Baseball ruined my childhood…

14 Oct

There are two types of people in the world—athletes, and non-athletes. The first group is broken into two categories—the natural athletes, and those with athletic abilities that need to work at it if they ever want to be great.

The natural athletes are the ones who score 35 points in the championship game, catch the winning touchdown, or crank a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, then give all of the credit for their performance to God. Being amazing at their particular sport has always come so naturally to them, that they believe their abilities were simply given to them by a higher power.

The second group that has natural abilities, but need to work at it, can also fall into two categories—those that work hard and become amazing athletes, and those that don’t. The ones that work hard may also win a huge game, but they always credit their performance to hard work and thank their coaches for helping them to become a better player. I belong to the latter of this group, which resulted in years of playing a handful of downs in football, and a childhood of picking daisies in the outfield.

Baseball was by far my least favorite sport growing up. I was forced to play by my parents and I loathed practicing in the 90-degree, 90 percent humidity, Michigan summers. Top that off with a dusty field, and I swore I was in hell. I know that baseball is America’s great past time, but I’ll never understand why.

For me, baseball is just too slow, the polyester uniforms too uncomfortable, and the rules too devastating. That’s right, I said devastating. When I was in middle school, the rules of baseball ruined my life. I’m of course speaking of the five-run-limit placed on all innings, but the ninth, of little league baseball.

The five run limit was placed to prevent one team, usually stacked with the future varsity pitcher, quarterback and point guard, from crushing the teams composed of kids like me. Every time a team scored five runs, the inning was over; regardless of how many outs the team did or did not have stacked against them.

The only part of baseball I was ever good at was shit talking batters from behind a catcher’s mask. I was so good at this particular part of the game that I made the fat kid in the movie the Sand Lot look like a charming Boy Scout. But when it came time for me to step up to the plate, I rarely did—I couldn’t hit worth a shit.

Batting was stressful for me. I feared getting hit by the ball just a bit less than I did striking out. Whenever I got the sign from the third-base coach to watch the first pitch, and not swing, I thanked the same God the naturally gifted players thanked, then cursed him for not making me one of the naturally gifted players. Later in the dug out, after I struck out from watching the next several pitches sail perfectly over the plate, I would swear the umpire was blind, and those pitches were not strikes, but in fact balls. Then I would pledge to my teammates that the first pitch was the only one worth swinging at.

The sign for “swing away” sent panic attacks pulsing through my body. Football was simple; call a play, run a play. You knew exactly what to expect. Well, most kids on the team knew what to expect; I never paid attention in practice and would routinely get in the way of the running back I was supposed to be blocking for. But baseball wasn’t so simple, I had to stand at the plate, by myself, and determine whether a pitch was worth swinging at, or not. Did I mention I’m absolutely horrible at making decisions?

I would stand at the plate and watch two perfect pitches sail by me, straight into the catcher’s mitt. Then, as the pitcher wound up for the next pitch, I’d psych myself up to swing, convince myself I had to, and then, I would, regardless of the fact that the third pitch was usually above my head or below my ankles—a decoy for suckers like me.

But on one occasion, I had an unbelievable swing that connected with a pitch and resulted in an incredible hit. Every kid dreams of hitting a home run, or better yet, a grand slam. I was no exception. During this one at bat, I stood at the plate with bases loaded, dug my cleats in, and swung at the first pitch. You’re never supposed to swing at the first pitch, but I did, and I connected, sending the ball over the heads of the outfielders.

I rounded first base as I heard the crowd cheer with the score of the first runner. Glancing into the outfield, I saw the opposing team still running down the ball. I rounded second and heard the crowd roar once again, the outfielders still hadn’t reached the ball. I had nearly reached third base when I thought to myself, “I’m going to hit a grand slam!” But as I touched third, I heard the umpire call out, “That’s five runs, the inning is over.”

The play stopped dead. The catcher, who had been eagerly awaiting the ball in the hopes of a play at the plate, bent over and picked up his mask and headed for the dug out. My all-out sprint slowed to a run, and then a trot, then a defeated walk towards the dugout.

By the time I reached the dugout, kicking dirt with every step, my teammates had already taken the field for the start of the next inning. There were no high-fives, no, “Dude, you hit a grand slam!” I had been denied my moment of glory, robbed of my childhood dream.

In the end I was credited with a stand-up triple and three RBIs. I never hit another grand slam, never cranked a homerun, never even hit another triple… In the end, there were just more swings and misses.

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Confession: I play the lotto for the daydreams

26 May

On my evening commute home from work I pass a sign for the Oregon lottery. The billboard has a large screen where the amount of the jackpot is shown in big red numbers.  Not every night, but most nights the sign catches my eye and instantly carries me away to a make believe world where I have crazy amounts of money. I know what Biggie said, and yes, I heard it a thousand more times with the Puffy Daddy remixes, but I simply don’t buy that mo money equals mo problems (maybe I don’t have enough money to buy it?). In fact, I would be more than willing to be a guinea pig for any laboratory in the world that would like to give me Bill Gates-style money, and then study the affects of said money on my life.

The main problem with my little lotto dream world is that in order to win the lottery, you have to play the lottery. I suggested to a co-worker that we start throwing in a few bucks here and there to buy lotto tickets each week. He loved the idea and instantly his mind swept him away to a world where he had just won the lotto.

“Oh man, if I won like $60 million, that would be about $30 million after taxes. I would pay off my house, probably buy a better car, put some of the money away for my daughter’s college fund, I’d probably have to still work…” This is where I cut him off.

“Wait a second… In your lottery fantasy you still have a job? You need to work with your 4-year-old daughter on your imagination and make-believe skills!”

In my fantasy, my wife and I never work another day in my lives. We buy a small island and travel the entire world to go snowboarding and surfing. We have houses in Tahoe, Hawaii, Portland and all over the world. We have courtside season tickets to the Blazers, and enough money left over to save the world.

But to me, playing the lottery and expecting to win is like moving to Hollywood and expecting to become a star. It could happen, but it’s most likely just a pipe dream. But isn’t that dream worth indulging every once and awhile?

I traditionally only play the lotto when it has grown to some ridiculously large dollar amount. The type of number that even has my parents‑ who claim the lotto is a waste of money‑ asking, “Did you buy a lotto ticket.” The last time I bought a lotto ticket, I think the jackpot was over $300 million. When it gets that big, it gets everyone’s attention; which is why it is so stupid to buy a ticket then. I’d have much better odds playing the “small” jackpots. But the small jackpots don’t indulge my fantasies the way the big ones do.

Although the entire world had probably bought tickets, it didn’t stop me and my roommates from playing. I didn’t win, obviously, but the money I spent on tickets was well worth the daydreams they provided of me being filthy rich. A group of steel workers in Pittsburg won and I heard on NPR that a few of them actually showed up to work the next day. They tried to paint the winners as good guys who didn’t want their other coworkers to fall behind because they were short staffed, but I’m sure the only reason they showed up at work the next day was to constantly remind everyone, “I’m rich, BITCHES!”

The first time I played the lotto was the weekend after I graduated from college. I pulled into a gas station to buy beer and saw a sign for a $72 million jackpot. I thought it was a sign, I knew I was going to win. So I bought some tickets and spent the weekend planning my trip around the world on my new sailboat, which I was going to buy with my winnings. At the end of the weekend, it was announced that some other person won my voyage.

It is such a long shot, and the people who win usually die young and or go broke, but there’s still an allure to me. Who knows, maybe it’s the millions of dollars. But it’s not the money and the possessions that really indulge my fantasies, it’s the thought that I could make my own reality, do whatever I wanted to do for a living, not simply log hours behind a desk to pay the bills and mortgage. But my wife claims that she would still work even if we won the lotto. She said she would get bored without a job. I told her that’s fine, and I would support her decision. I also promised to call her every night, because I would rather be bored sitting on a beach in Fuji, than keeping myself busy behind a desk.

Confession: Impersonating Michael Jackson could get you arrested…

21 Apr

Sitting behind a computer all day for work, I see a lot of crazy headlines and news stories; but this one may take the cake… From the Detroit News, “Michael Jackson impersonator charged with molestation.”

Now, I’m not sure if anyone properly explained to this man, the art of impersonating a famous person. The goal is to emulate the things the person is best known for, not the things the person was sent to jail for (or should have gone to jail for). For example a good Michael Jackson impersonator should: wear one white rhinestone covered glove; they should do the moonwalk; they should yell, “A-hee-hee” and grab their crotch before attempting to balance all of their weight on the tips of their toes; they should wear a candy-apple-red leather jacket with metal studs on it, a pork-pie hat, aviator shades and penny loafers. They should not molest kids.

The real Michael Jackson was never found guilty of molesting kids, but there is one major difference between the real Michael Jackson and all of his impersonators…. he was the voice behind Thriller. Yes, that’s right; if Michael Jackson had not done the Thriller album, his ass would’ve been thrown in jail. No one gets off, no pun intended, with charges of molesting children multiple times; but MJ did. The reason? P.Y.T. Billie Jean. Beat it. That Girl is Mine. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. Thriller is the best selling record of all time; I bet it is impossible to find one person in the world, who has heard the album, who does not love at least one of the songs on that album. It must have been impossible to find an impartial jury…
“Juror No. 4, have you ever heard of Michael Jackson?”
“Uh, you mean the King of Pop! Hell yes, I love MJ.”

So to prevent any further confusion for impersonators, I thought I would provide a small list of things they should not do.

R. Kelly impersonators…

Do wear weird masks and sing Bump N’ Grind. Do not have sex with underage woman and videotape yourself peeing on them. You will go to jail.

George W. Bush impersonators…

Do mispronounce words and pretend to be generally confused about life. Do not attack a foreign country in search of WMDs. You will go to jail.

Britney Spears impersonators…

Do dress like a slutty schoolgirl and sing Oops I did it Again. Do not marry a backup dancer, use your child as an air bag and then go crazy. You will probably go to jail?

Lindsay Lohan impersonators…

Basically everything you could to impersonate her will likely land you in jail, find another career path.

OJ Simpson impersonators…
Do try to look as much like the man as possible, maybe carry around a Heisman Trophy or wear a Raider’s jersey. Do not murder two people, get away with said murders and then rob a sports memorabilia guy. You will most likely go to jail for the murders, but if you don’t, they’ll nail you on kidnapping and robbery. You will go to jail.

Remember, if you’re going to go into this line of work, only impersonate the things that made them famous. You know, the things that allow them to get away with the crimes you or I would surely go to jail for.

Confession: I bought a Barbie doll…

17 Mar

“Look Dan, I got a Barbie!” my niece Lucy called out, placing the doll in my hands for me to inspect. The first thing I noticed about her Barbie was that her hands had been quite badly chewed. The teeth marks had flattened and stretched the plastic to the point where it no longer looked like Barbie even had hands, instead it looked like her forearms were simply attached to two large, battered, skillets. I later found out it was my wife who had done the chewing, presumably when she was Lucy’s age, at least I hope.

“Mom doesn’t like her Barbie,” said her older brother Sam. “Mom says she looks hungry.”

“If your mom doesn’t like the Barbie, who got it for her?” “She brought it home from grandma and grandpa’s house, it was mom’s Barbie when she was little,” Sam told me.

“I’m hopefully going to get another one for my birthday,” Lucy hinted with a mixture of excitement for what was to come and pride for the doll she currently had clung to her chest.

It was Lucy’s fourth birthday; which I’ve come to realize is one of the biggest birthdays in a kid’s life, simply for the fact that when they turned three-years-old, they really don’t remember turning two. But at four, they clearly remember their third birthday and all of the presents, cake and attention that come along with it. They are pumped out of their little adolescent minds to turn four.

So this being the biggest birthday of her entire childhood, we wanted to get her something good, and the only thing good in Lucy’s mind was a tall bleach-blonde doll sporting double d’s and a smile.

Talking with Lucy’s parents about birthday presents, the topic of Barbie quickly came up again.

“I really don’t like her playing with Babies,” her mom said. “Not only does she look hungry, but her waist is tiny and her boobs are huge.”

I understand why she didn’t want Lucy to get a Barbie, after all, most of the doll’s we found had Barbie wearing clothes that made her look like she was a shoe-in for either the cover of the next Girl’s Gone Wild DVD, or a place on the cast of the next VH-1 celebrity dating show where she would spend the majority of her time in front of the camera trying to convince the audience that she was not only old enough to know who this celebrity was, but also that she was madly in love with him before she found out about the auditions on Craiglist that morning.

“He’s my soul mate,” she would say over and over into the camera. If she made it just far enough along in the dating selection, or caused enough drama to shame her entire family, she might even get her own spin off show.

There obviously isn’t some predetermined equation that proves any little girl who plays with Barbie Dolls will develop body issues and spend most of their adult lives trying to look exactly like Pamela Anderson. My sister Tricia played with Barbie dolls when we were growing up. She now goes by the name Trash, drums in a crusty-punk band and dates a woman with hairy armpits; so you just never know.

But I remember a similar discussion about women’s body image when a college friend of mine found out his girlfriend was pregnant and was having a baby girl.

“I’m not going to let her get all Britney Spears and think that’s the way women are supposed to look,” he said.

Mind you, this was before Britney got married to one of her background dancers, got pregnant, and then drove her car around with her baby in the air-bag position. This was long before she went on a yearlong bender, became bffs with Paris Hilton, got tattoos when she could barely stand, shaved her head at 4 a.m. and then ran off and got married to a member of the papa razzi. No, this was the “Oops I did it again” Britney, the most wholesome version of the woman we would ever come to know, and he was still worried.

In the following year, even Britney fell victim to trying to live up to the Britney Spears’ image, and, from what I gathered from the trashy magazines that line the check out lane of every grocery store in Amercia, it nearly drove the poor girl insane. I wonder in Britney ever played with Barbie dolls as a kid?

When it finally came down to buying Lucy a birthday present, we decided we could either buy her something she would be disappointed with, or get her a Barbie; we decided on the doll.

While looking for the right Barbie it was important to find one that Lucy would really like, so that meant the doll had to be a princess, preferably sporting pink. Luckily my wife found just the doll, a Barbie that was apparently involved in a story line with the Three Musketeers. According to the packaging, this particular Barbie was featured in an animated story, which was available on DVD for additional purchase.

While at the store, my wife called and informed me there was a sale. With the purchase of a Barbie, you could either get a free Ken doll from the same story line, or additional dresses for the doll. I voted for the Ken doll because the last time I saw Lucy playing with her dolls, Belle and Sleeping Beauty seemed perfectly content with their female dance partners, but it seemed Snow White was longing for some male companionship.

At home, while we were wrapping the presents, we noticed something about the packaging. Both Barbie and Ken had word bubbles coming up from their mouths like they were speaking, but what they were saying was completely different. Barbie’s word bubble said, “This is my first ball,” while Ken’s said, “I want to be an inventor.” At first we were amused by it, but then, like the drama a few years back where a talking Barbie said, “Math is hard,” we wondered if these stereotypes weren’t more harmful than Barbie’s body issues. Basically what they were saying was, Barbie is a party girl who is excited to go dancing; while Ken is a smart young man determined to make something of himself when he grows up. How old are Barbie and Ken supposed to be by the way?

But unlike the talking Barbie, this doll would only have one chance to get her message across, because once Lucy saw the pink-gowned princess beneath the plastic, that packing was toast. And another thing, Lucy can’t read yet.

In the end, Lucy was extremely excited to get the Barbie and Ken dolls. Her eye’s lit up for at least a half of a second, which was about the time it took for her to refocus her attention on the other unopened presents sitting next to her on the floor. The next present was a Polly Pocket beach set with all sort of different bikinis, swim fins, snorkels, flip flops and other beach gear for Polly to change into and out of. Although Polly is much smaller than Barbie, I couldn’t help but notice she was built in a similar fashion, and just like that, Barbie was pushed to the sidelines for a smaller version of herself with skimpier clothing. If Barbie is Britney Spears, then Polly is Millie Cyrus; she just doesn’t have the bad reputation- yet.

Confession: We bought a haunted house…

5 Feb

My wife and I are in the process of buying a new house and I swear, I haven’t signed and or initialed this many things since I was applying for college. I had to use the force to channel my social security number, which I had stored away long ago behind countless song lyrics and pointless movie lines. We’re really excited about the purchase, but when I say we are buying a new house, I simply mean that it is new to us. The house itself was built in 1925, but it is in a great neighborhood and we got a pretty amazing deal.

Such an amazing deal actually, that I’m starting to grow concerned about the history of the house. Not so much the structural history, we hired an inspector, and for a small fortune he prodded around the house and snapped pictures with a digital camera of all the things we needed to fix. I’m talking about the actually history of the house.

A friend joked that the only reason we got such a great deal was because someone used the place to perform satanic rituals, or that someone was murdered there. Normally this is the type of thing I’d laugh off, but my wife and I just finished watching an unhealthy amount of Dexter in an extremely short time, and now I’m super paranoid that everyone I know or anyone I pass on the street, is in fact a serial killer. I’m in the process of searching all of my friend’s homes for trophies of their kills.

This paranoia has built to the point where I’m now completely confident that I’ve purchased the home of a serial killer and or Satan worshiper. I’m also convinced that although I’m completely joking (only 99 percent serious), my wife will not be able to sleep the first night we stay at the house because of this post.

I’m a little less stressed out now that I Googled “serial killer, murder, murdered, satanic ritual” and our address, only to have nothing solid pop up in the search results. I’m sure the house is fine, we’ve toured it a number of times, even at night, and found nothing strange.

Well, we did find a pretty eerie photo of a young boy, in the basement, placed prominently on the furnace. It looked like he used to live in the house, but it was pretty strange because the house has been abandoned for a number of years, then completely gutted and redone by a company who bought and flipped the place. They even replaced the furnace. So how did the photo end up on furnace? Who put it there and what were they trying to tell us? Oh shit… it just hit me! We bought a house that is haunted by a little boy. I’ve got to go call our real estate agent.

Confession: I’m dying…

26 Jan

Recently I haven’t been feeling well, so I decided to see what an expert had to say about my symptoms. Today I was hit with some very bad news, I’m terminally ill.

According to the search results I obtained from Googling my symptoms, I could be dying from at least 10 different illnesses. I was surprised to find out from Wikipedia that all of the diseases I’m suffering from are incredibly rare, some of them have never even been diagnosed in the U.S.- just my luck.

I decided to seek out a second opinion, so I Googled Web MD and then searched my symptoms there, only to find out my first diagnosis was completely accurate; I’m dying.

I’ve always thought it would be difficult to find out you are terminally ill, but usually there is one disease you are fighting and the doctors have a plan to alleviate your suffering. In my case, it’s not that easy. Some of my diseases have never even affected a man before; others haven’t been diagnosed in decades or are routinely found in only animals. There is no cure, and since I forgot to bookmark the Wikipedia pages for each disease, I already forgot at least seven of the illnesses I’m dying from.

My only hope now is that NBC will do a mini-series on my heroic struggle, battling at least 10 different terminal illnesses (that number will probably increase by the time I’m done reading through all of my search results). I hope they get someone fantastic to play me, like Neil Patrick Harris, or get Justin Timberlake and make it into a musical.

This news is obviously upsetting, but it really makes me think about what’s important- search engine results. Before I go and draft my will— deciding who will get my most cherished possessions, like my iPhone and my Jesus bobble-head doll— I’m going to work on redefining my symptoms for Google and see if it will re-diagnose me with something non-life threatening; like a sinus headache, which is what I thought I had to begin with.

– Daniel Savickas

Confession: I wear Gap boxers with Santa on them…

15 Jan

We’ve all heard the expression, “Daddy’s little girl,” and everyone knows atleast one Dad who simply does not want to see his daughter turn into a young woman. The reason for this is simple, dads were once young men and long before that they were boys; in the middle lies the teenage years, and all dads know what they were like as teenage boys and more importantly, what they wanted from teenage girls. So dads keep their daughters on a tight leash and try to intimidate their daughter’s boyfriends, hoping and praying that their daughters will walk entirely unnoticed throughout their teenage years.

I’ve begun to realize that although mothers don’t go through the exact same experience, they do go through something similar with their sons. Now, most mothers aren’t worried about their sons falling prey to some smooth talking high school girl, but they do go through a stage in their parenting where they want to turn their sons into a “Mama’s boy.”

While mothers are less likely to try and intimidate their son’s girlfriends by showing them their gun collection or telling them, “I have a shovel and big back yard, I don’t think anyone would notice you’re missing,” I think they have a much more passive aggressive way of trying to accomplish the same thing.

I think mothers can, and will do little things to sabotage their son’s love lives in order to keep women away from their sons and keep their sons close to home. The reason for my hypothesis is simple: flannel boxers from the Gap.

The boxers aren’t even really flannel, in fact, they’re 100 percent cotton, but they feel as hot as flannel without any of the flexibility.

Now, I used to think that my mother was just a thrifty shopper for buying Christmas themed boxers in the spring and sending me a box full of them, but recently I’ve begun to question her motives.

Think about it, what woman in here right mind is going to date a grown man wearing navy blued boxers with little snowmen sporting Santa Clause hats? Continue reading