Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rear View

It is inarugable that the 'Baby Boomers' have impacted American society in ways that no other generation can claim. Regrettably, some of changes we fostered were inimical to our own well-being and others simply backfired. One of our 'improvements' in particular has had far-ranging ramifications on multiple levels such as athletic, social and medical. I am sounding the alarm about a heretofore unnamed disorder that has been percolating for years like a dormant virus. We've known of it, felt it, damned it and tried multiple homeopathic remedies, but to little avail. It is a pandemic. You heard it here first. As reported recently in the Mad Magazine Journal of Bizarre Diagnoses, 'Bleacher Butt' has entered the pantheon of medical jargon if not any of the traditional medical hightowers. The hidebound community of doctors can say what it will, but I know what I know. And I, like so many other Boomers, did it to myself, a self-inflicted malady if you will.

Approximately 20% of our generation remained childless, so a full one-fifth will never have to battle the iniquitous, almost stygian affliction of Bleacher Butt. They are the ones who are likely supporting insurance reform as they don't face the misery for many of the rest of us who face long-term debilitation on our rear face, the one with the permanent vertical smile. The appellation of the diagnosis is an apt one and few terms can be more descriptive of a malady. It is a most disagreeable one. Clearly the disorder does not affect all Boomers equally which is ironic because we spent a good part of our youth shouting for 'equality'. But (no pun intended) no, we now stare into the maw of that which we wrought.

I have four children, the oldest 23 and the youngest 18. I married a Catholic girl and she took her procreative obligations seriously to counterbalance my apostacy I presume. I digress. While I'm unable to pinpoint the exact date, my recollection is that I attended my first youth soccer game in the Autumn of 1991. Of course, being the new generation of parents that we were and riding in on the heels of our 'liberation', all the ideas, the answers were ours. We thought organized sports were great for the very young. We found out too late that we were badly mistaken. We kept our children from backyard pick-up games where each became a famous player if only for an afternoon. We were determined to make certain each child had 'self esteem' so we declared every game a tie and bestowed a medal or trophy on each child at season's end--just for showing up. No self-esteem was built by that as the kids were smarter than we were. They figured out early that the tokens had no value. My kids have hundreds of worthless trinkets. Parenthetically, I wonder what happens when these kids become adults, begin a career and expect a reward for arriving on time. In any event, we created the monster and it stomps through our time like Godzilla through Tokyo.

I estimate that I have sat on my hind quarters through more than 1,200 soccer, basketball, T-ball, baseball, softball, team handball, dodgeball, field hockey, lacrosse and hockey games; I've gotten a sore neck at tennis matches, fought boredom at cross country courses, sat through four-hour track meets watching a child compete for a total of less than five minutes; I've refereed flashlight tag and capture the flag; I've even celebrated at games of Red Rover and cheered at three-legged races. The sum of that my friends begat a lot of sitting. And not in a plush luxury box. Not in a nice theater seat. Not in the high-priced area. No. I've sat on bleachers in grade-school gyms so hot the concession stand served hot dogs without cooking them. I've planted my buns near sidelines on days so cold that the aluminum bleachers stuck to me like ice on a wet tongue. Only once was I fooled by the gentle contours of the modern fiberglas bleachers and only until I planted the buttosky. I've breathed a tribe's quota of stale air smelling of dark gym bags. There were days where a child swam through a monsoon in a game of water polo which was supposed to be a soccer game. Perhaps that's how water polo was invented. I've parked my fan-fan in snow storms during which some kids stopped and threw snowballs. There were a few times--far too few--where we were blessed by what can only be described as divine intervention: Lightning. Oh, for those days when the officials called a game because the crackle of electric current spidered through the sky. The kids never heard cheering like they experienced when a game was called. It must have exploded their self-esteem to new heights.

And all the while we assumed that kids understood everything we did about the games we coached, the rules, terminology and not hitting. My favorite was at a T-ball game with a group of first-graders. The coach, one of the kids' dad of course, was a little harried trying to herd the bevy of boys and yelled, "Who's on deck?' whereupon one of his players said, with a bit of a superior smirk on his face, "On deck? Coach, we're ballplayers, not sailors." Art Linkletter was far ahead of his time.

The years rolled by like flotsam and jetsam down the Mississippi. With hubris born of generational success, we irrationally clung to the belief that immortality awaited us. Some still do. They are mistake. We got older. So did the bleachers. Wood, aluminum, fiberglas--it didn't matter. They were all hard. Like a block of ice hard; like a steel bat hard; like the glare of a woman scorned hard. I mean they were unforgiving. It didn't matter whether I sat leaning back with legs extended over two rows or hunched over with elbows on knees. Leaning one way or another helped until the disfavored cheek was benumbed, torpid. I had a heightened sense of the point at which gangrene began to rear its horrific head, so I'd simply shift to the other side sending it back to its dark recess. By the end of an event, I couldn't walk normally, so I shuffled. So did the other parents. It could have been a new dance. Sometimes my buttocks had hot flashes as the blood returned to the capillaries with a vengeance. I found it interesting after games watching the parents nonchalantly kneading the rear flesh in an attempt to de-anesthetize the hump.

Age and gravity have now taken their course. I wasn't blessed with much of a butt, so I always had less to work with, but now I have reached the point of 'saggy bottom'. I'm one of those guys with baggy pants that look like bloomers because I have no booty to stretch the seams. All things considered though, my bum has served me well. It never went on 'injured reserve', never missed the call to arms, I mean buttocks. Only 223 days remain till my youngest graduates from high school. Soccer season is winding to a close, but basketball bounces into view less than a week later. When the last shot swishes, we take a short break for Spring to spring and then on to track and field. At the end of that road will be a history, 18 years of taking a seat to watch our kids romp and play, compete and learn about 'team'. Mostly, not always, I suffered the pain in silence, the backside silently screaming. I was and am willing to suffer the indignity for the opportunity to see unbridled joy for just a while.

My gluteous maximus won't miss the courts and fields. I won't know what to do.

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