Saturday, January 09, 2016

Honing Fierce Children

Time flies when you're not blogging very much. Bam-Bam was introduced to these pages over 10 years ago as an adorable 5-year-old terrorist who, with a single two-Couric turd, made me stop laughing (temporarily) at my own farts. Today, my little Bam-Bam is 15 years old, stands a damn good three inches taller than me, and is an actual high-school ath-uh-lete.

Bam started high school last September, after an extra year in the safety of middle school, and he attends a very fine program at a school that, while as generically fabulous as any other school in my local locality, didn't exist when I was a lad (like many other schools in my local locality, including the one at which Ilse teaches), Therefore, ath-uh-letically, it don't so much exist now, in my feverbrain. But now I don the colors (we are Red, which is fine in any other contexts, and we are, as it happens, Cougars, and y'all can have a good chuckle at Ilse for that...go on, I don't mind, cradle robbery don't seem quite so cradle-robbing after enough years have passed).

I'm further annoyed at Bam's high school because we live about 500 yards away from it; the football field is behind my across-the-street neighbors' back yards. I know far too much about Cougarville. I know the score of the football, field hockey, lacrosse, or soccer game. I know what this week's halftime show will be (sidebar: what passes for award-winning marching bands* these days is appalling). I know what the poms will dance to. I call the cops when they decide to broadcast the homecoming dance sound barrage over the stadium's PA system (this was actually the work of AV pranksters, not the school).

And still, I don the Red and cheer, because Bam is now an ath-uh-lete. Cougarville (a pretty jocky school, overall) has a faboo Allied Sports Program, which is mainstream kids and special kids playing together in sports that are reasonably manageable for kids with issues. It's supposed to be fun, although some schools (not ours) take it a little too seriously. The fall sport was supposed to be handball, and most parents agreed with Coach's assessment that handball is a bit risky for kids with motor issues. Spring will be softball, which will be an interesting test of concept-getting for Bam, to which we look forward with glee, because we're assholes. But winter...winter is bocce, played with heavy rubber balls on a gym floor. This is an actual interscholastic competitive sportsball thing, with uniforms, a referee, a scoreboard, the National Anthem, and--we are told--for one home game a season, cheerleaders. That home game is coming up this week, and we're freaking giddy about it.

Bocce is curling with balls. Sort of. A player throws a smaller ball, called a jack or a pallino, which in our world is yellow and a little bigger than a golf ball. That's the target. The object is to get one of your (red or green) rubber balls--larger and heavier, about the size of a softball, and a little heavier--closest to the pallino. You score a number of points equal to the number of your balls closest to the pallino after each team has thrown four balls. It's all pretty sedate, and very sportsmanlike--there are some times when it's okay for everyone to get a trophy, and this is one of them.

Bam doesn't give a shit about where the ball goes, although he is often the pallino-chucker (who also throws the first ball). Oddly, he is among the team's leading scorers. This is fucking hilarious, because he usually walks up, chucks a ball, and walks away before it's stopped rolling.

What Bam does like is that every time he throws a ball--regular or pallino--the bleachers erupt in applause and cheering, some of it calling his name. He is then surrounded by his teammates--a substantial number of them cute little high school girls--who high- and low-five him and tell him he's awesome. There are something like eight mainstream kids on this team, and seven of them are girls. And every one of them is a sweet kid who's in this partly because it's an easy sport and partly because being nice to special-needs kids looks good on a college app and, I imagine, partly because some or all of them are just actually nice. He's got a lot to like.

He's number 26, by the way, a number that carries some pretty major weight in this house.

Bam is not the only kid in the house to proudly represent. Databoy goes to a different school because he managed to convince someone in authority that he's a fucking genius (he sort of is, for some limited applications of geniosity), and he's in a magnet program and an engineering program. In this, his senior year, he has joined the academic team, also known as the quiz bowl team, or hereabouts, the It's Academic team (for the TV show of the same name, although the relationship between this league and the TV show is tenuous at best). Turns out that the team's coach/sponsor is way laid back. She's a perfectly good and entertaining person and a generally good teacher, but she's a little too busy to take care of the team, especially in the form of showing up for road meets (which most are--a meet consists of four schools, of which only one can be home; Databoy's school had only one home meet this year). So it's a really good thing that, in the team's stable of parents, is one dedicated idiot who's willing to show up at road meets and be the only grownup representative of their farm-town school, a school half the size of any other in the county, a school smack at the outer edge of the county, a school that back in our day, had as many head of livestock as students, but has now emerged, thanks to high-quality magnet programs, with a reputation as one of the best schools in the state.

I'm sorry, did I actually have to tell you who that dedicated idiot is?

This academic team thing is a lot of fun for a pompous git like me; I often get to be the reader/moderator, which is howlingly funny because I am, as you know, proudly illiterate and profoundly undereducated, and as you probably don't know, prone to getting a little tongue-tied when I'm speaking. Reading out loud is an adventure. I also get to riff on the questions after they're answered, dropping random contextually related tidbits of history and literature and pop culture and inside baseball on the poor little bastards. They appreciate this every bit as much as they do any bit of twaddle emitted by their own parents, bless their little hearts. But fuck 'em, I'm doing them a favor and they're better people for having spent 35 minutes with me.

And they're awesome and funny kids. There was a countywide meet the other day, the last round of competition before the playoffs--each team plays the two teams above and below it in the standings in a giant round-robin deal. Some schools are so into this that they have two or three teams and not enough adults to manage; as a result, I ended up reading/moderating a match between two schools' B teams, two schools that I was raised to congenitally despise****. Yes, I told them so, and proceeded to tell them that they were free to call me out when I made mistakes (one of the reader's duties is to press a button after buzzer questions, to clear the system, and I'm often so excited about the next question, or the last question, or the arithmetic of scorekeeping, or my own farts, that I forget to press the button), by either calling me "Sir" or clapping like seals.

It took only three questions for the rich kids to find an opportunity to clap and "Orp!" like seals and chant, "Buzzers please Sir." Magnificent. Most relaxed match I've ever read, since I was a true neutral and didn't have to coach my team (mostly with snarling and glares, since etiquette demands non-involvement during a match, whether or not I'm reading/moderating/scorekeeping) and moderate simultaneously.

Databoy's team entered the day in twelfth place (top 16 out of 30 or so teams make the playoffs). They won all four matches despite my presence--totally unprecedented for them--and moved up to eighth place, giving themselves a nice playoff position for the first round of the playoff tournament. And a dreadful one for subsequent rounds, potentially, because we're not sure whether they reseed after each round--so they may face the one seed in the second round, if they get past the dreaded eight-nine matchup--against a team****** that beat them by 5 points--about a third of the value of the average question--in their first game of the season. The glaringly decisive question they missed, lo those months ago, involved sportsball. Databoy was benched for that match--there are more kids than spots, so they take turns sitting out--and he's the only kid on the team with a chance of answering most sportsball questions. So he's in the game a lot more now.

And he hasn't gotten a single sportsball question right in a competitive situation all season. Go Databoy. Go Bam.

* Aren't the overalls spiffy? Holy crap, if we'd dressed like that back in the days of onions on our belts, they'd have laughed us out of the county**. Oh, wait. They did that anyway. The song, by the way, is a dispirited and lackluster rendition of the West Virginia University fight song, which is, to my eternal shame, also my high school's fight song. Had we played it like this funeral dirge, our director, who doubled as a professional roller-skater***, would've tasered us and laughed while we jerked and danced. If tasers had been invented yet, but that would've been hard, since electricity, yea, and even dirt, had yet to be invented.

** Their formal uni is worse, worn with a USC-style Trojan helmet. Thank you once again, Jeebus, for not inflicting that torment upon us.

*** I am super-seriously not kidding here. Professional. Roller. Skater. The seventies, friends. We lived them at full speed.

**** More sidebars: First*****, as a lad, I was raised to find every other high school in the county despicable or irrelevant. Both of these schools were despicable from our perspective, although I dated girls from the wealthier of the two schools, being a particularly skeevy and opportunistic little fucking creep when I was an adolescent.

***** Second, I missed Databoy's match during that sub-round, which was just as well, because they were playing against the aforementioned alma mater. I walked into the room, shouted "Go Trojans!" (not Databoy's school mascot), gathered my seething oh-my-God-parents-are-the-fucking-worst proteges in a huddle, quietly and cheerfully exhorted them to win the fucking match, and went off to do my duty for county and school system by moderating a match between a school that mostly bested us in brawls and a school that disappointed us out of three consecutive state football titles, but whose girls were primo for a gawky little shit like me, back in the day.

****** A team representing a school at which Ilse used to teach, pretty much her favorite of her former schools, and another school with a very fine tradition of wiseassery. Synchronicity abounds.


Jim H. said...

Hey, man! Good to hear from you, esp. about the favorable sitch with Bam-Bam. I have served as a timer at HS swim meets, scorer at HS baseball games, and touchline ref at HS soccer matches. At one of the last, Wisdaughter scored a (1-0 winning) goal on a fucking corner kick (I shit you not), a goal that silenced crowds on both sides by its sheer audacity—and, godammit, I was not allowed to scream and jump up and down and charge up and down the sidelines to make sure everyone knew it was my daughter that had driven that late dagger deep into the hearts of the uppity assholes from the feared/hated rivals from the next catchment area over.

At another, Wesdom had a no-hitter going through 4 (out of 7) innings (1 walk short of a perfect game)—he was only slated to pitch 3. When the lead-off from the same rival's team bunted to open the 5th, I was not allowed to go over and punch the fucking douchebag coach in the dick for such a dick move. Fortunately, the boy retrieved the bunt, spun & left-handedly threw the little rat-bastard out. Pitched 5 and gave over to our fireballing closer for a major, historic victory.

So, yeah. I know how you feel!

ilse said...

Yeah, see? Working with SOME of the kids - when you're not trying to make them learn something they think they already know and couldn't care less about - is actally fun and rewarding. It's why I come home from 10-hour-long Forensics meets (the public-speaking kind, not the dead-body kind, peeps) happy and fulfilled, but come home after 5 hours at my job drained and growling. If I could just coach, I'd be a happy cat.

And don't forget: we helped the team warm up today, too. I finally got my hands on those balls! (and yes, of course that's what she said, I just fucking said it)

Gudeg Lalas said...
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