For fun, I like to push a brutal little device called the Prowler. I have one of these things. Really. It sits in the back of my medium-sized, fuel-inefficient SUV in case I have the urge to increase the oxidative capacity of my fast-twitch muscle fibers between driving spells. That happens every once in a while.
The idea behind the Prowler is simple. You push the thing for a set distance – thirty yards, let’s say – then you stop and rest for a minute or so. Then you push it back. Repeat this process enough times consecutively, and you’ll get really, really tired. Do this consistently for a few months, and you’ll get in really, really good shape. I’ve been doing this four or five times a week since April, so do the math. I’m back down to my football weight, and I can actually see my schlong. It’s all quite thrilling.
Anyway, I was pushing the Prowler today at a soccer field near where I live. Back and forth I went. To my right, a family was playing soccer. This family consisted of an overweight father, an overweight mother sitting in a chair, and their son and daughter, both of whom appeared to be in their early teens. From a distance, they looked ignorant. I can tell.
They were taking shots on a soccer goal that was inexplicably facing in the opposite direction of the way a soccer goal should be facing. In other words, if they missed the goal with a shot, the ball would roll down the field toward me. I was pushing the Prowler across the field widthwise, about twenty yards to the opposite side of midfield.
Every time they shot the ball wide of the goal, a member of the family would trudge after the ball, retrieve it, and bring it back so the fun could begin anew. They eventually tired of this and started hesitating before the retrieval march, looking to see if I’d make a move to kick the ball back to them. I ignored them because their errant balls were over thirty yards away from me, and I wasn’t about to interrupt my workout because they were too lazy to chase after their own missed shots.
About three-quarters of the way through my workout came the moment of truth.
“Hey, a little help?”
I was about to start another trip, so I ignored this request and got on with it. I made it to the opposite side and turned around to see the overweight father gracelessly lumbering toward the ball, staring me down with the anger of a typical New York man with little – other than messes he’s made on his own – to be angry about.
“Hey, you can’t just walk over and throw the ball back? Thanks for the help, pal.”
Yes, he really did say “pal.”
I stared at him for an inappropriately long while because I had no idea what to say back. I was at a loss. I wanted to ask him if he was “fucking kidding me,” but there were kids involved, and when kids are involved, nightclub rules don’t apply. I tried to be diplomatic.
“I’m timing out these sets, man. I can’t stop what I’m doing and run over every time you guys miss a shot. You miss, you gotta chase it yourself.”
“Whatever,” he muttered back, shaking his head.
How about teaching your fucking kid to put the ball on net by making him chase the damned thing every time he doesn’t? Doesn’t that make sense, asshole? That’s what my father would’ve done to me. Fuck, it’s what he did do to me. You think my father was chasing any of my wild pitches down the fucking block? That’s how I learned to throw strikes. That’s why I was capable of handling the pressure of actual games, and it’s why your kid won’t be – because you’re teaching him to call out to someone else to clean up his messes when he fucks up, and to complain like a little bitch when the world tells him to fuck off, the way it’s going to over and over again.
I should have said that, but I didn’t.