No Losing Streak Lasts Forever

My senior year at high school the hockey team underwent a winless season. Attendance for our side was weak. Losing teams don’t have an expanding fanbase, but my three cousins played for the Hawks and I attended most of their games along with several friends. Our rival’s supporters ridiculed our team with chants of ‘loser’.

“You suck. You suck. You suck.” We were few, but vocal as only boys can be at 17.

The cheerleaders from the other squad walked across the arena to ask us to refrain from swearing. This was a Catholic league. Theirs was a mixed school taught by nuns. Ours was all male under the Riverine Brothers. We didn’t have much congress with the other sex and Thommie Black insulted the cheerleaders’ spindly legs by comparing them to ‘lobstah’ claws. “Red and fat.”

I thought two of them were cute. They were the first to cry and their football team strode across the wooden stands to confront us. They were about 30 of them. We were 15. My youngest cousin said that the play on the ice was stopped by the refs and he watched us battle the footballers for a good minute before the security guards broke up the donnybrook.

Our team went 0-1 in 1970 and forty years later my cousin still recounts the tale of seeing me punching out football players. I don’t remember it that way, but no one ever mentions that losing season either.

Single events can erase the shame of losing.

In 1971 I coached my youngest brother’s little league team. My baseball skills were minimal, however the league needed someone to count heads and insure the equipment wasn’t stolen. Gleason’s Funeral Home provided the t-shirt, caps, bats, and balls. We lost game after game after game. Angry parents yelled at my batting orders. Kids cried after each loss. While most of the players on Gleason Funeral Home had a fair grasp of the basics, my brother’s fielding and throwing arm exiled him to right field. The players on the other teams made fun of his batting. Halfway through the season, Michael said, “I want to quit.”

“Me too.”

My father said there were no quitters in our family. My youngest brother and I suffered humiliation week after week. The last game of the season was against the league leader. McGlory Ford. They had matching tee-shirts, pants, and sox.

Somehow we led into the last inning. My brother batted first and the opposing coach commented that a girl had a better practice swing. I called time. The coach had twenty years and an extra fifty pounds on me. I picked up a baseball bat.

“Don’t.” My brother took the bat from my hands.

“What about protecting you?”

“I can take care of myself.” He stepped up to the plate and parodied the macho coach by hitching his pants and scratching his ass. Our team giggled with a loser’s disregard for authority. The other team saw the humor in the uncanny mimic and soon everyone on the field laughed at Michael’s antics. The pitcher on the mound caught the spirit and lofted a cream puff at the plate.

My brother squibbed a hit into left field. He was tagged out stealing home.

Our opponents scored two runs in the bottom of the 6th and the season ended with a record of 0-17. I bought pizza for the team and toasted my brother as a victory in the throat of defeat. The other players would have preferred the win.

This season the Red Sox started out 0-6 despite possessing some of the best batters and pitchers in the Major League. My New York friends crowed how the Bosox would go 0-162 for 2011.

“The curse of the Bambino is back.”

Yesterday the Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees at Fenway. Carl Yaztremski threw out the first pitch. The home team triumphed 9-6. The losing streak was over for today. It might resume today or maybe tomorrow, but no losing streak lasts forever and that was proven by the Red Sox in 2004 when they came back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees and then the World Series.

Babe Ruth is dead.

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