Monday, May 26, 2014

Cross Check from Hell - a very short story

            Hell found me.  Since Hell and I had a couple of prior confrontations, this was expected.  In the first one, Hell overpowered me and I slumped to the ice.  Then I got the better of the second skirmish, and Hell was determined to find me.  Hell did just that.

            Before describing those tussles, I should explain that I played ice hockey.  It only seems that Hell confronted me whenever I would pull on my beat-up Montreal Canadiens sweater and lace up my old Tucks pair of skates.  Away from the rink, I led an ordinary life.  I had a regular job, regular family, and regular routine.  I played hockey for variety, to get away from the regular.  I didn’t think that Hell would take me this far from regular.

            While the league called for no checking, this rule was bent as much as a mountain road.  While no one got his face smashed into the Plexiglas, that didn’t mean that these were non-contact games.  I was no different from any other player when it came to this rule.  I liked to throw a good hit now and again.  Like any other hockey player, I also took my share of solid blows to the sternum or back. These were common occurrences in our games.  One particular player delivered some of the most vicious hits that I have seen in any level of hockey in this “recreational” league.  

            Hell was excruciatingly painful.  Hell knew that when I was not at the rink, I was an ordinary accountant.  Crunching numbers on the 10-key and balancing figures on spreadsheets was not Hell’s idea of fun.  So, Hell left me alone while I was working.  But on game days, when I left the desk to play right wing, then Hell always got a wake-up call.

            In one of the prior confrontations, Hell cross-checked me while I skated along the boards.  The stick caught me squarely across my Adam’s apple and I laid flat on the ice.  Fortunately, Hell only knocked the wind out of me.  As a volunteer EMS worker and a teammate helped me to the bench, I developed a plan of revenge. It would happen on the next shift.  Sure, I had just been knocked out cold and I was still seeing stars, but, hey, I was a hockey player.  Hockey players are tough, and I was not going to be anything less than tough.

            I got that chance on the next shift and I delivered my payback as soon as I hit the ice.  I spotted the culprit who delivered that illegal hit (for which no penalty was called since the referee “didn’t see it.”) and took three long strides toward him.  I crashed into him like a freight train smashes into a stalled car on the tracks.  After sending this punk flying into the boards, I heard a whistle.  Hell got in my face at that point, screaming at me while I skated to the penalty box.  Hell must be a tough hockey player.  I faced Hell with all my might in that brief tussle.  Not only did Hell take all my fury, Hell also vowed to find me when my time in the sin bin expired. 

            That was the longest two minutes I have ever encountered in my hockey career.  I was never penalized before, so sitting in the penalty box was a new experience.  It was well-named, since this space was no bigger than a box.  Three players were supposed to be able to fit in this tight space, but I could not understand how that could happen.  I felt like a caged animal in that tiny spot with only one foot between the small bench seat and the back of the boards forming the shape of the rink.  I could not understand how so many players in the pros would be willing to spend so much time in this spot.  Maybe this is how Hell was paying me back.  That was my line of thinking while sitting on that hard wooden bench.  Then freedom came!  The door of the penalty box swung open and my sentence ended.  I took two strides toward the center of the rink, then…..

            THUD!  That was the sound that reverberated across the entire building as my head hit the ice surface before the rest of my body followed.  There is nothing else I recall from that evening except that I woke up in a hospital bed.  That was an hour after the hit.  Here, I must disclose that the rest of the events described here are my retelling of the story as was told to me by the volunteer EMS worker.  When one is lying unconscious on a two-inch layer of ice on top of a concrete floor, he might have a hard time recalling many details that took place.

            The reason I fell in that manner is what Hell did to me when he found me.  He didn’t like it that some “punk-ass” accountant knocked him down, so he vowed to find me when my penalty time expired.  He did find me and gave me another cross-check, this time to the small of my back and completely out of my line of vision.  I was told that this hit was so hard, Hell broke his stick on this play.  The rest of the details are still fuzzy to me, even after hearing the story from others.  It doesn’t really matter.  My hockey career is over after three games.  When one meets Hell in the manner I did, he won’t want to ever do so again.  Hell is a mean, tough hockey player.  Good for Michael Hell, an executive for the same firm that employs me – he can have the title!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Poetic Pop Out

Thought of this non rhyming poem while riding home from the Mets game last night.  An attempt at a poem on an ordinary at bat.  Enjoy!

A Poetic Pop Out

The batter steps into the box
While the catcher sets in his crouch
All eyes on the pitcher
That guy with the ball
He looks in for the sign,
Nods and then winds
Screaming with speed
The ball does arrive
Batter swings his wood
Connects with horsehide
A beautiful arch
So graceful and true
Comes crashing to the end
Into a fielder' s glove.
A promising at bat
Results in an out
Sulking back to the dugout
Ready to pout
Our batter is angry,
Hurt and upset too
He's had a bad game
And we're going to play TWO?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

First baseball game of the season

Tonight I am going to my first baseball game of the season.   While the season is about six weeks old at this point, I always look forward to this event.  I have been to at least one major league game every year since my first one in 1969, so why should 2014 be any different?

Fellow baseball lovers understand this passion for the game.  It doesn't matter to me what level - college, minor leagues, major leagues - there is something special when you are at that ballpark and everything is uniform.  The distance between the pitching mound and home plate is always sixty feet six inches.   It is always 90 feet between each base.  There are always 9 players with gloves at their position in the field.   There is always a batter in the box, and there is always an umpire behind the plate ready to call balls and strikes.

There will always be three outs to the inning for the batting team, always three strikes for an out, four balls for a walk and fans who will cheer for each out, each hit, each strike.  Just taking it all in for the first time in person is a thrill for me each season.  For the 2014 season, that will be tonight when the Philadelphia Phillies play the New York Mets in New York.  I will be there, cheering on the Mets and enjoying the American Pastime.  In the spring, it just doesn't get any better than that.