I received an email last week from a former teammate I hadn’t heard from in years. He was letting the old team know that our high school was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our first Bergen County championship before the varsity game on Saturday. I looked at the word “twentieth” and for a moment wondered what team he could be talking about. I thought our 1992 team was the first to win Counties, but surely that wasn’t…shit, that was twenty years ago.
We showed up at the field on Saturday and most of the guys look like they could put on a uniform and get through seven innings without a nurse. The two decades took a toll in other ways though. There was less hair on display than a shoddy Brazilian bikini wax. It was the first time I’d seen my teammates since they became husbands and dads and it was a trip to see the changes in one fell swoop.
We’ve transitioned from teenagers to middle-agers along different paths but wherever and whenever it happened, our collective youth had vanished. Maybe some people held on longer than others, but after twenty years, nobody was spared. And that brings us to Phil Hughes who, it occurs to me now, has used up all his youth.
That’s the depressing part of Phloba’s (I am fusing Phil and Joba into the most disappointing word I can fashion, I might have broken that out last year, I don’t remember) breakdown. It would be fun to root for a Cy Young candidate or an All-Star (wait he was an All-Star?) but what we’re really lamenting injury after injury and sputtering pitch after pitch is the creeping shadow of time claiming Phloba’s youth. Whatever Phloba becomes now, it becomes as a man (as men?) with the burden of failure and the destruction of promise.
I knew I had to recap this game tonight, but I had a tough flight from Chicago backed up by dragging my ass around a basketball court and now a precarious time in which I try to make sure the coach seat and the boxing out don’t conspire to throw my back out when I sleep. When I saw Hughes was pitching, I didn’t even bother to record the game. I figured he’d be at best mediocre while giving up dongs left and right. If he was brilliant, I could suck it up and catch the replay.
No sucking it up was required.
My flight was delayed because of weather and I really hoped the game would be cancelled. I remember that’s how I used to feel when I young. I was so nervous for the games, I always hoped for rain. This time it was for strategic purposes – I didn’t want Phil Hughes to have to throw a pitch.
No such luck. The Yankees lost to the Orioles 7-1 in a game I’m glad to say that I missed entirely. I didn’t want to see Hughes let up homers. I didn’t want to see Eduardo Nunez massacre another position on the diamond. I didn’t want to see an offensive highlight package in which Arod’s bunt single, which led to no runs, featured prominently.
Hughes was better than last time, maybe the best he’s been all season, but it was nothing worth celebrating. And now he’s just another day older.
Photos by Al Bello / AP