Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just living the dream

We're taking a break from our iPod tour for Sports Week. Coming Friday, the exciting conclusion, even though there isn't a consistent plot connecting the three posts this week.
Not needed in Southeast Georgia
I’ll never forget the time I first saw my dream job. It was either 1992 or 1993, who can keep track? Anyway, I went to my first hockey game and saw the coolest possible career. No, it wasn’t that of a hockey player. Have you seen how big those guys are? I’m roughly one-third their size and aside from my lack of skating skills and fear of death, I don’t like the cold, so professional hockey player didn’t seem like a great idea. No, I’m talking about the center of attention for about five minutes three times a night. Yes, I wanted to be a Zamboni driver. Granted, living in a rural, south Georgia town 50 miles from the nearest skating facility (which only offered skating one month a year) didn’t exactly provide the opportunities needed to achieve my life’s goal.

Zamboni driver wasn’t the first of my dreams. I wanted to be, in no particular order, a baseball player, football player, basketball player, astronaut, lawyer, baseball announcer (when I realized my baseball career wasn’t going to pan out), sports writer (which I actually did for a brief time), psychic detective - only in the last few weeks did that one come about, thanks to my newfound infatuation with Psych -  and probably a dozen other careers that didn’t quite pan out.

Side note: My brother had a time when he wanted to be a hearse driver. Not knowing about the other aspects of funeral directing, he assumed you drove the hearse, listened to the radio as loud as he wanted and would have a police escort everywhere he went. This did not work out for him either.

Side Note2: My brother-in-law actually was a Zamboni operator for a few weeks in Charleston, S.C. Fortunately, I didn’t know about this or I would have begged him for a chance to ride on it while he cleaned the ice. Sometimes I think I need more going on in my life.

Despite what seems to be a long list of failures in achieving my dreams, I was able to make one come true. It wasn’t glamorous, didn’t bring me fame or fortune. It did, however, elicit laughter from the wife when I told her about it. Even though I couldn’t play baseball, I wanted to be on the field in some way. As it turns out, knowing large amounts of trivia and stats may be a good skill for winning bar bets, but not so handy when it comes to being a baseball coach. That left only one option – that of the grounds crew. I wasn’t looking to show up hours before the game to get the field ready for action or stick around long after the game ends to get it as ready as it can be for the next game. I just wanted to drag the infield once.

For those unfamiliar with baseball, what’s wrong with you? It’s our national pastime. Next you’ll tell me you’re unfamiliar with mom and apple pie. But for the sake of my (nonexistent) foreign readers, dragging the infield is something done once or twice a game to smooth out the infield and lower the chances of the ball taking a bad bounce. Back when the Macarena was popular, grounds crew members would perform the dance while dragging the infield. Looking back, what was wrong with us? Were we, as a country, that screwed up that we needed an easy dance to do set to a Spanish song? It’s like the Macarena was the bridge between line dancing of the early 90s and the Latin Invasion of Ricky Martin, ect. of the late 90s. I blame De La Soul for the fact that I spent the better part of 1999 humming ‘Livin’ la vida loca’ to myself.

As luck would have it, one of the guys in my graduate classes also happened to be on the grounds crew for Georgia Southern’s baseball team. I’d admire his work frequently as I went to numerous Eagles games. He’d always give me a head’s up about a new design he was going to cut into the outfield grass and then get my opinion about it. As the season wore on, I half-jokingly mentioned a time or two how I would like to drag the infield once to see what it was like.

No Photographic evidence of my work exists
At a game in April in which I was there with my wife and some friends, my friend came up to me and asked if I wanted to drag the infield. I asked if he was serious and he assured me that he was. I was thrilled. It was going to be a dream come true, on par with getting married, graduating from kindergarten and getting my driver’s license. I was to report to the grounds keeping area three outs before my big moment. As the time drew near, I got more and more nervous. What if I screwed up? After all, I would have to pull a three-foot wide thing behind me from one foul line to the next, turn around, and walk all the way back. All this while hundreds of fans ignored what was going on down on the field and my group pointed and made a big deal about my big moment, mostly by pointing and cheering exuberantly to the bewilderment of those around them.

The third out was made and it was go time. And just like that, it was over. While I was probably on the field for a total of 90 seconds, it seemed to only take 75. I was in between actual professionals who were slightly confused as to why I was there, but they were cool with it.

So when I’m on my death bed, I can look back and know that even though I never became a facial recognition expert, a prosecutor, host of a dating reality show, an Olympic curler, a forensic anthropologist, or the executive producer of a late night comedy sketch show I will be able to look back and say that, for one shining moment, I was on the field during a college baseball game. Now if only I can figure out this whole Zamboni thing, I’ll be good.

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