Like a Presidential Inauguration, girls’ softball seasons are inaugurated with parades, joy and ceremonies. And like the world of politics, the hope and optimism that launches the season is often invaded by those adults who are driven by their own selfishness.
There are many parallels between a season in a 10 year old girls’ softball league and the world of politics. Whenever there are two or more people involved in anything together, you automatically have politics but when there are many more people involved in a group and the realistic and unrealistic hopes of parents (dads especially) are in play, a remarkable echo of our country’s politics can be witnessed.
The girls are rarely the problem, they may reflect troublesome sensibilities of their parents but for the most part, they are there to play softball, bond with the other girls on the team and hopefully have a great time doing so.
One could however, classify the parents and other adults in political terms.
THE SOFTBALL DEMOCRATS
This political category generally represents the majority of parents on a team, their manager and coaches. Generous, caring, volunteering, fundraising and very supportive of their daughters and the whole team. They gladly help out in practices, bring snacks and treats for the girls and lend an atmosphere of love and pride to the team. They support the entire team 100%.
THE SOFTBALL TEA PARTY REPUBLICANS
They are often the parents of pitchers (some of whom have molded their daughters into difficult to deal with and emotionally fragile prima donnas) and surprisingly, often the parents of lesser-skilled girls. They can be intolerant, selfish and willing to sacrifice what’s best for the team as long as they get the position or “incumbency” (playing time) they want for their daughter. They can be openly prejudiced against other players (especially those that outperform and get more playing time than their daughters) and amazingly self-deluded about reality when it comes to the performance and ability of their daughters. They can be loud, aggressive and compulsively critical of all but themselves and their daughters.
THE SOFTBALL INDEPENDENTS
Rarely contributing with any enthusiasm to the team, sometimes late for practices or games, undependable and minimally supportive in general. They don’t pitch in to help so much but also don’t project negativity onto the team except in a passive way by not being greatly supportive. You’ll often find them texting on their phone or Instagramming on their iPad while the rest of the parents are cheering the most exciting plays in the game.
Of course, the most fascinating group to me are the “Tea Party Republican” parents (perhaps because they cause all the conflict). Just as with their actual namesakes, they live in their own bubble of reality. Where everyone else on the team may see a girl who plays mediocre or poorly, their parents see a superstar who is the best player on the team. If their daughter pitches walks, “Great pitch!” If they strike out, “Great at-bat!” If they make an error in the field, “Great play!” (this really happens!).
When a manager bats the daughters of such parents lower in the order because of their low average or at a less desirable position because they don’t field very well, these parents pound their chest at how they and their superstar daughter are being victimized. This victimhood mentality festers within them until it eventually bursts out in the form of self-justified hostility vented at The Manager, the team or other parents.
After that, for the rest of the season, the political battle lines are drawn. The hostile “Tea Party Republican” parents, banding together or operating independently, mount an ongoing protest against the “Democrats” in office (the manager and coaches) and the status quo, content to damage the whole team in their pursuit to get what they want. And in the cases where they get what they want but their daughter’s lack of skills lead to losses, they console their daughters that they did everything right and someone else is to blame (Obama?).
Such tough politics can seep into the girls and their play, sometimes they play well despite it and other times it handicaps them and their ability to achieve successes in their games.
In a severe scenario, The Tea Party Republican parents can be willing to threaten a total shutdown of the team by pulling their daughters off of it so there won’t be enough players left to field a team and sometimes they can follow through on it to form their own party…er…team. They may take a great deal of satisfaction at harming or sinking the team they used to be on, uncaring about how they hurt the many girls that used to be their daughters’ friends and teammates (ask Eric Cantor about that).
There is one very important rule though that these Tea Party Republican parents never learn…some people should never be put in charge of anything. To revise the old quote from the movie, Animal House, “Being hostile, selfish and delusional is no way to go through a softball season.”
Now that these Tea Party Republicans have what they want, being in charge of their own team and having the power to push their lesser-skilled daughters into the top positions, they get behind them and promote them aggressively, totally blind to their chances for success and how they can bring the whole team down. Once again, they view their daughters through Tea Party Glasses, everything they do is great and if things don’t work out, it was because the other team didn’t play fair, the umpires were against them or other players on their team undermined their daughters (“She shouldn’t have had to step out of the batter’s box and declare to the crowd that she isn’t a witch!”).
And these Tea Party Republican Parents are prone to getting upset at rules and fair calls that go against them, they view rules as only needing to apply to other parents and the other team in order to benefit them. So they can often be witnessed verbally attacking (“trolling”) umpires when a call is made against their team.
Not all girls softball teams go through this political turmoil, many run smoothly with a minimal degree of politics and a positive and real sense of community (that’s been our experience in most years).
It is enlightening though, how the mixture of people’s emotional needs and competition with others can take the most innocent and altruistic activities and turn them into fierce political conflicts. For parents who see the big picture and recognize that egos should be checked at the door when trying to do something good for a group, softball can be a quite fun and positive experience for girls.
For those who are using it to try to salve their own damaged ego or a stunted sense of self-worth, needing to have their daughters viewed as superior players whether they are or aren’t…softball can be an intense Tea Party Republican primary challenge that touches all of the basest bases.
And that’s foul indeed.