Thursday, October 9, 2014

Playoff Baseball and Mom's Desperation Soup

By: Pete Johnson

I have a very specific and probably psychotically steadfast set of rules when it comes to making wishes. I think making a wish every time you see a clock read 11:11 is bullshit. I have several times looked at a star in the early evening and wanted to sing the song in my head and make a wish, but didn't, because I couldn't be 100% sure that it was the first star I saw that night. I never, ever tell anyone what I wished for. This would seem very strict, except that I also believe in making wishes when you find an eyelash, see a shooting star, or throw something vaguely valuable into a fountain. I'm also open to other random life opportunities for wishing, like when you wake up and open your eyes for the first time that day and the first thing you see is a squirrel outside your window eating a giant tomato exactly like a human would eat a whole watermelon.

The idea is that if you make too many wishes, they aren't special, and are therefore less likely to come true. This is in no small part influenced by television and movies. Like that time Michael Jordan was 5 years old and looked up at the stars, saw Halley's Comet, and said "I wish Space Jam." You can't grow up seeing stuff like that and think you can go around making wishes willy-nilly all the time and they'll still come true. Still, making wishes is fun, and over the years I've starting making exceptions.

A while back I came up with a new wish rule that I think makes up for all this liberal wish making in a pretty selfless and loving way, which in turn selfishly preserves the childlike-wonder-specialness of all my wishes. I started making all of my wishes, except my birthday wish, a wish on someone else' behalf. That way my birthday wish is still super duper special, plus I can still lawyer my way into wishing something for myself if I have to. If me and my friend Dougie are wandering around drunk and lost in a bad neighborhood at one in the morning, I can still throw my apple into a long since dry park fountain and say "I wish Dougie finds a cab."

One of my most frequent wishes is one I make on behalf of my Mom. She was raised in the small town of Smyrna, Georgia, where on any given night her entertainment options were to either go out to watch a baseball game or to stay at home and watch her little brother try to throw rocks at her head. She watched a lot of baseball games. She likes to tell a story about a time when my father coached me and my brother in tee ball, when two of our teammates fought over a ground ball in the outfield. The story is funny every time not because of the other team's players slowly rounding the bases while the two tiny outfielders fiercely wrestled on the ground, but because of the way she describes her and the other Moms rolling on the ground with laughter while my Dad (the coach) helplessly screamed at them to THROW IT IN!

The Washington Nationals made the playoffs this year for the second time ever. The first time ever was two years ago, and that season ended in extremely heart wrenching fashion for the Nationals and their Moms. This year, the Nationals lost a pivotal playoff game in 18 innings, which is twice as many innings as it usually takes for the Nats to lose a pivotal playoff game. That day I talked to Mom about how excited I was to go to the game, and she told me to shut up because she was too nervous to think about it. The game went 6 and a half hours, and we lost, and I was there with my nervous Mom freezing her nervous Mom ass off the whole time because it also happened to be the first cold night of the year. It was awful, but we couldn't leave, because we love our Nationals.

It was the kind of game that made me rethink whether I should care about baseball. Two nights later I was still rethinking my fandom when I went to watch what would be the last game of the season at Mom's house. She was so nervous the Nats would get eliminated she kept telling everyone how excited she was to make soup during the game, because then she would have an excuse not to watch it. This was funny, but not as funny as watching this important game and have her stick her head in, see how close the score is, and say 'Ack! I'm gonna go make some more soup!' We all laughed a lot about Mom preferring to silently chop vegetables alone in the kitchen to make way too much Desperation Soup over watching our horrible team lose another playoff series. After that 18 inning game, it felt good to laugh a lot and to care a little less.

She is a great baseball fan and I love and owe her a great deal, so it feels good to make a wish for her that has the added benefit of also being for me. When the Washington Nationals came to DC in 2005 my Mom instantly became a huge fan, because now there was major league baseball and major league baseball things to major league laugh at right here in her city. The whole family had no choice but to also become huge Nationals fans. I can't tell you what it is, obviously, but I often wish a baseball thing for her and for me.