I’ve been a P.A. announcer at Emory for ten years, and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Overtime goals, KO’d players, bottom-of-the-7th grand slams. I can keep an even vocal tone whether I’m excited, disappointed, astounded, confused, etc. Saturday’s NCAA softball Super Regional put that ability to the test.
The Eagles’ impressive season came to an end when the opposing team tried the ol’ hidden ball trick for the final out of the game. It worked, and to say I was disgusted by this classless disregard of sportsmanship is an understatement.
One person I spoke with suggested I had little reason to feel angry. Trick plays are part of the game and teams should prepare for them, they said. That may be true. Coach Penny Siqueiros would never have such a bush league play in her arsenal, but not all coaches lead their teams with that kind of integrity.
Ultimately though, sport isn’t about preparation and Xs and Os and box scores. It’s about people. And that’s why a single trick play caused me so much angst Saturday afternoon.
This isn’t some faceless football team running the Statue of Liberty play in yet another BCS bowl game halfway across the country. This is my team. These are my kids. And when you not only end their season but try to humiliate them in the process, I have a problem with that. When I overhear the player who got tagged for the final out say, “Well, I’m the one who fell for it,” I’m going to think the opposing coach is despicable, worthless jerk for making one of my kids feel stupid. I am Tara-the-Cat protective by nature and Emory is family. And I will bodycheck you back into your own yard if you try to hurt my family.
That’s how unconditional love works, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I give all of my heart to a team knowing I can’t control game results whatsoever – sneaking “Crazy Train” in as a walk-up song when I’m not supposed to notwithstanding - my heart is more richly rewarded when the team wins and succeeds. And it’s bruised a bit deeper when a team that maybe overachieved by getting to the Super Regional in the first place – short roster, only two pitchers, one with a bum leg – gets knocked out in such a disrespectful, dishonest manner. The opposing team had a chokehold on the game. They didn’t have to kick my team while they were down.
So I will congratulate that team on its victory; that’s what the NCAA’s script says to do. I’m a pro. I get paid to keep my voice calm even if my heart is pounding, my leg is bouncing, or the weight of a five-run first inning is crushing me. I hope that team has fun in Texas. And I hope they get slaughter-ruled in their first two games and have a miserable, silent, humiliating ride home. Because what they did to my team is not OK. The script says “good luck” and that’s what I’ll read – upbeat, pleasant, clear. Neutral on the mic, but not in my heart.