Back in the late 90’s and early aughts, we left our mark everywhere. Didn’t we, Randyn?
First, by digging our heels into our neighbors yard; pummeling the grass so relentlessly that nothing green would grow there. All that were left were two boot sized craters, perfect for planting our feet, squaring up, and preparing ourselves for the first pitch. It’s backyard home run derby! We both know the rules, Randyn, but it’s been over 10 years since we’ve swung at each others fast ball, so let’s recap:
1. A home run must clear over the top of either your house or garage.
2. A tennis ball will be used instead of a baseball. Not that we’re not man enough to annihilate a baseball, but neither of us can afford to pay for broken windows. And we have to save up for the next Metallica concert.
3. On the final out, a very squishy, bouncy, foam ball will be used. I’m fairly certain, Randyn, that you once hit this ball the circumference of the earth. But it still only counted as one home run.
4. This is the best rule. Very loosely followed. Did you start it, or did I? I forget. Anyway, one must yell something ludicrous and inane when crushing the ball into outerspace. Some examples are, “Daaan Aykroyddd!” or, “Bbbbbutt Cheese!” or, “Shaved Pubers!!!”. We were so immature, weren’t we? Yes, yes we were.
Who had the most home runs in the end (I did)? Who’s to say (I did), but we both know you were much better at taking a bouncy ball to the head (sorry).
You left your mark on a couple trees and shrubs in our unified backyards, didn’t you? No, you didn’t pee on them. Remember? You just flat out ran into them. But it was for a good cause. The best cause, really. Perfecting a route. We practiced the ‘Out and Go’ route relentlessly. Over and over and over again. The deal was, it was the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, and this was our last hurrah, hail mary if you will, to win the game. You’d split wide right, and I was under center. Hut! I’d drop back as you shot straight out and then with the deft agility of the one and only Cris Carter, turned to the right toward the sideline. In a savvy veteran move, I’d pump-fake as you nearly reached the sideline/garage, and you’d sell it enough to get the defender to bite. Then you’d turn up field, burning the secondary, as I heaved my desperation pass in between the cornerback/shrub and the safety/kennel. Boom! Touchdown! The crowd would go silent as you would slam into the cornerback/shrub, and fall flat on your back. But as soon as you’d raise your victorious hand, pigskin clutched in the mitt of your backyard greatness, the stadium would erupt. We did this over and over and over again. You got pretty good at avoiding the shrub.
How many times did we chase a basketball into the alley? One of the worst parts of having a driveway that is raised 4 inches above the adjoining lawn, is that whenever the basketball happens to perfectly meet that edge, it catapults – like a cannonball out of a canon- toward the alleyway. One of the best parts, is you maintain great cardiovascular health. When we weren’t chasing the ball, we were playing on the sloped driveway, one on one. For hours. This is where you gained the nickname Big Point. Maybe only three people in your life called you that, me included, for your excellent ball handling skills. You were certainly the best point guard we had.
And so now, you are gone. And I don’t quite know what to say. We hung out, everyday, for close to three years, playing backyard sports. We haven’t seen or heard from each other much since then, in these some 12 years that have passed, but your mark is indelibly left on me. Those crazy scientists claim that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Well, those years we had, that energy we shared, is something I carry with me and into everything I do, everyday. Your energy is everywhere, Randyn. Still is.
Travel safely, my friend. And know…
Backyards will never be the same.