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Pitch That Cynical Alter Ego High ‘n’ Inside

Some people have evil twins. Not me. I’m just too nice a guy.

Nope, I don’t have an evil twin. What I’ve got is a venial twin.

Sometimes, I must confess, he gets the better of me. He’s the alter ego who forgets birthdays, piles up parking tickets and makes me miss deadline. He’s the one (not me) who neglects to answer mail. And he’s the jerk who points out that every silver lining has a dark cloud.

We see each other every day. He greets me with a smirk.

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“Can you believe they’re holding a parade for those losers?” he said Monday morning.

“Losers!?!” I responded, aghast. “You’re talking about the champs! You’re talking about the best Little League team in the whole United States of America!”

“Yeah, right. And the big, strong U.S.A. goes out and gets whipped by itty-bitty Venezuela,” he scoffed. “And don’t forget, they lost their first game in Williamsport too. Against a team that had a girl playing catcher.”

“Oh, so sexism is a venial sin too?”

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“Hey,” my twin said, “I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. Face it: Your Northridge boys lost the big game. They let down the American people. Just like Nixon.”

*

This was a bit much, even for him. Not a single member of the Northridge All-Stars has a five o’clock shadow, which is more than can be said of a few Little League champs of yesteryear.

“What are you talking about?” I asked my twin. “Let down the American people? Are you nuts? They lifted the nation’s spirits! They’re ‘The Earthquake Kids!’ They triumphed over adversity! I mean, here we are in the middle of a big league strike, and these boys come along and remind us of what baseball is all about. It’s about a bunch of kids having fun. It’s about effort and teamwork and sportsmanship.”

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He scoffed. “I thought we were talking about Little League, not baseball. Baseball is about throwing a ball and swinging a bat. Little League is about obnoxious, overbearing parents putting a world of pressure on children and making them break down in tears. You call that fun?”

Really, I should just ignore him. He’s so predictable. Yet he always strikes a nerve. Foolishly, I tried to reason with him.

“Oh, come on,” I said. “Little Leaguers--the vast majority, anyway--grow up and look back on these years with fondness. They’ll remember the clutch hits, the dazzling plays, the bonds of friendship, the joy of. . . .”

He interrupted me. He always does.

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“Cliches! The joy of cliches! Next you’ll be telling me it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” he said.

He was really getting vicious. “Oh, they’ll remember it, all right,” he went on. “It’ll be the year 2040 and some middle-aged slob with a beer belly will be boring the barflies with the glory days of ’94. He’ll talk about the limos, the parties, the parades. . . . And then he’ll wake up one night in a cold sweat and realize that his entire Godforsaken life peaked at the age of 12--that it had been all downhill ever since. How pathetic.”

How, I wondered, could he be so bitter and cynical?

*

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My venial twin kept nagging me as the parade passed by. He scoffed at the caravan of convertibles carting the boys to the Little League field. He laughed thinking about how much of the taxpayers’ money was spent for the helicopter flyover. He groaned through the speeches from politicians and their proxies. (I just winced.)

He probably wasn’t even listening when Northridge resident Torey Lovullo, a big leaguer who when he’s not on strike plays for the Seattle Mariners, addressed the team, suggesting that the lessons learned on the Little League field can apply to other endeavors.

David Teraoka, the backup third baseman for the Northridge club, remembered most of Lovullo’s words.

“He said if we follow our dreams with as much love and, uh, something else, you can always make it,” said Teraoka, an eighth-grader-to-be at Frost Middle School. The missing word, for the record, was “intensity.”

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Teraoka, incidentally, plans to become a pilot if his baseball career doesn’t work out.

My venial twin, for once, didn’t have a snappy retort. He must have been surprised that even one boy, at that late moment on a long, hot afternoon, was still paying attention.


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