Thursday, December 8, 2011

My non-encounter with a total bastard.

She shuffled into our small, galley kitchen as I concluded a ritual which has burned itself into my muscle memory after hundreds of times preparing her same on-the-go breakfast.

I noted that she had dressed herself for the day in her "baller" outfit: ponytail with a hair band to pull any strays back from the forehead, a sweatshirt, basketball shorts, black, midcalf-length socks and Adidas slides.

As I stuffed two pieces of bacon into a toasted English muffin and handed it over, she addressed me in her usual morning monotone. "Hey, Dad."

"Morning. Hey, I've been thinking about something lately. When are you and I going to play each other one-on-one again? Last time I beat you really easily."

"Dad, I was in fifth grade. That was six years ago. Just name the time and place and I'm so in."

"What's your point? I'm still taller than you."

"Umm, no. Actually you're not. Hey, Mom! Can you come here a second?"

My wife, having been dwarfed by our woman-child at least three years ago, entered the kitchen, thereby filling it to its maximum human capacity.

"Who's taller, me or Dad?"

"Stand back to back." Our heads butted and slid against one another as they competed for supremacy beneath my bride's steadying hand.

A brief moment of quiet and stillness. "She's got you by about a quarter of an inch," my wife chortled as she left the room.

"Ha! I knew it!" Her teenage smugness nearly fogged up the small window above the sink.

"No big deal," I lamely retorted. "I'm probably not done growing yet anyway, because my knees and ankles have been hurting lately. I think the growth plates are active and I could still top off at six-three or so."

Her familiar monotone returned. "Ha, ha, Dad. You're forty-nine."

Okay, so what if my sixteen-year-old daughter is taller than I am? I'm still her dad— probably. She's still my baby—just a really tall baby.

Those who've read even a few of my postings are aware that the my wife, younger daughter and I have spent countless hours in bleachers, folding camp chairs (with cup holders) and glitchy, sloppy mud, watching this kid play.

And I'm not complaining. It's a joy to witness this terrific young woman as she joyfully pursues her lifelong passion on a high school basketball court. Intellectually, I'm aware that these are fleeting moments, that they'll be no more than vapor in a few years.

But here's the thing: When that ball tips off, I become an unsheathed, inflamed nerve, a hypersensitive human father unit whose only function is preventing harm to my offspring or her teammates.

If my fervor somehow could embody a liquefied right-wing Christian theocratic tyrant, I would be stewing in Michele Bachmann juice.

The perfect storm of potential over-the-top fatherly fan behavior occurred last Wednesday, when my daughter's team traveled across town for a non-league contest against a storied opponent, one whose multiple championship banners hovered over the hardwood.

I arrived non-filtered—on my own—los lobos solo. Sitting halfway up in the middle of the stands, I maintained a decent decorum as the opponent surgically dismantled my daughter's squad. Hey, I surmised, it's not meant to be tonight. Such is life, so I'll sit back and enjoy watching my girl play, despite the bitter defeat at hand.

By halftime, the deficit was twenty-four points, and in my opinion, it was time for the opposing coach to call off the dogs.

Unfortunately, he believed otherwise, as the third quarter commenced with the same highly athletic line-up, the same full-court press, the same assault of three-point salvos.

The lead had ballooned to forty points by the end of the third, as had my spleen, slowly searing like a nice Ahi tuna. The opponents convened in a huddle, the coach joking and laughing with his dominators before sending, that's right, the same group out to continue the onslaught for the game's final quarter.

I was pissed. As my daughter's team struggled to push the ball even beyond the mid-court line, their slumped shoulders betrayed total defeat and complete humiliation. My eyes maintained a constant lock on the enemy coach.

And that's when he said it.

With a gluttonous grin still plastering his face, he barked to his players:

"Come on, you guys can play better than that. These guys are bums."

Huh? Seriously? Had he, a high school basketball coach, representing his school and its unparalleled record of academic and athletic esteem, actually just vocally branded his opponents as bums?

Red wasn't the color that filled my vision; it was more of a brownish maroon.

I wanted to hurt this man.

This bastard, in all his misplaced hubris, had just mortally disrespected my daughter's team and school. And I wanted to visit physical damage upon him.

My wife wasn't there. No one could stop me. Scenarios cascaded through my consciousness as my eyes maintained adhesion to the back of his head:

I could charge the court and get one good shot in before I'm pummeled by his assistants and arrested. Sure, my daughter would never speak to me again and I'd be banned from entering public schools for at least five years, but it may still be worth it.

I could confront him after the game, possibly leading to a physical altercation in which I would not be the beneficiary. Still possibly worthwhile to make my feelings known.

Finally, finally, the contest had mercifully ended, a forty-five point shellacking. Okay, I murmured. If you're going to do something awesome, you've got to do it now. Come on. Do it. Now!

Knock it off, I told myself. Pull yourself together. You're not going to perform either of those stunts. If this guy wants to be a punk, he's definitely been a punk before and he'll probably always be a punk regardless of any immature act you may try, so get over it and move on.

And I did get over it and move on...

...after returning home and emailing the school's athletic director and principal.

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