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The Semi, Semi-Finals of the CPL

In the "Cult of Escapism": The Semi, Semi-Finals of the CPL

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Semi, Semi-Finals of the CPL

Normally when there are four teams left in a tournament, we call that stage the “semi-finals.” Not in the Cow Patty League. Here, when four teams are left, we have TWO semi-final games. I've taken to calling them the semi, semi-finals (SSF). Today was one such game.

We lost our first SSF game, which, according to the rules of double semi-finals, meant that we had one more chance to keep playing. It was win or go home, though even if we won, we would have to play a third semi-final tie-breaker before advancing to the ridiculously elusive championship game.

I shouldn't complain though – the league has been full of second and even fourth chances and we've needed all of them to stay in it. Some teams cruise smoothly on to the playoff rounds – not us, we drag ourselves by our fingertips and chew dirt as we drag. It's our own fault, but that doesn't make it less dramatic.

Our do or die game pitted us against The Veterans – those rejected by younger teams and bound by their mutual rejection and aging shoulders. I love playing this team because they actually manage to be scrappier than us.

Many teams have all their players wearing the same uniform and warm up as a group and shout encouragement from the sideline. I think four people on my team have an actual uniform and maybe two people warm up before each game. While the opposing team stands in a circle and stretches, my teammates and I sit on the grass and adjust our netherregions and make stupid jokes. When the game begins, we slowly, almost grudgingly, take the field. We don't shout much encouragement but we're damn good at heckling.

But The Veterans manage to be scrappier still. The team is inherently scrappy – it's the only squad that doesn't take a town name, just a reference to their age. Every player wears a uniform, but every uniform is different and not one of them says Veteranos. With every play in the field, they look like they're about to fall over or drop the ball, but damn if they don't pull it off almost every time (this league generally sees a lot of errors, from any team). And through it all, they've survived from 12 to 4 teams and it was do or die for them today as well.

Luckily for us, our One Good Pitcher, Jorge, was here and he's yet to lose a game. Outside of games, he's almost always smiling and cracking jokes – a sort of life of the party. However when he pitches, he's all business, all about pitching. He hits well, but you can tell it's not his priority. Between innings, he paces by himself near our bench, twirling a rock to keep his wrist nimble and muttering to himself. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was about to throw the rock at someone or suddenly translate an ancient scripture.

Additionally, we had about the best turnout we could hope for. In a region with 93% unemployment, our team has an unusual amount of men with actual jobs. We have a teacher, an engineer, two cops, me. This is great for the families of my teammates, but not great for the team, since players often have to go work instead of play. Lame, right? But with our good turnout and Jorge on the mound, I felt supremely confident that we'd win.

The game went back and forth: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 3-3. Almost every inning, there was a tie or a new lead, which made every at bat, every fly ball more intense. Additionally, the coach and captain had everyone on a tight leash and a single error probably meant substitution.

I had a few good running catches and no errors, which was crucial because I hit like a pile of cow poop. 0-4 with a strikeout (which is batting-order suicide in this league). My only redemption was a massive hit to deep center field, which their center fielder miraculously caught with a jump and a roll. Their center fielder was also their only player in his twenties. Cheater. Despite the out, I still got high fives all around and people mentioned the almost hit after the game, apparently forgetting my overall batting failure. That's how it goes in the CPL – flashy is better than fundamental.

Anyway, in the seventh, we pulled away, 6-3, and the old dudes never caught up. Jorge focused on each batter like a SEALS sniper and I could tell he was going to put the game away without much resistance. Which he did.

So next week, we play our tie-breaking semi, semi-final game with a town called Ax. They're one of those teams with matching uniforms and coordinated stretches and that kind of nonsense. Jorge won't be there next week (he's a cop, who has duties and stuff), so we're gonna have to get extra scrappy. Though win or lose, I'll just be happy to exit this month long semi-final round.  


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