Kicking and Screaming

Is there any better idea than playing a family-friendly game of kickball on a beautiful, sunny Fourth of July afternoon? What I mean to say is that ANYTHING is a better idea than playing a family-friendly game of kickball on a beautiful, sunny Fourth of July afternoon. That is, if you are over the age of 50 and have any pride at all.

Our friends, Pete and Jenn, had a lovely neighborhood Independence Day party and thought it would be fun to let the adults and kids play in backyard game of kickball. A great opportunity for us grownups to get out on the field, show the youngsters that we still have what it takes, and then get together afterwards for an MRI.

By arriving late I spared myself the indignity of being picked last to be on the team. Traditionally, the team captain picks his or her squad out of the available pool of players based on athletic prowess. I’m used to being picked last, usually at some point after the game is over. I suggest that from now on that the teams be chosen alphabetically, starting in the middle. Sometimes I am selected as equipment manager or head of groundskeeping, which are positions of leadership far more important than actually participating on the field.

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Kickball rules are similar to those of baseball, with a couple differences. One is that if you hit a baserunner with the ball while in between bases, the runner is out. This rule is called “Indian rubber,” which is either politically incorrect or completely nonsensical, depending on which Indians are involved. Either way, it’s simply an excuse for little kids to throw things as hard as they can at adults, who are slower and larger targets. You’d better have good aim if you attempt it, because several throws ended up in the vegetable garden. We had to improvise a new rule involving zucchini, but I don’t have time to go into that here. There were some trees on the field of play. The crabapple was foul and the fir was fair. If you kicked it into a tree you could wait for it to come down and catch it for an out, if you had the time.

I thought I would be a little faster on the basepaths than I was. Little kids who seemed barely out of the embryo stage were zooming around me all over the place. I have long strides and I did get to first base using much fewer steps, when I got there at all. If that’s not a legitimate statistic it should be.

I managed to kick into a double play, and failed to get on base until I bunted by mistake, which brought forth jeers and catcalls, even from cats. I couldn’t seem to get to third base, even though I had it punched into my GPS. It seemed even more difficult to get to third base now than it was in high school.

On defense it didn’t go any better. One ball bounced off my face before I was able to catch it (the ball, not my face). Another time I ran into a little kid as we were both trying to make the play, him with his hands and me with my face again. Then a ball bounced off the head of a statue that sat in the woods beyond center field and caromed back onto the field, where the second basegirl stepped on the bag to record an out, and I was forced to consider the possibility that inanimate objects were making better plays in the field than I was.

We played for a while, paused for the seventh inning stretcher, to collect those fallen in the line of duty, then played some more. It’s hard to outlast kids. Eventually the cheeseburgers started to come off the grill and food won the war of attrition. The last thing I wanted was to make an error at the plate.

Join Rick and the Trashcan Poets Saturday, July 22, for some rock and roll at Chat 19, Chatsworth Avenue, in Larchmont at 9:30 p.m. Say hello to Rick Melén at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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