the result of the previous "swing at anything close," so, sometimes, it's a "ball" they're swinging at. Which, you know, is fine if the girl is swinging because she thinks she can hit the ball, but, then, why wasn't she swinging at the other pitches that were just like that one? Because she was told not to. So the girl isn't battling anything other than the desire to not be held accountable for getting struck out because of conflicting messages from the coach. But, really, in the end, why is it always a "battle"? The girls just want to have fun; it's the coaches that are all uptight about winning. [I know this because the girls very rarely have any idea about who won until after the game is over when someone tells them.]
8. "This is a cheetah situation." -- OH MY GOSH! Remember back when I was talking about umpires and I mentioned that whole thing about the batter being able to run on a third strike if the catcher dropped or missed the ball? Well, one of the teams would yell this "cheetah" thing any time there were two strikes. For either team. Which meant it got yelled a lot, since they're team actually has the best pitcher in the league. Two of our losses came from the two times we played this team. Both times, I just wanted the coaches on that team to get beaned in the head with a fly ball just to get them to stop yelling "cheetah!" "This is a cheetah situation!" "Come on, now; it's a cheetah!" It was so annoying! No other team acted like that, and the coaches for this team would just yell it over and over and over and over and over and over... See what I mean?
I'm sure there were more things that were said that just don't make much sense when you place them in reality, but these were the most repeated. The ones I could remember until I got home and could make a note of them. Yes, I've been planning this post all season, but we're close enough to the end, now, that I feel I can share. The thing is, though, we have these kinds of inane things we say about everything, especially the idea of "the next one is yours." We tell people that kind of thing all the time: "You'll get 'em next time." Or whatever. And, yes, it supposed to be encouraging, but, often, we say those things about stuff the person has no control over, so it's rather meaningless, and, I think, it's meant more to lift us up than the other person, because, really, when you're in that kind of situation, how many of you buy that "you'll get 'em next time" kind of thing? Yeah, that's what I thought. Or we tell people that things can only get better or there's always a silver lining or put your positive energy out there or whatever you specific brand is of that particular superstition.
Really, I suppose, I don't want to be spouting empty aphorisms, which is why I tell my daughter to try to hit anything she thinks she can hit. That gives her the power in the situation rather than just saying, "The next one's yours." So it may be that I don't seem to be as encouraging to other people as I could, but I'd rather offer something real, something substantial, rather than a glass of air. So...
"Now, you've seen it."
"The next one is all you."
"It's a cheetah situation!"