I’ve had a few jobs where I was, on most occasions, the only woman around. I spent about ten years as a TV sports reporter, covering primarily mens sports. Back when I was a journalist, there were almost no other women working in the sportscasting ranks. For the past 40 years, I’ve been an amateur sports official, calling football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. Today, I’m an Arizona Interscholastic Association high school football referee and crew chief. Again, on those occasions, I am almost always the only one representing my gender.
I bring this up because of struggles I’ve had dealing with what is essentially kindness. You see, some men want to take care of me. Sweet, yes? However – as women who have trod the boards in careers like mine surely know – those nice guys can put us in uncomfortable positions.
A case in point: Once, I was umpiring a men’s league baseball game, one of those strange situations where 40-year-olds think there are still scouts in the stands and that they might one day be called to the bigs. So, yes, they took those contests seriously.
All these years later, I can’t tell you why the coach was angry. I had the plate, so when he stormed out of the dugout waving his arms and screaming it was clear he disagreed with my call. As he approached, I noticed movement from the outfield. A quick glance told me the coach was in trouble.
My umpiring partner Don Clarkson – a Green Beret war hero who did two tours in Vietnam – had both fists clenched at his sides. He headed for the plate, squinting at the coach, who – wide-eyed, spittle flying – berated me in front of the crowd.
“You need to back away, Coach!” I eyed my partner, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress and had hands the size of hams.
Then, I caught movement by the backstop. My sweetie pie gripped the screen tightly. Let me say here that Ryan spent a couple of decades doing security for rock-and-roll bands, NFL and college football, Super Bowls, soccer’s World Cup, and other dandy events like MTV Spring Break and, my favorite, a long string of performances staring Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera.
The coach took another step toward me and we were nose to nose. Don passed the mound. I raised my hand to stop him.
“Coach! Get off he field!”
I glanced at Ryan. He let go of the backstop.
“Back away!” I yelled, hoping all three men might heed my warning. The coach, who didn’t realize he was in danger, continued screaming. My brain whirled. Had I not been distracted by the vision of a blood-soaked infield, I would have ejected him.
I stared at Ryan. “No!” I hoped he would stay where he was.
I’m still not sure what made the coach back away. But he did, just in time.
Now, I don’t want to appear ungrateful. In fact, it’s comforting to know that a couple of big guys had my back. However, I think it prudent that I fight my own battles.
Today, Ryan agrees. And yet, every year when he meets my football crew at the beginning of the season, he can’t help himself. He shakes their hands and says, “Take care of her.”
I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.