If you had asked me this morning how I would be spending my afternoon, I almost certainly would not have said, “Playing softball on a team captained by one of the Beastie Boys.” Yet such is the surreal randomness that is my life, that is exactly what happened. Now, I know what you’re saying. You think I’m making this up. You’re saying to yourself, “Wait a minute here … you’re trying to get us to believe that you played softball.” I, who still bear the scars of trauma from my one year of Little League when I was twelve, who has never watched a baseball game on TV, and who, when I attended my one live baseball game when I was five, complained so relentlessly that I was bored that we left before the seventh inning stretch. But wait, I swear I’m not making this up. This is what happened…
I was in Manhattan for the editors lunch, which was fun, as always. Then I swung over to Chelsea to check out the new gallery exhibits. Walking back, I passed by a playground, and noticed a young woman on the field. As I went by, she called through the fence, “Hi. You want to play softball?” I paused. I contemplated this. On the one hand, I mostly associate playing bat & ball sports with abject humiliation, and I was dressed in slacks and stiff new loafers that were already starting to give me blisters. On the other hand, it was a nice day, I had no real plans, and my policy is to never turn down any opportunity that might make a funny story. And besides, I’m highly susceptible to suggestions from young women. I warned her, “I’m really bad.” She said, “That’s okay. I’m really bad too. A lot of us are.” I shrugged, and said, “Okay, sure.”
I walked around the fence and out onto the playground. I chatted a bit with the young woman, whose name was Wendy. I introduced myself to a few other people. There were about twenty players, and a roughly even number of men and women. We were divided into teams. My team batted first, but out of the first three batters, I don’t think anyone made it past first base, so I was mercifully spared from having to bat. Since I had no glove, I borrowed one from the other team’s first baseman, Juliana, and retired to the outfield, where I’m more at home, and hoped that no one would hit the ball in my direction. No one did, and after three outs I handed Juliana back her glove. She asked, “So how was that?” and I replied, “I was pretty satisfied with my performance,” and she laughed.
Next, I was made to bat, and on my first pitch I clobbered it way, way past the outfield. I rounded the bases in stunned bafflement, and came home for the first score of the game. Several people high-fived me, and someone called out, “We’ve got a ringer!” I was too surprised to even be excited. On my second at bat, I drove a bouncing ball into left field, made it to second base, and brought a runner home. This was actually kind of fun. Not only was I not humiliating myself, and not costing my team the game, I was actually doing quite well. However, shortly thereafter, reality reasserted itself. I struck out on my next two at bats, the pitcher having realized that I couldn’t tell a good pitch from a bad one and would swing at anything. A familiar feeling of frustration started to build. I consoled myself with the fact that at least Wendy would know I hadn’t been deceiving her when I told her I was really bad.
On my next at bat, it was the last inning of the game, we were down by one run (17-16) and there was a runner on third. I stepped up to the plate and asked how many outs there were. Everybody yelled, “Two!” It occurred to me that that was why everyone had been arguing for ten minutes about the last call: one more out would mean the game. I tend to ask these kinds of preposterously stupid questions during team games, and I’m sure that this has given many coaches and players over the years cause to wonder if I’m somehow mentally retarded, but really I just don’t find team sports that interesting, and my mind wanders constantly. Anyway, if I struck out again, we would lose the game. Someone called out good-naturedly, “It’s all on your shoulders!” Cue the awesome humiliation potential.
But on the first pitch, I hit it good — not as good as my first hit, but still pretty darn good — and fortunately no one caught it, which would have been a real drag, and so our runner came home and I tied up the game. Then later, after much furious blister-shredding dashing in my stiff new loafers, I made it home, and we were up by one. Yay!
Then the other team was up, and if we could prevent them from scoring, we would win. Someone got to first base, two batters hit fly balls that were caught, and then the next batter was a smaller girl with long black hair and a flaming skull tattoo on her shoulder who was visibly inexperienced and had not — as far as I remember — hit the ball all day. I thought the game was all wrapped up at that point, and was mentally trying to come the grips with the implications of me having tied and then been the winning run in a game. But somehow that girl hit the ball and made it to first base, and then the next batter was invincible, and I knew we were finished, as indeed were were. But that’s okay. It makes a better story that way, and I was happy for that girl, who could probably use an athletic triumph even more than I could. And at least it wasn’t my fault we lost, and I didn’t humiliate myself by randomly falling down on my butt during a time out or anything like that.
So anyway, after the game I walked a ways with some of the other players, and I asked Juliana how she knew this group of people, and she said she’d met them through a friend of hers who hadn’t come because she was “touring.” I asked, “What kind of touring?” and she said, “She’s in a band,” and I asked, “Touring where?” and she said, “The U.S., Europe, Australia,” and I said, “Wow,” and she said, “She’s in this band, you probably haven’t heard of them, they’re sort of a local indie band, it’s called Le Tigre?” Now, by an incredible coincidence, Le Tigre is the band I sort of stood around in the hall with when I hung out backstage at the Conan O’Brien Show (thanks Andrea!), so I told Juliana about that, and she said, “So she’s seeing Adam, who was at the game. Do you know who he is?” I wasn’t even sure which one “Adam” was. She described him. I said, “The one who was sort of organizing everything?” and she said, “Yeah, do you know who he is? Adam Horovitz.” I didn’t. She said, “He’s one of the Beastie Boys.” And I was like, “Really?” That’s so crazy.