Monday, April 21, 2008
There will be blood
The first time I participated in a Briarlake Church softball game was a quarter century ago. My dad played on a Friday night team with a bunch of his buddies. My role was clear: to scream "Go Dad!" at every pitch. Every last one. Over and over. "Go Dad!" It was a valuable part to play, to annoy the opposing team into submission. Many would say it trained me for future political arguments and dating.
The kids would focus on the game with unnerving focus, except of course for the times when we didn't. When the dark halls of the church would turn into a playground, or the playground would turn into a battlefield, or the huge newspaper recycling bin would turn into a crawl-into library (according to legend a Playboy was once found, though the hundred subsequent ventures had come up empty).
Our unconditional fandom was rewarded postgame with a trip to Mo's Pizza, or Famous Pub, or Athens Pizza, where the kids got quarters for video games (sometimes miraculously discovered in stacks on nearby pool tables), and the parents found entertainment in boring ol' conversation. And some three hours later, the moms would drive everybody home.
Twenty-five years later, many details remain the same. The league is still on Friday nights, the field is unchanged, and my dad is still pitching every week for the team in the black jersey (creatively monikered "BLACK" on the league schedule). The evolution has come in the actual participants, as fathers have been replaced by their sons, and their sons' friends. At 32, I am now the third oldest person on the team, and a veteran player of nearly 15 years.
This last fact alone should lead you to believe I am a talented player. It should inspire a vision of my diamond prowess, of how 30 years of combined play and study has honed my skillset into one of a finely oiled softball machine.
Alas, this is still the kind of shit that happens when I try to field a groundball:
That happened Friday night, in the final inning of our double header. I was pitching in relief of dad, and since we were in charge by a healthy nine runs, I couldn't do much to screw it up. I released one particular ball, and it was shot back toward the mound. Moving to my left to scoop it up, I obviously misjudged the bounce, and it knocked me right - well, you can see where it knocked me. Duh.
I put my hand to my forehead, the ball rolled away, the batter was safe with a single. I thought it was fine until I pulled my fingers away and saw a lava flow rush past my eyes and onto my shirt.
Suddenly, I felt myself being escorted by folks a lot more concerned than I was. An icepack was shoved at my face (but not applied before I posed for the above picture), I was practically carried into a lawnchair, and three guys from the other team huddled over me like magnifying glass-wielding kids frying an ant.
"Let me see it. Oooh, yeah, you're gonna need stitches," murmurs of agreement, murmurs of agreement. "Let me take another look," plans of action, plans of action.
My quizzical expression must have conveyed my inner monologue of "Get your fucking hands off my face," as one of them quickly identified himself as a doctor. And then two more did as well. And then two more.
We were playing a team of facial surgeons. No shit.
I sat pressing the icepack to my forehead while five strangers - who at that point I'd never exchanged a single word with - debated my next course of action. One of them was on call at Crawford Long Hospital, so should, no ... The ER is close-by, but the wait would be excruciating on a Friday night ... One guy's office in Midtown could ...
And that was the final call. One of these noble sirs told my sister and I to follow him to Midtown, where he would open his office at 11 p.m. on a Friday. And 30 minutes later, I was standing in a dark Atlanta highrise, with three surgeons standing over me, doing the stitching gruntwork that no doubt is usually passed to one of their employees.
Just before the needle and thread made their appearance, though, the doctors wanted to make sure my skull was fine. One look at my patented HugeMasseyHead® told them a bullet would have a hard time causing a concussion, but they took a look nonetheless.
Ok, that's creepy, no? Maybe because it's actually me, but I can't look at that picture for too long. You can see the outline of my actual face, for one, but - I mean, damn, look how deep my teeth are. And my neck? That thing just doesn't look as sturdy as I'd like.
Proving the doctors were much smarter than I, that X-ray told them I was healthy (apparently, you're supposed to have that hole in your forehead. Who knew?). So as my sister documented everything with her camera, they got to work.
Please note that my newest hero was still in his softball jersey. He will definitely get some easy pitches in our next matchup.
I didn't see that needle until I took a look at these pictures the next day. Thank Christ.
That's actually a helluva shot, sis. And really gross if you look closely.
And the next day, the final product:
Thank God I'm already engaged. And that we've already paid for the location.
They told me it will likely scar, which to tell you the truth, was pretty kick-ass news. I, of course, pictured sitting around a table like Quint in Jaws, showing my wound to prove my manhood. The Fiancee had to bring up Harry Potter and bring those visions crashing down.
But it does look gnarly-cool up close.