“You’ve gotta see it from my point of view,” I said as we walked the perimeter of the park. “It’s the production of it all.”
My friend Cass put his hands in his pockets and said nothing. We had been friends long enough for him to understand my reverence for the dramatic pause. I took a drag of my cigarette and exhaled slowly. It was the end of summer, and the weather was sitcom-perfect.
“Don’t get me wrong,” I continued. “I like games. I’m a fun guy.”
“Yeah, Coupland, you’re a regular mushroom.”
I stopped walking, as Cass shuffled on for a few steps.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Fun guy. Fungi.”
“As I was saying, I like games. There’s nothing wrong with kickball itself, it’s all these tube sock wearing, mustached hipsters in cutoff jeans shorts that have taken over the sport. It’s like a bad Ben Stiller movie. They’ve ruined it for the rest of us.”
On most weeknights the park hosted softball games. Beer leagues, Corporate leagues, Old-College-Friends-Who-Just-Can’t-Let-Go leagues.
Sunday afternoons, however, belonged to kickball.
At first pass, the idea of kickball sounds great. A trip back in time to those carefree years of the voluntary exclusion and sadomasochism called recess. The ball is the same textured red rubber; it has that same hollow sound when kicked, the same slap to skin when caught—it even smells the same. The physical requirements are minimal in comparison to most adult sports.
But then the hipsters came in and ruined it. One minute, it’s friends at a B-B-Q drinking too much while trying to relive their youth—the next, teams with ironic names have formed with sponsors and umpires.
Hipsters ruined irony for the rest of us.
“That’s an awfully skewed assessment,” Cass said as we walked past diamond 7a.
The Unicorn Nuts V. Blarney Fife (sponsored by an Irish pub, of course)
“Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean they ruined kickball.”
“They ruined it for me,” I responded, flicking my cigarette in their general direction. “And it’s not just kickball—they’re everywhere.”
“Everyone’s everywhere, Coupland. You’d have to be a recluse to avoid everyone you hate…because you hate everyone.”
“I don’t hate everyone, Cass my friend…just those who deserve my scorn.”
We continued walking as a skinny, semi-androgynous kid with a tailored filth, emo haircut and low cut Chuck Taylors walked up to bat.
“All that hate’s going to burn you up one day, Coup.”
“Summer’s almost over,” I said with a grin. “Gotta stay warm somehow.”
A loud cheer emanated from Diamond 8b just ahead, distracting us from our conversation.
Grass Kickers V. Jazz Hands
Truth be told, it wasn’t just the hipsters who were destroying kickball. A more sinister element to the sport had infiltrated the scene in recent months; washed up soccer players complete with coaches and a game face. They were very dedicated to the official rules and regulations—they were there to compete.
They were the bullies of the league, in search of domination over the weaker of the species. We called them “Kickball Nazis”.
They weren’t in it to have fun. They were in it to win it. The coach would pace up and down the first base line, barking at the team. The players all wore their old soccer jerseys and equipment: shin pads, goalie gloves, cleats—they took it far too seriously.
But the Kickball Nazis could kick my ass, so my rage and blame always went back to the hipsters. Emaciated kids wearing girl’s jeans and bulky glasses were a lot easier to hate.
And they were everywhere.
My band, Ultimate Montage, couldn’t play a venue in town that wasn’t corrupted by the PBR swilling heathens, out in numbers, more concerned with their appearance than the music. Ultimate Montage was a band dedicated to playing nothing but the inspirational songs found in montage scenes of 80’s movies. We always closed the show with “You’re the Best” from the tournament montage in The Karate Kid.
My local neighborhood coffee shop and favorite cocktail bar had been over run as well. It was maddening.
We kept walking, the backdrop of heated battles filling the air as our soundtrack.
“You know, Coupland,” Cass started as we cut through the grass between Diamond 12a and 12b, “Some people might call you a hipster.”
“I’m no hipster. I’m not hip enough,” I answered dryly.
“Think about it. Bulky art-geek glasses? Check.”
“I have to see. Glasses are kind of mandatory.”
“Slacker haircut, manufactured to look messy? Check.”
“It’s not manufactured, it really is messy.”
“Indie band with an ironic name and theme? Check and check.”
“It’s not ironic if you lived though the 80’s, Cass.”
“The only differences between you and them are their fashion sense and about ten years…and a crapload of denial.”
“25-year-old Coupland would have wanted to kick their asses just as much as 35-year-old Coupland does.”
“Tell it to the judge,” Cass said as an over enthusiastic Kickball Nazi launched a ball directly at the back of a mesh-shirt clad hipster’s head, connecting with a resounding *thud*.
Cass’ assessment hung over my head like a dark cloud as we walked on in silence.
“Did it ever occur to you that you’re threatened by them?” Cass asked, pulling me from my brooding solitude.
“This should be good. Please, Cass, continue.”
“These hipsters are essentially a younger version of you. Fashion aside, they’re just like we were when we were in our 20’s.”
“How’s that?” I asked, lighting another cigarette.
“Their future is still ahead of them. They still have dreams yet to be squashed by time and responsibility. It’s wide open for them.”
An errant kickball rolled over to us.
“A little help?” a Kickball Nazi barked at us from Diamond 14a.
Alcoholics Unanimous V. Sugar Crash
Cass kicked the ball back before elaborating further.
“We used to be the same way. You thought you were going to be the next Annie Lebowitz, now you work at the Sears Portrait Studio.”
“You’re no better off, Cass. You sit in a cubicle all day updating spread sheets.”
“That’s my point exactly. I thought I was going to be a race car driver, or an astronaut.”
“You were a communications major in college.”
“Irrelevant. The point is, our big dreams are gone. We have mortgages and responsibilities to concern ourselves with now. These kids still have a chance at being something better, and it’s eating you up inside.”
“I’m going to call bullshit,” I said as we neared the final diamond in the park. “They’re just a bunch of pretentious kids jumping onto whatever trend comes by. They have no respect for their elders, and no clue what it means to be responsible. They don’t threaten me, they sicken me.”
“Deny it all you want. These hipsters are nothing more than your own little personal Ghosts of Christmas Past. You hate them because they’re you ten years ago.”
“I’m no hipster,” I mumbled in a half-defeated tone as we arrived at Diamond 17.
“You’re totally a hipster,” Cass responded. I pulled off my sweatshirt and began stretching out.
My team, Sweep the Leg, Johnny, was about to play our league rivals, The Swayze Crazies.