“Was it a strike?” Joan asked in the middle of a conversation about I don’t even know what at this point. I nodded, and she continued.
We were in the kitchen, Joan sitting on a stool at the counter, I was standing next to the sink. Her question was facetious and had nothing to do with our conversation because it was in reference to what I was doing as I listened to her. I was pitching. Like baseball pitching.
Let me explain.
If you have met me, you realize that I have trouble with stillness, namely, my own. I am generally moving on some level, walking around, fidgeting, tapping a foot on the floor or my fingers on a tabletop. Even when I’m lying down, I’m usually moving from one side to the other.
For many, many years, when I’m just hanging around, and my body has nothing to do, I’ll relieve my need for constant movement by mimicking various sports motions. For instance, if I’m waiting for water to boil on the stove, I’ll mimic a golf swing. Or maybe when I’m watching TV, I’ll “set up” for a fake free throw or even do a mini-slant route that a wide receiver might run on a third-and-two.
Sunday, I was pitching while Joan and I discussed some things about something that would happen somewhere, sometime. (Those details aren’t germane to this discussion, but please understand at the time, she had my full and complete attention.)
These things that I do reflexively are so common, usually my family members don’t even notice it anymore, and if they do, it’s not even worth a comment. So, Joan’s question on Sunday was rare but not delivered with any ill intent whatsoever. She was simply playing along with the inanity of it all.
“Was it a strike?”
“Always,” I replied, nodding. She then continued on with her point, and I continued pitching and listening.
I don’t know when this “sport miming” thing started. Or why. I do recall swinging baseball bats – real bats – in the house as a kid, and it always fascinated me how I could be three rooms away from my mom, and somehow, she’d know exactly what I was doing.
From the kitchen: “Are you swinging a bat in there?”
Three rooms away: “No.”
Three rooms: “Um, don’t worry. I have it measured.”
The term “I have it measured” was both an admission and a reassurance, in my mind anyway. I really didn’t want to lie to my mom, so “I have it measured” told her that, “Yes, I am swinging a bat in the house but not to worry, because I’ve created a foolproof formula that takes into account the length of the bat, my reach and the plotting and complete awareness of all items (breakable and non-breakable) in the room at the time.
This process worked well (for both of us, I think) until one day, when I drove a table lamp into the right-centerfield gap for a stand-up double. Funny thing is, Mom didn’t come running, didn’t panic or get outwardly angry. Fact is, she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to, because I knew that would be the last “in-house” at bat of my career. (Mom was as good at “miming” her reprimands as I was imitating swings and throws and shots. Maybe better.)
So, maybe the day Mom symbolically took the indoor bat out of my hand is when I started this multi-sport “shadowboxing” habit, because I still needed that “fix.” As the habit grew, and along with it, the number of sports involved, I never told anyone about it, not because I was ashamed, it just never occurred to me to say anything.
And throughout my teens, I never did it in front of anyone, not friends, family … no one.
Then came college, where I met Tim, a fellow high school baseball player and huge sports fan. I met Tim in the dorms our freshman year, and we hit it off immediately. I noticed early on that, he too, liked to mime sports moves, primarily pitching. It wouldn’t be out of the realm for us to be having a conversation through an open door in our dorm, where I’d be standing next to my bed and he would be standing in the doorway, looking into my room to take the sign from an imaginary catcher.
As we’d talk, he'd go into the stretch, checking the runner at first base and finally, throwing the pitch, while I’d be bouncing an imaginary basketball ... one, two, three times ... then flexing my knees before delivering a perfect free throw.
It was normal to me, and cool that I had found someone else with my condition. We never talked about it; we didn’t need to because there was nothing to talk about, nothing wrong with it. It’s just what we did. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever brought this phenomenon up to anyone until now.
As juniors, Tim and I got an apartment together for our final two years of school, and pitching, hitting, jump shots, golf swings and an occasional toss of the bowling ball (all virtual, of course) became increasingly common as we went through our days.
Again, Tim usually opted for pitching, while I liked to do different things based on the location and amount of space afforded me. For instance, if it was a small room or a place with little space to move around, I might throw a pitch or shoot a free throw. But if I could spread out, I might run a pass pattern. If I was in socks and on a non-carpeted surface, there was only one choice: bowling.
And now, three decades later, I’m still doing it, usually without thinking, and those closest to
me let it come and go without notice, except occasionally, per Joan’s off-hand and well-timed comment, like the one she made Sunday without missing a beat.
So, what’s the point? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m finally crying out, asking for help in my search to find out what compels me to mime sports moves. Or, maybe I’m just saying to all of you (you know who you are and there are many, many of us) who have been privately shooting, passing, pitching, rolling, driving and even punching the air in secrecy all these years.
I say, switch on that lamp you didn’t smash with a real bat and let your light shine for all to see, showing the world your form. Come out of the shadows, sports mimes, and feel free to go through the motions of your life.
And let every fake pitch you throw or bowling ball you roll be a strike, every free throw you take hit nothing but net, and every faux 5-iron you hit land on the green. That’s my wish for you, and for all of us.
© 2019 David R. Haznaw