Valium Vickie

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sports Dad

Everything happened at an amusement park in Pittsburgh. Kennywood was the name of the place, but that doesn't matter much. It was just your standard amusement park complete with roller coasters, rip-off games, underage Eastern European workers, unhealthy food stands, screaming babies, tired parents and us -- a group in their mid-twenties looking to kill a few hours before it was acceptable to start drinking again. I was in Steeler territory for a wedding and was staying at my friend Dan's for the weekend. Most of the people in our group had been Dan's friends for years. I'd heard stories, of course. Plus, I'd even met a few of these guys individually when they visited Dan at college. However, this was my first chance to see how the group interacted with normal humans in social situations. Including myself and my girlfriend, the group consisted of around 10 people. Some group members looked like characters from "Portlandia."

We were waiting in line for the bumper cars when Oliver and Trevor started explaining their plan to the rest of group. Bumper cars are these adorable little vehicles that allow people to drive like an Asian stereotype -- that is erratically and with frequent collisions. But the best part is, when you crash into somebody's car, you don't have to get out of your own vehicle and beg the other party not to get the insurance companies involved because technically your license is still suspended from that time you accidentally drove your car into a house. Nope, instead you just shrug your shoulders, as if to say, "What can you do?" or wave like psychopath before moving on to the next crash. In life, that's called Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Hit and Run, but in bumper cars, it's called having fun.

Oliver and Trevor talked in low tones, so I didn't get the details of their plan, but most of the others nodded in agreement. I distinctly remember hearing the term "Sports Dad," and seeing Trevor point at a man who was a few spots ahead of us in line. Sports Dad was maybe five years older than us -- ten years tops. He was waiting patiently in line with a woman who appeared to be his girlfriend or his wife. (Of course, this woman could've easily been someone with whom he was having an illicit affair. It's very rare for men over age 17 to get caught cheating at amusement parks.) As for the name, I'm not sure why he was Sports Dad, because he didn't appear to be responsible for any children at that moment. He was just an average man waiting in line with his girlfriend or wife (or mistress or even platonic friend who he's trying to sleep with) to enjoy the bumper cars. When Sports Dad looked in our general direction, and Trevor pointed at him and screamed, "You're going down Sports Dad. You're going down." Here's something you need to know about Oliver and Trevor: They're both very unassuming, and they're both very white. You're first impression of them is likely to be, "I bet those fellas could carry on a lovely conversation," not "Don't fuck with those two."

Before I could figure out exactly what Oliver and Trevor had planned for Sports Dad, the ride stopped, the previous riders exited and the gates opened so we could choose our cars. Sports Dad opted for a car in the corner. When the ride started, Oliver and Trevor went to work. With his target blissfully unaware, Trevor rushed toward Sports Dad, eyes wild like some crazed Jihadist the moment before the bomb on his chest explodes, and slammed into him. "Take it hard, Sports Dad! Just fucking take it!" he screamed. Before Sports Dad could respond, Oliver crashed into him. "How does it feel, Sports Dad? How the fuck does it feel? You fucking Sports Dad!" he yelled at the confused and defenseless amusement park patron. And so it went for the rest our time on the bumper cars. With military precision, everyone in our group took a turns ensuring Sports Dad never got a chance to venture out of his little corner and enjoy the ride. I remember thinking, "This is just cruel. Why are they doing this?" In my head I thought that, but my body joined the rest of the group and crashed into Sports Dad every time I was in the right position.

After a while, Sports Dad just gave up. His body sagged, he loosened his grip on the wheel and his hands slid down to his thighs. The broken man accepted defeat. When the ride was finished, Trevor approached the man he'd done battle with, "Great game, Sports Dad!" he yelled in a loud, obnoxious voice that contradicted his touching gesture of sportsmanship. Sports Dad didn't respond.

I remember seeing Sports Dad and wife/girlfriend/platonic friend/upscale escort walking off into the distance. His back was turned, so I couldn't see his face. But his hands were gesturing frantically, so I knew he was using every method of communication at his disposal in an attempt to make sense of what just happened. I don't know where Sports Dad is today. But I like to think he's the proud parent of a son who can't throw a baseball or a football, doesn't know how to dribble a basketball and who always gets picked last in gym class -- all because his father steered him as far away from organized sports as possible, so no one would ever call him Sports Dad again.


Dan said...

Beautifully illustrated.

Dan said...

Beautifully illustrated.

Natalie Sacco said...

"I'm on rooooockssssssss!"

shonuff said...

^no you're not. "I'M on roooooooooooockssssssssssssss!"