There is a certain type of dickhead who is unique to mature age social sports. If you’ve played it, you know. The type of guy whose pants don’t quite fit properly, but who has all the top range gear. Who drives a flash car and who bossily and fastidiously instructs his team mates as if empowered with the word of the divine; yet ultimately has no idea what he’s doing. A man who warms up like a pro, but runs like a severely injured, but rabid dog.
E-Grade baseball in Sydney is rife with such humans. Men with seemingly little to live for but chasing the thrill of a hardly run out single to shallow right field. Men who scream at a teenage umpire over a misinterpreted strike zone as their family looks on in mortal horror. Men whose preoccupation with an opponent crowding first base results in them careening into a man twice their size, and posturing to start a fight they know will be stopped ten times before it escalates.
And then there are the men who insist that they are excellent – or, at least, once were. Yeah, I can pitch. Yeah, I can field shortstop. All evidence, in game or outside points to general physical ineptitude, but the 45 year old jerk from Abbotsford ensures you he’s got one more inning of the good stuff – what are you to do but trust him and pat him on the back and hope things work out.
And then, after a few weeks, you throw your helmet after a called strike out around the knees and an inaudible infield fly. And you start cheering at others’ misfortune from the dugout so your team can achieve an ultimately meaningless point on the ladder of an ultimately meaningless league. And one day you realise you’re 31 years old and grinding out a single to right field becomes one of the highlights of your week, you’re ordering a $200 baseball glove off the internet and pounding beers after a game with guys you’ve just shared 2 hours with becomes a singular pleasure, and you’d do anything to take home a plastic medallion at the end of the season which reminds you a little bit of who you used to be; when you didn’t wince when you got out of bed every morning and your ankles didn’t creak on the way to the bathroom.
And all of a sudden, the certain type of dickhead becomes someone else. It’s the person that doesn’t gut out the ground out to first base. It’s the guy that doesn’t show up on time, and doesn’t have the right gear, and sniggers at others’ intensity. It’s the type of guy that us dickheads despise – it’s that dickhead.
James Wright is an editor at New Albion.