The looming battle

I love my mother-in-law. I don't know if it's just a stereotype, or if most husbands really don't like their mothers-in-law, but I think mine is one of the coolest folks around. You all know by now what a badass Anna is, and she pretty much gets it all from her mom. Joann is an artist, a chef, and a black belt in karate. She's got a very wry sense of humor, great taste in books and film, and she can more than hold up her end of a conversation. As far as I can tell, the only significant flaw in the woman's character is that she's a Cardinals fan. Though not necessarily an indication that she's evil per se, this fact combined with her penchant for friendly torture and my love of the Astros makes me a frequent target of her rapier wit.

After the Cards finally slipped past the Astros in Game 7 of last year's NLCS, Joann was the first person to call. This fact is itself remarkable. I'm in several fantasy baseball leagues, and during the course of a season I do an enormous amount of shit talking on behalf of my Astros. Much of this is directed at or near the Cardinals and their fans. In some cases, money was on the line, what with my mouth holding the proverbial checkbook. Guys I've been hanging with since high school, lifelong, diehard Astros fans, should be calling to commiserate. And most of these guys did, but after Joann beat them to the punch. She's that cool. In hindsight, I wish I'd answered that call. And I'm sure her message was scathing. I almost wish I hadn't erased it without listening to it.

So, yesterday I got a package in the mail from Joann. She frequently sends care packages, but they're usually addressed to Anna, or even
Anna and Dave. This one was for me.

Now, to really appreciate this, you need a little backstory. It's 3:30AM, and I have just made it back from Houston, having driven down earlier in the day to meet up with a couple of buddies and catch the Astros' game against the Braves. I'm home about two hours later than I'd hoped, the game having gone into extra innings. And it truly was a gem of a game. Clemens against Hudson. We had spectacular seats, 28 rows up, five feet from home plate down the third base line. From those seats I could've hit Drayton McLane in the back of the head with a bag of peanuts (but I didn't). Clemens threw 7 scoreless innings with 8 K's, Hudson threw 9 scoreless with 9 K's. In the bottom of the 10th, the Astros stranded three [
3(!)] after loading the bases with no outs (0!). The 0-0 tie was finally broken in the top of the 12th when former-Astros prospect Ryan Langerhans launched one over the rightfield wall against Dan Wheeler (0-2) for his first major league home run. It turned out to be the game winner as the Astros once again failed to provide any run support for an outstanding pitching performance by the Rocket. But I digress.

It is 3:30AM, and I have just made it back from Houston, and I am disappointed, melancholy and exhausted. I try to slip out of my clothes and into bed as quietly as possible, but manage to wake Anna, as usual.

"What time is it?"
"Half-past three. Extra innings. Go back to sleep."
"There's a package for you on the kitchen table. From my mom."

I've managed to make it out of my clothes, so I'm stumbling around naked, trying to make my way to the kitchen in the dark so I can shut the blinds before turning on the light. There is no package on the table. I tell this to Anna, almost reflexively. I have a terrible habit of asking her where something is before taking the half-minute required to look in some of the more obvious possible spots. The letter is sitting next to the mixer, less than three feet from my right hand. Anna gets out of bed to point this out to me, and to pee, which makes me feel a little less guilty.

I open the letter, and she calls from the bathroom, "What is it?" For a brief moment, I am speechless. Once again, I'm Joann's target, and her aim is dead-on. What I'm holding in my hands is both adorable and horrific: a tiny, red and blue St. Louis Cardinal baby outfit, complete with a bib emblazoned with the Cardinals logo and matching pair of red and blue booties. I holler at Anna, "You'll love this." And she did, because Anna - who otherwise does not care one iota about anything even remotely related to professional sports - has decided that rooting for the Cardinals is worth it, if only for the pleasure of watching me squirm.

And this is the looming battle: Anna and Joann on one side of the fence (
the evil side), my dad and I on the other. Of course, the gals don't stand a chance. There is no stronger bond than the one between a father and a son and a professional sports franchise. Joann's influence will be attenuated by distance, and Anna simply doesn't have the stomach for the kind of all-out offensive I'm willing to wage on this issue. Do you seriously see Anna making it through 12 innings of shutout ball, much less an entire season? Won't happen. So y'all might as well pack it in now so you don't confuse the poor boy, because you are tilting at windmills on this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:34 AM  
Blogger MommaS said...

How's about some Braves?? (I only say that because Chris loves them.) I couldn't care less.


10:40 AM  
Blogger Critical Mess said...

She's so cool she'll probably forgive me for misspelling her name.


2:14 PM  
Blogger BobDobbs said...

What a fabulous bonding moment for the family as both teams vie to switch back and forth second and third place in the NL Central behind the arms of Prior and Wood. The Cards fans can bemoan the fiery passion of Zambrano and pine for the days of roid-soaking McGwire glory and the Stros fans can wish for their first ever postseason series win and cherish the timeless tradition of Enron, er, Juicebox. It'll be like Russia and China forming an alliance just because, hey, the Cubs have already won the arms race for the next 10 years.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Critical Mess said...

1) The Astros won a playoff series last year (against Atlanta).

2) The Cubs are cursed, and will never see another Series.

3) If the curse weren't bad enough, they're also notorious for burning up young arms, and the ailments of Wood and Prior make it extremely unlikely that either sees the far side of 30 y.o., at least not with any degree of success.

4) How's Nomar's groin?

12:43 AM  
Anonymous spencer said...

Wow, this post was about as long as game 6 of the 1986 NLCS.

You know, I hope it's not too late to lobby for lil' Lenny Dykstra Breshears.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Critical Mess said...

Et tu, Spencer?

8:56 AM  

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