Lamentation for an Odd Ball Out

dead ballThis poor ball was abandoned on our lawn at the beginning of the week. On day one, I left it alone, certain that its young, anonymous owner would come fetch it once its absence was discovered. Even partly deflated, surely it’s known its share of good times. At the very least, it’s good to know we have at least one school-age neighbor who’s not allergic to physical activity or the outdoors.

Days two and three were made of distractions that obscured it from my notice. During those exhausting weeks that consist of a dense work-write-sleep-repeat hamster-wheel cycle, an unconscious tunnel vision sometimes kicks in and limits my sensory input for the sake of simplifying my thought processes, streamlining my day, and conserving personal energy in general. Overlooking becomes a defense mechanism of sorts.

I realized on day four it was still loitering out front and decided to offer it shelter from our erratic March weather. My family gave me the strangest looks. My son thinks it’s contaminating our environs. Our dog attacked it on first sight, then let it be because he prefers his prey stuffed and fuzzy. It doesn’t need to be cluttering my lawn, but I decided to hold on to it for a few more days in hopes that someone would come claim it as their own.

So far, no takers. I do wonder why it hasn’t been retrieved. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? Rejected because of its deformity? Stolen but later discarded to avoid culpability? A boggling chain of events involving a fall from an airplane? Whatever its story, despite its inanimation, I felt sorry for the unloved outcast. Somewhere out there, I imagine, is a child who’s so content with the array of sports gear they already have on hand that the loss of this lower-tier equipment may take months to register.

Here in Indiana, footballs and basketballs grab the most sports-based glory with baseball scraping together a third-place share. Volleyball, the only sport at which I ever considered myself competent in school, is further down the list, well below miniature golf and Madden NFL 2013 but just above jai alai and the American version of Hole in the Wall. It’s a wonder anyone besides phys-ed teachers owns volleyballs at all, let alone remembers to bring them back inside the house at the end of the day. This isn’t a regulation volleyball, but would’ve sufficed as one in its prime.

It’s easy for me to identify with its plight as a misfit among its kind — the deflated ball set apart from other balls, versus myself, one of the select few Indiana residents who has no personal use for sports. The sports gulf between myself and others flares up during those regularly scheduled times of the year when each sport holds its respective playoffs — e.g., the Super Bowl at wintertime; the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend; the World Series in late summer or whenever. In such seasons my peculiar standoffishness is at its worst, though I try to stop short of mopiness.

Right now is one of those times: March Madness. The winter flu season can’t hope to compete with the contagion that is college basketball fever. The local newspaper, coworker conversations, TV news coverage, Facebook feeds — each of them purge all off-topic discussions and focus on the holy trinity of March Madness, March Madness, and March Madness. I have nothing to say or offer on the subject, and no vested interest in acquiring the taste. I try to stay out of the way while everyone holds their themed TV parties with each other, serving wondrous spreads that offer all the best cookout food and bar appetizers. Everyone watches the big games and compares their guesses and appreciates that chance for bonding with the majority.

More power to ’em. I’ll just be over here hanging out with someone else’s leaky, unwanted ball, resisting the urge to name it and draw a face on it.


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