Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First win of the season

8-5 over the Wonderballz (or Wonderballerz or Wonderbraz...no matter what, it's a terrible name, so I'm not going to take the time to look it up). And it was as ugly as the final score would indicate. We played down to the level of competition for about three innings until we realized that "Hey, we're better than them - let's start playing like it!"

Not to take anything away from the Wonderblahz (who, although technically a new team, have several people who played on other teams last season), who put up a good fight and have several very good kickers. But there was no reason we should have been down 4-1 after the first inning.

My main comfort is that we have history on our side. Not only have we always lost the first game of the season (as previously documented), it usually takes us about midway through the second game before we start playing like the games count. Last season is a good example: we were trailing Trey Stafford Explosion in Week 2 for most of the game before we decided to stop sucking pipe and start playing. The result? A 5-2 victory that let us go from being "terrible" to "decent".

Personally, my stats looked good: 3-for-3 with two runs (including the game-winner). Denfensively, I was better than Week 1, and had about four or five put-outs or assists. But, I'm probably at only about 80 percent of where I can be. I've noticed that I tend to sometimes assume that kickers aren't going to bunt, meaning I don't get a good jump on any actual bunt. I need to stop doing that. I also need to be less concerned about throwing or kicking the ball away when trying to make a play.

All of that, and also I'm now getting paranoid that I'm going to accidentally get in front of the kicker and have a big kick hit me square in the face. And really, when you have a face like this, you want to protect it.

Michael and I umped the lone 9 p.m. game, which of course started at about 9:20 p.m. Meaning that we were able to spend about one hour at the bar. Which is probably for the best since a) I'm broke until the end of the month and b) I haven't been feeling great since this weekend (reoccuring headaches), so anything more than one or two beers would have been, to borrow a phrase, "a fucking stupid idea".

Speaking of fucking stupid ideas, Scott decided that today is "Fuck Up Day" for him, meaning that he's going to do things that he always wanted to do, but thought were probably bad ideas. This coming from a person with little to no self-control to begin with, and who once teabagged an entire house.

The bottom line is this: I'm not bailing him out at 3 a.m. this morning.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just a little bit of history repeating

The Awesome Helicopter Ninjas opened our fourth season the same way we have opened our first three seasons: with a loss. And not a particularly pretty one, either - 8-2 to the Valley Girls. To paraphrase our team inspiration for this season, we've won two championships after losing our Opening Night game, so I'm not sweating it either.

Actually, we played OK for parts of the game (we led 2-0 after one inning). Basically, they made some really precise kicks, and we had some new players (and veterans) drop some balls that I don't think they'll drop again. Especially the new players - I think people either a) get really nervous the first week and make mistakes they eventually learn not to make or b) come in too cocky and think they should be able to be amazing from the start, and have to learn that you do in fact need to concentrate and take it somewhat seriously to do well.

However, despite the loss, I had a really good time. In fact, it was about as much fun as one could have while getting soundly beaten. The Max Fischer Players Edition got off to about as great of a start as I could have hoped for from a theme standpoint. First off, my uniform was top-notch:

- Red beret
- Black glasses
- Blue blazer
- Blue and red tie with dress shirt (with team T-shirt over the dress shirt but with the tie stick out over it)
- Khaki short

I played in everything except the blazer, which would have been a bit too restrictive in terms of making fielding plays. I can't say the uniform (comstume) hurt me at all, but I will say this: it was hot, even at 7:30 at night. It was even really hot at the bar after the game with everything on. I have a new appreciation for Jason Schwartzman and what he must have gone through while filming "Rushmore" while wearing that outfit and being under hot lights.

And the best part was that I wasn't the only person on my team to go with the theme! Of course Scott and Michael didn't get dressed up, but I didn't expect that because they are jerkburgers. But three of our female players did come in schoolgirl outfits (which, I'm sure some of my less classy readers would be very excited to hear about, and...yeah, it was pretty cool.) This included two of our new players, one of whom went the whole nine yards and was basically an exact replica of Margaret Yang. So much so that we kept referring to her as Margaret instead of by her real name all night.

(I had a single in my only AB - I would have had a better kick, but I was distracted by Michael dancing with Dre to "Oh Yoko" as the soundtrack from "Rushmore" was playing on our iPod boom box. Stupid sexy Michael and his sexy dancing.)

Of course, there were smoke bombs. Duh.

And, I have to compliment The Valley Girls on having the highest level of sportsmanship. I know I've ripped on them in the past, but that was before several of our players got to know several of their players really well, and it was actually a lot of fun to play against them, without the usual passive/aggressive BS that both teams usually bring to the game. So kudos to you, Valley Girls.

The bar was fun and really hectic. We now have 14 teams in the Division, which is five more than we've ever had. Unfortunately, that means that not every team is going to play against each other, which really sucks. But McWAKA (my new nickname for WAKA, since they are trying to franchise themselves as the McDonalds of kickball) likes to have 16 team Divisions instead of capping them at, say, eight and starting new Divisions in the area after that. I wouldn't do things that way, but I don't work there. (Thank God.)

So we play one of the new teams next week (Wonderballs), and I think that we'll be properly motivated by a) our poor performance last week and b) the fact that they have a terrible team name.

Oh yeah, we handed out championship rings in a brief pregame ceremony. I'll post pics later in the week - everyone seemed really happy to be rewarded for their hard work.

Monday, September 18, 2006

New season starts tonight

So our opening game is against The Valley Girls, which...I won't say that they are our rivals, because that would make them way too happy. It's sort of like how every team is rivals with Notre Dame or the Raiders, because everyone dislikes them except for their fans? It's like that. Plus, we're two of the Original Four teams left, so there is some history. (And they were the No. 1 team in the regular season, so they are pretty good. Even if we would have beaten them in the regular season finale and have been regular season champs if Scott and Bill weren't both out, but that's just sour grapes.)

Most importantly, it's the official debut of Awesome Helicopter Ninjas: Max Fischer Players. Since we sort of got away from the shenanigans last season, we're vowing to redouble our efforts this season, even if it means not winning as much. (At least, until we get to the playoffs, because the regular season is a tad pointless.) Expect a full report (and judging by Scott's fireworks arsenal, perhaps a fire/police report) tomorrow.

And yes, you did hear someone from WAKA on Kevin & Bean on KROQ this morning. It was Johnny, one of the founders from Washington, DC. I didn't hear it, but apparently he said that the Studio Division season "hadn't started yet" and that there was "still time to join". Which will probably mean a bunch of new people and at least one new team joining before the official cut off date in before the second week, meaning lots of scheduling headaches.

Thanks guys! And maybe it would have been nice to let the local Divisions know about this before it happened, and perhaps use some of us as spokespersons instead of the WAKA Founders, who are 3,000 miles away. Not to prejudge (since I didn't hear it), but I'm almost positive that I, or any Ninja, would have been more entertaining on the radio than Johnny WAKA. Incredibly more entertaining. I suspect that perhaps they were worried that we would be so entertaining and engaging that it would distract from the overall WAKA message.

At least, that's what I'll tell myself as I cry myself to sleep on my giant, kickball-shaped pillow...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pick-up game

The annual pre-season pickup game was on Monday night, and as usual it was barely controlled chaos. This year was perhaps even worse than usual, since we have so many new people and teams. I believe we're at 280 people and 13 teams, and we had enough people at the pick-up game for six teams.

Once again, I've volunteered for the Division board, even though I always tell myself that I won't after the previous season. However, I'm just a bit too focused on civic duties for my own good. This season, I've agreed to be Rules Chair, since I probably know the rules book better than anyone, and it's a title that doesn't require a ton of weekly work. In keeping with the "Max Fischer Players" theme, however, I have requested that my title be changed to "President, Rules Club".

Speaking of the Max Fischer Players - the uniform for this season is almost complete. I have the beret, blazer and khakis. I also have a shirt and tie, that will be work underneath by "official" WAKA T-shirt. (WAKA has this hard-on about making sure that your official team T-shirt is "visible at all times" during games. One new team wanted to play in orange prison suits, but were told no by our WAKA rep. WAKA, incidentally, is full of weiners.)

The only thing I am missing is a pair of fake glasses. I had no idea how difficult it would be to find a pair. As a temporary mesasure, I wound up buying a pair of sunglasses at the gas station and popping out the lenses, but I would prefer "real" fake glasses with actual lenses. In the past few days, I have gone to every mall store I could think of (Hot Topic, Spenser Gifts, etc.) and a Halloween costume store. No luck so far. Anyone with ideas on where I could find a pair of fake glasses (the Buddy Holly/Elvis Costello kind), please let me know.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kickball dorks

After spending some time reading posts on some other sites, site as Kickball365.com, I've come to the conclusion that I'm glad we don't play kickball in Washington DC or one of the other "power kickball" areas. Because, frankly, those guys take the sport part of kickball way too seriously.

I mean, pages and pages of debate on if certain Divisions are major Divisions or just "mid-majors". Days and days of complaining about how WAKA does things a certain way, or how DC Kickball or NAKID (two rival kickball leagues, and I can't believe I typed the words "rival kickball leagues" without doing it in the context of writing a Will Ferrell movie) are superior or inferior. And don't forget the snobbery. One of the posters told me that I should "bring a camera" to the Regionals and World Championships so I could show our Division how real pitchers throw the ball.

I may have mentioned this before, but Scott went to the post-tournament party after the Regionals in LA this summer even though we didn't play. Several of the WAKA "executives" were there. Scott's comment afterwards was something to the effect of "They're a bunch of people who are incredibly pleased with themselves because of the fact that they play kickball." Having done some more research, I know now exactly what he's talking about, and why I never would fit in with that crowd.

At the end of the day, I'm a Ninja first, and more than anything else I'm proud of our team, and all of the absurdist, theatrical bullshit that we do. We've been successful on the field, yes, but that's been a secondary benefit. If I was on a team that took itself way too seriously, treated kickball as a "sport" and not as "a reason to be ridiculous and then go to a bar afterwards", I wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much, even if the team won. I'd enjoy doing what we do just as much if we were on a losing "Operation" league. (Which, after having played a few games during the aborted Board Game Challenge, seems like a fun idea - I own the Funny Bone!)

So, to sum up, I may be one of the Head Ninja Nerds, but I'm not a kickball dork.