People in Texas are nice.
That’s not something I have to venture to the edge of a long-limbed oak to say, because by and large the niceness of Texans is something people agree on.
We say hello when we pass people on the street. We make small talk in elevators. We open doors for strangers. Not because we are trying to kiss up or get something from those strangers but because it’s a polite thing to do. And when you live in a place long enough where people hold open doors then you get hooked on that tiny shot of gratitude you feel when a total stranger does something unexpected and nice. It’s like hey, maybe the world really is OK.
I think I’m still standing right next to the big, round, safe tree trunk when I say this: In Texas, we want people to feel the world really is OK. So what changes during baseball season?
How does it happen that people who could find a way to stretch weather talk into polite conversation that lasts a solid five minutes can’t find a word longer than four letters once the season is in full swing?
I’m not talking about what you might mutter under your breath when you note what they are charging for tot’chos at a Rangers game. I am talking about the game that is the direct opposite of the big leagues: the Little League Baseball season. I want to know what happens on neighborhood fields across our otherwise nice state when perfectly reasonable, sane adults lose their minds to such a degree they are only recognizable by the monogram on their Yeti cups.
The first year one of my kids played T-ball, it was such a positive experience that when I listened to mothers of older kids tell the story of two grown men who almost went to blows at their game, I laughed. Out loud. Then I wondered if that laughter had somehow transformed me into one of those miniature goats with the big, floppy ears because those women started looking at me like I was just precious.
“Your kid is in noncompetitive ball,” one of them said, like it explained everything. Over the next few years I learned that it did.
Since then, I have seen a mother park her baby stroller so she could shake the fence with both hands while she yelled at the umpire. I have watched parents who did not volunteer to coach offer play-by-play suggestions as well as lineup changes. And I have heard parents in the stands make snide remarks to each other about sitting down, shutting up, and on one especially memorable afternoon, “crawling back into the hole where ya came from.”
I get that we all want our kids to succeed. Trust me, I too believe it would be pretty stupendous to sit in Globe Life Park with my tot’chos comped because my kid is walking up to bat. But that’s my dream, not his. And sadly, I have a better chance of getting picked up by a tornado than having that dream come true.
I’m told by wiser and more experienced parents that you learn to accept this behavior as part of Little League. Whether I can do that remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you see me in the baseball parking lot opening car doors for strangers, you’ll know what I am up to: just trying to remind us all that the world still is OK.