Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Year of the No-No

Tonight is one of the most anticlimactic nights in sports: The Major League All Star Game. Sure, in theory it’s cool, but this year??.. Eh, I’m expecting an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Sure both teams are loaded with the best bats from every franchise, but it seems this year.. pitchers are just too damn good. In fact, 2010 has been the year of the pitcher. Even before we headed into this All Star break there had already been four no hitters, two of which where perfect games. Well, there was the Galarraga incident, but I’ll try not to rub any more salt in that wound Jim Joyce. Perhaps it’s the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs. Or even just the fact the pitchers are just that good with the emergence of phenoms like Stephen Strasburg … and, who the hell is this Ubaldo Jimenez kid???... Eh, never heard of him. Could it be the fielders behind the hurlers have gotten better??? Or maybe .. Just maybe we should chalk it up to luck and chance.

After all, you can't be a diehard sports fan without having a superstitious thread or two in your body. Me? I simply believe in karma… and jinxes. Maybe that's why my personal trash talk is so limited. I know the power of the sports Gods is both mighty and swift. And having been a loyal Tampa sports fan for many years, I raise my arms to you and ask, “Haven’t we suffered enough? Did you not SEE my Bucs last year?”

My superstitions not only revolve around my favorite sports teams.. But around my personal life as well. Confused?... Let me explain.

There are certain things in life you just don't talk about. In my small albeit random dating world, I view being in a functioning relationship like pitching the ever elusive “perfect game.” The less you talk about the X’s and O’s, and the sheer mechanics of it, the better chance you have at making it work. Anyone that's been around the Game knows that the jinx is real. I hadn't come close to throwing a perfect game since 2007. And it wasn't a pretty one. It was more of the Edwin Jackson versus the Rays variety. But do style points really matter at that point in the game? Some will say I was still using performance enhancers in the form of my 34Ds. And I while I wasn't trying to write José Canseco tell-all about it, I certainly didn't argue with them.

In 2009, I laid off the "juice" I guess you could say and went back to the basics. I dusted off my heater. Shaped up my curve, and prayed to God that my slider didn't look like Scott Kazmir's. It was small yard ball, the kind you see outside your local YMCA or in sandlots across middle America or small town stadiums in generic Carolina cities. The mechanics weren’t perfect, but the talent was there. And at least no one was winning free steaks from hitting one off of the Bull at my expense.

The funny thing is I wasn’t worried about being perfect or throwing no-no’s I was just simply a girl having fun. That is until one guy dropped the dreaded title on me in public.

"This is my girlfriend… blah blah blah blah blah.”

Once someone had applied the Heimlich, I'm pretty sure I visibly shuttered. When did that happen? Better yet, how had this happened? Miss monogamy? Miss relationship? Miss perfect girlfriend? And all of the sudden I shuddered at the idea of being in a committed relationship. WTF was wrong with me? Here were perfectly good men. Who treated me well. Who I had tons in common with. And I couldn't muster up the two syllables they longed to hear. Boy... friend.

I mean, in the most literal context, they were boys, and we were friends. But, I had tons of male friends. So what made these so different.

I just didn't see the need to define things. Did relationships really need labels and boundaries? Maybe I was hiding from something? Maybe I was just keeping myself from getting hurt. I've never been the one to hide my feelings from people. Shit, I post them in my blog for the ten of you that may actually read my drivel, one of those is my own mom. But for the past year or so I had played my emotions close to the vest. I was that bad ass Angelina Jolie-esque girl. The kinda girl that had made boys cry and showed no mercy doing so. Well, at least publicly. When had I become such a cynical asshole?

Just the idea of being 'Pujolsed’ again made me haul ass faster than Willie Mays. My friends often joked when I'd show up in a new pair of sneakers, that I'd simply run the soles out of the other ones. I won't lie, I'm on my 3rd pair in less than a year... So their observations aren't totally inaccurate.

So for well over a year it seemed I did the dance about the mound. Sure, I struck some dudes out, but my pitch count bordered on insanity. Then this past spring, things were starting to come together. I was seemingly on top of my game. I had been consistent. I had been calm, and collected.. Things were awesome on this one particular day. It was the bottom of the seventh, I was playing it cool.. But then my head got the best of me over this one particular batter.

Next thing I knew there was a meeting at the mound. Self Doubt was playing first base, my emotions were at short, and insecurity was on second. Had one of those ridiculous Fu Manchu mustaches going on. He was forever in an image identity crisis it seemed and during the off season would grow out his facial hair only to shave it into some random configuration in time for team pictures. This look defined ridiculous on his young face as he tried to feign a “devil may care” persona.

Ego played third. He's the type of dude that had a portrait of himself commissioned as half horse, half man. And while we all publicly razz him for it, there's an inner voice in us that says, "Vain, and bordering on some weird Liza Minelli territory or not.. That shit is bad ass."

Each had their own two cents to add on the subject. When Self Doubt brought it up.

“Hey Sterg, you do know you’re in the middle of a …”

“SSSSSHHHH! What the French toast are you doing Self Doubt? Keep quiet,” said Ego.

Effing rookies. Don't you know the first rule of a no hitter..

By the time our meeting adjourned my mind was anywhere but on the mound. At that point in time, I might as well have been Doc Ellis mid acid trip.
“What are you doing? Are you sure you're the only one he's seeing? Don't you need to define what this is?”

“No!” I yelled back. “I don't. Why jinx it?”

I'm sure to the outside world I looked the Grant Balfour, glove to my mouth shouting obscenities at my inner voices, reprimanding them..

"Don't you jokers know.. You don't ever talk about a perfect..."

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

Maybe the time had come when I had to talk about it. This game had gone on for months now between us. And no one was willing to acknowledge what it was we were doing. So.. I did what I thought I had to do.. I broached the subject on the ride to the airport one day. The home stretch. The bottom of the ninth. “At least I would know,” I thought. So I served up what little heat I had left in me.. And..

CRACK.

I not only allowed a hit, but I allowed a solo home run shot. As my friend Billy Zane would say.. "It’s a walk off."

How had I committed a grievous rookie error? C’mon Sterger. Clear the f'n mechanism. You're better than this.

Maybe I had been right to just let things develop as they will and not overthink things as I tend to do. My brain often times had been my own worst enemy calling back memories of that time I’d be Albert ‘Pujolsed’ in front of my friends, my family, and on the airwaves that had watched the drama unfold before our very eyes.

Any kind of experience like that will have even a seasoned vet questioning themselves. Maybe I didn't have what it took anymore. Maybe my Smoltz years had come and gone, and not only had the team I had been so loyal to didn't want me, but I hardly had enough gas to be traded for a pile of used bats, and a half empty box of big league chew. I was doomed to wind up teaching pitching methods to dumb ass kids with stupid nicknames and hooking up with a much younger hotter Susan Sarandon as I faded into obscurity.

Why is everyone else around me pitching perfect games? What do they know that I don't? My stuff is just as good as theirs. I'm just as dedicated. Maybe it really was all just a giant mind f*ck I had put on myself. Being around sports as long as I have been, even I know a pitcher can be his own worst enemy. A few wild pitches, lousy officiating, and you could start second guessing yourself.

My next few starts didn’t go so well. Ok, they were downright disgusting. Finally, I just found myself sitting on the mound for what seemed like months, and waiting for the inevitable: for the manager to stroll out to the middle of the field and give me the business in front of a crowd of people. And put me out of my misery. But a funny thing happened.

He never came.

Instead I looked over to the dugout, and found a team had rallied around me. Mostly the usual suspects, but a few new faces that had joined the team in the past few months for no other reason than they liked me for me. The goofy girl who is far too smart for her own good. The girl who knows no strangers that spends countless hours socializing with random people whom she's never met, yet considers friends. The outwardly cynical tom boy, that's 2 parts bad ass to 1 part Julia Roberts.. all while still remaining open to the idea that the right dude could convince her to change her wild ways. Eh.. Or something like that. I made a rookie mistake that so many guys had made in their dealings with me.. but rest assured I had learned from it.

I'm not saying I'm going back to the horn rimmed glasses or carving patterns in my head that would embarrass Kid n Play.. But I’m definitely going back to the roots of the game.. And the pitch I knew best.

Confidence was crouched behind the plate. He calls all the pitches and knows me best. Sometimes we don't always see eye to eye, but he's definitely pulled me through some tough situations. I think that's the veteran in him.

He's always the first to remind me, "Hey remember that time when... Yeah? Well, this ain’t shit compared to that. So settle down Sterger. You've got this! Give 'em the heater Sterg.”

That's right..

To quote a very wise friend of mine.. Sometimes you just have to step back and look at it all.

Then say..

"I'm Jenn effin Sterger.

“I'm effin in. And they're effin out."

That’s the thing about No-No’s. Sometimes they happen when you least expect them to, but more often when you need them the most. Just don’t try to talk about them. After all, that is what arbitration is for later.

10 comments:

Valder said...

I'll be in the outfield...can't wait till the ninth.
Play the game by your rules, my friend. Otherwise it will play you.
Great blog, as always.

Jordi said...

So does this mean you are going to be the band girl again? Yikes. Good luck, Jenn.

Mike said...

Wow, Jenn! That's so deep. It's so true. Thanks for sharing. It's like what a lot of people says, it happens when you least expect it. Speaking of real Perfect Games, I'm from Hawaii and took a trip to the Bay. My only A's game was Dallas Braden's Perfect Game on Mother's Day. You can friend me on Facebook and check out my pictures. Mike Jocson is my name. I'm a recent fan of yours since seeing you on the Daily Line on Versus.

Reese Edwards Radio said...

Jenn, your blog reminds me a lot of my past relationships. I know I am one of the most caring, easiest people to be around, yet, here I sit feeling as I am destined for eternal singlehood.
I am sick of hearing "You have to love yourself before others will." Whomever came up with that is an idiot! I have zero doubts about myself as a human being. I am far from perfect, but I know how well I treat anyone I am with, because I always viewed those relationships as the best gift I ever received at the time.
Any guy who does not want an intelligent, funny woman in their life is plain dumb. I'm sorry the guys who dicked you over did so, but we both know they are kicking their own asses.

MichaelAMetzger said...

Everything you write has a certain motivational aspect behind it that I just can't get enough of.

However, the "all while still remaining open to the idea that the right dude could convince her to change her wild ways" is ridiculous. I'm going to sound like that super popular kid that picked on you in school, yet stole your yearbook and by their name wrote "never change."

Seriously...you're Jenn effin Sterger and you're pretty effin awesome in my book (which should mean a lot as I do have the same name as a guy that did a back flip across a fountain on a bike...aka my book could sell!!!).

Steven Richey said...

Well Jenn welcome to the bigtime.Here in the majors its not about loyality or friendship its about money. It would be nice if women looked at a person for who they are but in the end they look at the resume.Tall,dark and handsome with money will win out over loyality.friendship,soulmate and all those other nice things every time. I know I have been in the majors for a long time and to stay in the majors as a lifetime 200 hitter you have to know what the real truth is and accept it.You and I are so much alike it is scary.We have chatted before but not seriously. Please to meet you hope you remember my name.

anthony0358 said...

Dear Jenn
Thank you so much for sharing so much of your thoughts with us in this blog

I truly wish joy and happiness for you

Jerry said...

Jenn

Even though you might be looking for that perfect game, you should realize that all victories are important. I'm sure that you have plenty of people that want to be on the "field" trying to help you achieve your goal. Just remember that in every no-no there is usually some great play by a teammate. That might be just what you need is that great play to make every thing fall into place for you. We all think we make mistakes with relationships but it's what we learn by ourselves or from others that can finally put us in position to seize the moment when it comes. I wish you much luck in the future with all aspects of your life. Don't worry you'll have your next turn in the rotation soon enough.

Jerry

Warren Wallace said...

I think people feel the need to "define" the relationship once they've reached a point where they feel like they're becoming, or already have become emotionally invested in the other person. If you're only interested in a monogamous relationship, and clearly you are, and you've become emotionally invested in the person or on the verge of it happening, then I don't think it's so crazy to want some type of reassurance that the other person is on the same page as you. People who avoid "having the conversation" or "defining" the relationship (after a practical window of time that they've been seeing one another) are either commitmentphobes, prefer having open relationships, are not looking for a serious relationship, or are setting themselves up to be hurt by the other person when they find out that the relationship they thought they had with that person isn't the reality of the situation.

Jay said...

look at it as Batting Practice...you were trying out something new to give you a better edge in the game...

at the end of the day, life is all about reps and this is just another rep.