Loser on First

Last night at the old Yankee Stadium
I can still feel the ground vibrating beneath my feet. The noise from the crowd echoed throughout the entire stadium and if I closed my eyes long enough an instant chill would fill my bones. It was electric. There were moments in that building where you could hear the person next to you gulp. Moments where every single eye was on home plate. Instances where the pitcher's mound served as a shrine. The old Yankee Stadium gave you a high that a drug couldn't possibly rebut.  A devoted plenty came to fill their hunger for competition every season. They were thirsty for perfection and they wanted something tangible to feed that craving.

Perfection is hard to obtain and even harder to maintain, especially if you wear pinstripes. To be a member of the New York Yankee organization, or for that matter any professional ball club, is not only an honor, but also a challenge of a lifetime. Could you imagine getting booed off the mound in one game and then celebrated a few weeks later by the same people who all but threw their full beers at you? Being a good ballplayer is only part of the job. Being of sound mind has to be part of your game or you will never make it. This is a lesson to anyone who wants something big and a public service announcement to the weak-minded. Dare to believe in yourself and to want it so fiercely that it would take a battalion to stop you.

This notion that a sport is not just a game but a way of life has been engrained in my blood since I was a little girl. I've been attending Yankee games since I was just four-years-old. That's years of pig-tails and big foam fingers turned yankee caps and draft beers. I went to games wanting to be touched by something greater than myself and I was never disappointed. Not even the years where they struggled and lost. The nostalgia still never wore off. The yearning for something more kept me going back every season. It reaffirmed my belief that without tasting the bad you can never really appreciate the good in life. 

Take for instance the Yankee 2007 Division Series, Game 4 loss. I left the stadium with my other half, our heads held low, matching our melancholy spirits. Not wanting to deal with the crowd of disgruntled Yankee fans, we hailed a cab instead of taking the 4 train back to the city. We were sitting unusually quiet in the back seat soaking in the end of the Yankee season when I saw it in the corner of my eye….

A fast moving black object. Before I knew it, the SUV barreled directly into the passenger side door beside me and proceeded to push us into not one, not two, but three parked cars. Within seconds car alarms were sounding on the street and we were turned around in a complete180 degree angle. Our cab driver wasted no time starting his engine back up and screeching down the street after the SUV while his hubcaps spun behind us.

I eyed Mike breathlessly, not saying a word.

"Shit," is all Mike could get out.

"He slam right into us. Can you believe?" Our cab driver repeated this while he incessantly honked and high beamed the SUV.

"Can you drop us off first?" I pleaded.

"He slam right into us," the cab driver reminded us. Apparently this warranted a high-speed chase.

Suddenly the SUV stopped at the corner. Its driver kicked open his door. That's right, I said kicked. Not pushed.  Kicked. I gasped when the man surfaced from the SUV. He was huge. The kind of guy that you would hire to kill someone for you because he probably wouldn't even need to use a weapon. He could use his bare hands. It was seriously terrifying.

"What part of the Bronx are we in?" I asked in a high-pitched voice that I barely recognized.

"Not a clue," Mike said. My husband is a walking navigation in the city so him not knowing where we were was more than alarming. This was worse than him saying, "A really bad part," or "you don't want to be caught dead here." If he knew where we were he would at least have had an idea as to how to get us the hell out of there by foot.

Our cab driver didn't seem to be privy to the fact that this man was three times the size of his scrawny ass. He pulled down his window and yelled, "You break my car!"I wanted to kick Aafa's seat. And yes, I still remember his name. I mean, was he really yelling at this man who could body slam him with one arm tied behind his back?

The SUV man walked briskly towards our car.  I winced, expecting him to pull out his gun and finish us all off, mafia-style. I held onto Mike's hand for dear life like I was dangling over the edge of a cliff.
SUV man glanced briefly in Aafa's direction and continued forward to my window. This was it I thought, he was going to shoot us all.

"You folks alright?" He asked, looking very much like Mr. T minus the mohawk and gold chains.

I couldn't talk so Mike responded, "We're good."

That's when Aafa chimed in and things got ugly. There was a lot of four-letter words and ethnic slurs exchanged. More than once Mr. T said he was forcing him to "take care of business," and more than once Aafa said, "you take care of my business, alright. You slam into my car."

I had an urge to jump out of the car, McGiver my way to the black SUV and tail it back into Manhattan. I had visions of us leaving the scene in our rearview mirror. These fantasies raced through my brain when Mike went to get out of the car.

"Woa, woa, woa," I grabbed his arm, "This is not the time play peacemaker." They were fantasies, people, I was most certainly NOT going to get out of the car and neither was my boyfriend.

Well as luck would have it, the cab driver called for Mike to come out of the car anyway.  He had needed help writing down his information. English wasn't exactly his first language. Mike looked at me with a what-did-we-get-ourselves into kind of look. Before he could even begin to write anything, Mr. T pulled a stack of cash out of his back pocket. He shuffled through what looked like all hundred dollar bills and handed a couple over to Abha.

"This should cover it," Mr. T said.

Aafa was more than happy to take the cash. He wanted to go and fix it without his boss questioning him he had said. This was much better to him them having to go through insurance. He was not too bright.

"Good deal. Yes, good deal." He said to himself and went to reach for the cash, but before he grabbed it he turned his head to us, "Good deal?" The body work that probably needed to be done to his car would easily cost close to a grand if not more; however,  I didn't think Mr. T would have appreciated us blowing this underhanded deal. Mike and I shared a glance and then nodded our approval in unison.

When we finally got out of the cab in Manhattan, we saw a bum peeing next to a fire hydrant.  At last, we were back!  Mike would call me dramatic, but that night I was happy to be alive and more than glad to watch highlights of the Yankee loss.

I was thankful to still be part of the game and I learned that night that, like baseball, losing is an unfortunate part of it.  Winning proves that hard work pays off, but losing builds character.  Those are the dark times that beckon you to dig deep and find the light.

Sweet Madison, don't be afraid to lose. Embrace all of your defeats and consider them stepping stones to your successes in life.  Your MeMa hated to watch the Yankees lose and even more so, hated to watch your Aunts and I struggle. She however understood something that I take with me every day.  It isn't necessarily about winning in the big game; it's about finding yourself in the process. It's about laughing at yourself when you just want to cry and believing in yourself when you just want to give up.

There is a farewell in every loss, but if you keep moving forward there is a "hello" waiting for you around the corner. Or you know, a homeless man welcoming you back to reality in mid-stream.


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