There is the stereotype of the dad standing in the bleachers at his child's little league or football game, screaming till he's red in the face, yelling and generally acting like an ass. He shouts things like 'What are you blind, ump?' 'He was safe by a mile!' or 'How much is the other team paying you!' or, when trying to be clever, 'Get up off your knees, ump, you're blowing the game!'
That stereotype does not apply to me. I am as engaged as any parent would be and will applaud or boo but generally, I don't get into that one-sided screaming match with the umpire or the refs during a game. My ex-wife, however, fills that stereotype like it was custom made for her. Arlene is small and wiry, but when she has something to say, or God forbid someone gives a cheap shot to our son during a game, you can hear her a mile away. When she yells, there are moose in Canada that raise their heads, cock their ears and question, "Arlene, is that you?"
Arlene is by no means a quiet person, but I was surprised to find out what an avid spectator she could be. I first noticed during one of my son Alexander's little league games. It was the only year that I was an assistant coach (I'm not that knowledgeable about sports). I stood just outside the dugout with Alexander on the pitcher's mound; ball in hand, hand in glove, he stared at the batter and was just about to go into his windup when a voice cut the air: "YOU GET'EM, ALEX-AN-DER! LET'S GO! STRIKE HIM OUT!"
Alexander stood on the mound, his face flushed red, afraid to look at the source of the voice that suddenly invaded his game. Ever so slightly, he shook his head from side to side 'no' as he waited for the sound to stop. I turned towards Arlene from the side of the dugout.
"Hey, Steinbrenner," I shouted, "shut up."
That quieted her for that game, but it certainly didn't stop her from letting her thoughts be known in every other game she ever attended. Basketball, baseball, football -- she made her presence felt. Granted, she wasn't the only one, but hers was the one voice I heard above all others.
Alexander now plays college football and I recently asked him if he hears his mother's voice during the game. He told me no, which is probably a good thing, because she tends to yell the following at just about every game:
"You go, Big Boy! That's my Big Boy! Go get'em Big Boy!"
I'm glad Alexander can't hear her, because I tend to cringe a little at that one.
The college crowds are bigger, noisier, than his old high school games and I think Arlene feels the need to tag-team with other people who also like to have their opinions known. From somewhere in the crowd you'll hear a parent yell, "Hey, Coach, you're killing us! Throw the ball!"
"Yeah, Coach" Arlene would mimic, "You're killing us! Throw the ball!"
Or from the crowd you'd hear, "What game are you watching, ref, certainly not this one!"
Arlene would then chime in, "Yeah, ref, you're not watching this game! What game are you watching? I bet not this one!" See how she switched it up? Like it was her idea.
But my favorite came during an early in the season away game. Sitting in the visitor's section there is a much smaller crowd; few people travel, especially for a night game. Arlene, Dennis (her boyfriend), and I carpooled to the game (that's a story all in of itself). While sitting in the bleachers our defense was on the field when Arlene yelled at no one in particular, "That's it, boys, wrap'em up and ship'em home!"
At that moment I envisioned t-shirts and logos and hats.
"Are you going to copyright that phrase?" I asked.
Maybe we could partner with UPS or FedEx or the U.S. Post Office (well, maybe not them). I don't know what struck me about that phrase, maybe because it included a plan. It wasn't putting the emphasis on the refs but on the players themselves. They have to wrap them up and they have to ship them home. Not blaming the umpires, not blaming the refs, but it was up to the players themselves to get the job done.
After that, Alexander's team went on to win four games in a row, so maybe they were getting the job done, they were 'wrapping'em up and shipping'em home.' With that, all I have to say to the opposing team's parents who suddenly found their sons neatly wrapped up, delivered and waiting for them on their doorsteps is: