This has been written and posted for other sites, but somehow never made its way here. It's here now.
The summer months represent the strangest chunk of time on the sports calendar. It's the period where the testosterone-fueled fall and winter somehow gives way to over-analyzation of tennis, golf or, in the most extreme cases, AAU basketball.
The whole thing eventually comes to a creepy crescendo with the king of sports awkwardness: the Little League World Series. Whether it's grown professionals seriously commentating little league baseball games, the steady stream of 11 and 12-year-old tears, or having someone walk into the room and quietly judge you for watching young boys play baseball by yourself, if you watch the event for any period of time you're going to be bitten by the "should I really be doing this?" bug at least once.
With the awkwardness of late spring/early summer officially beginning to creep in, I thought it was the perfect time to look at the five most awkward events of occurrences that sport supplies us with.
5) The kickoff tee retrieval
After an exciting kickoff and subsequent return, everyone's attention next turns to the lonely tee sitting by itself near midfield. The person sent on this Homer-esque adventure is usually a lowly trainer or manager who hasn't yet earned his or her stripes. Now sometimes teams, like U of L, will use kids to do the trick, and other times the kicker will simply pick the tee up himself, but neither of these two options are as fun so we'll focus on example number one.
The task is quite a quandary for the assigned party for numerous reasons. First, immediately following the kickoff there will be a play, which means that you can't half-ass this, and that means that you can't bust out your pimp jog (we know you have one). Seeing you sprinting and giving your all in the middle of a packed stadium immediately makes the thousands of fans juxtapose you with the other 22 individuals on the field and the reasons they are giving their maximum effort. You don't come out favorably in this comparison.
Next, it's kind of a lose-lose here because if you do your job successfully it only means that you didn't fall or get run over by a 340-pound pound lineman named Juice. If you don't do your job successfully, it means you did fall and Juice treated you to a sex change operation sans drugs and medicinal tools. It also means you're going to be on SportsCenter and your trombone playing roommate with three ears is going to pretend he doesn't know you.
4) The foul ball pop out
Everyone who played baseball at some point in their life has experienced this moment. You've waited at least half an hour for your big moment in the box. You dig in, stare down the pitcher, and then take the biggest hack you can muster only to watch as the catcher stands under your weak fly ball and then hauls it in four feet to your right.
At least when you hit a fly ball into fair territory you can do a cool bat toss and then attempt your best "I'm (first name) f'ing (last name), I'm gonna get drunk and get laid after this game and I don't give a damn if I just flew out" jog around first. Also, the possibility exists that someone will drop the easy out, turning the focus on them and you can switch into still kind of pissed/slightly amused mode.
Popping out in fail territory, however, means that you have to stand in the batter's box (bat still in hand, mind you) and wait the 30-45 minutes it takes for your ball to come back down to earth, all the while thinking "this is great, even if he drops it I still suck, and then I have to get back in there and do this again."
How to handle your disposition during this whole ordeal is another issue entirely. Do you rock the staggered legs? One hand on the hip maybe? Look away in disgust because whether or not he catches the ball, this is the first time in your life you have ever swung and not hit a home run?
The possibilities are endless. Watch closely the next time you get a chance.
3) The casually missed short putt
This one applies only to the amateur game, and not like the college amateur game, the amateur game where you pee in a bush while your buddy tees off.
Here's the scenario: your three buddies have already putted out, two of them walk toward their bags while the third picks up the pin in anticipation of you drilling your two-foot gimmie. You slowly stroll over to your ball, which you found in the brush earlier in the round, and prepare to send it home. You don't set your feet or take any practice strokes because, let's face it, you'd be on the PGA if you weren't such a valued member of the "Jeremy's Electronics" team.
Your buddy is still slowly walking towards the cup with the pin as you nonchalantly stroke your putt which promptly misses the right side of the hole by four inches. Your friend-turned-enemy stops in his tracks and the two of you make brief eye contact as you contemplate whether to act angry, slightly annoyed, or amused.
You give a slight laugh because it was such an easy putt it was practically a gimmie. Wait a second, was it a gimmie? It was so close that it had to have been. Plus your friend was moving while you hit the ball which has to be some sort of penalty. You reach for your USGA rule book, but alas, you've left it at home yet again. Two of your friends have no idea, but the other (f--k that guy) is waiting to see how you're going to play this. He knows your dirty little secret, and he'll hold this over your head for the rest of your life (God you hate him).
Finally, the moment of truth comes. Your score-keeping buddy asks the thousand-dollar question as you all wait for the group in front of you to clear the 350-yard mark in the fairway.
"Four," you try to sneak in so he's the only one who can hear it.
"What's that?" Comes the response. Shit. You're going for it. Just say it. Who cares? That guy has an ugly girlfriend, he has no business with you on your large, graceful horse.
"I got a 4....hmm, I think."
No going back now. The blood on your hands is dripping all over the furry tee box. You have to come clean.
"No, I made a five. I forgot about that awful pitch. Damn. One of those days."
You hate your life.
2) The moments immediately following a jump ball
When a ball is loose, basketball players are taught to be animals. You have to claw, fight, kill for that ball. The other guy who wants it is your enemy. You do whatever it takes to pry that ball out of his God-forsaken hands. Then all of the sudden the whistle blows and the game comes to a screeching halt. Players are asked to suddenly switch off the hatred and aggression that has fueled the last few moments of play.
Several possibilities exist when this happens.
1) One player will shove the other as his last drip of testosterone gets the better of him. This leads to the other player being forced to retaliate, thus coaxing several of his teammates getting involved. This is the best possibility.
2) One player utters a vulgar insult as he turns an walks away. The most likely response here is a retaliatory insult and the referee stepping in and calming things down. However, the end result in scenario one is also a possibility here, or perhaps sometime later in the game as a result of the incident. Scenario two has a large upside.
3) The players make nice with either a joke or a casual "I see you working" ass slap. This can be nice if you're into this sort of thing. It also takes up the least amount of time, which may also be a plus.
4) Nothing happens. This is the doomsday option. You get your hopes up for a feisty row, or heated exchange, and absolutely nothing transpires.
You hate scenario four.
It should be noted that in each of these cases, whatever happens is dictated by whichever player acts first. In this situation neither player has any idea of how to react and is usually just hoping to go off of whatever the other guy does. This is why when someone like Ron Artest or Ivan Drago are involved in a tie-up, it's best to pay close attention.
1) The foul tip strike three look back
Ahh yes, the creme de la creme of awkward sports moments.
The count is 1 and 2 and you've just fouled off would-be strike three, only you didn't change the trajectory of the ball very much and you heard a thud that quite possibly could have been the ball coming to rest in the catcher's mitt. Do you dare look back and face the inevitable embarrassment of not only striking out, but looking horribly awkward in doing so?
The look in that 1 1/2 second speaks volumes...hilariously awkward volumes. You can almost hear the poor bastard saying "OK, so did I strike out...or? All right, cool, I was just making sure. I'm gonna go ahead and trot back to the dugout now because I'm a f-ing loser. I appreciate your time."