I was a little hesitant to use the title I did for this post, because I thought it might sound like I was writing some political propaganda about the education system in the United States, or some such nonsense. But I couldn’t resist, because that was the chant, “He we go teachers! Here we go, down the drain!” That is, this was the chant for the 6th Grade vs Teachers softball game at my Elementary School.
For me the stretch between Kindergarten and 6th Grade was probably the longest six years of my life. Ever since I started school I looked forward to 6th Grade. It was the final year of Elementary School. It was the year where you could join Safety Patrol. It was the year where you got to BE a 6th Grade Buddy (Kindergarteners had 6th Grade Buddies, but I was more interested in being a buddy, than being buddied by someone else, if that makes any sense). Most importantly of all, though, it was the year of the 6th Grade vs Teachers softball game. I must have heard that chant, “Here we go Teachers! Here we go, down the drain!” six hundred times. A hundred timer per year for six years.
Actually, in preparation for 6th Grade vs Teachers game, there was also the 5th Grade vs 6th Grade game a few weeks in advance, but the 6th Grade vs Teachers game was really the All-Star game of the season, the season consisting of only two games. I don’t really remember much about the 5th Grade vs 6th Grade game because I wasn’t in it, and I don’t even remember if I watched it. Surely I did, but I have no memory of it.
When I finally made it to 6th Grade, though, my memory of those events would last my entire life.
In preparation for the game, we had tryouts, and here’s how they went: Everyone in 6th Grade went out to the school’s softball field, and all the boys got to swing at three pitches, then the students would vote on who would be on the team. Yes, you heard me right, only boys could be on the team. You got to remember it was a more sexist time back then, so don’t go too crazy in your comments.
As I was saying, all the boys took some swings at some pitches. Naturally, I, the inept athlete that I am, didn’t hit anything. Didn’t expect too. In fact, I told the teacher in charge of the whole debacle, Mrs. Bankhead, that I didn’t even want to try. She made me, though. So I got up, missed my three pitches, then went back with the others. I’m not sure that I was the worst of the athletes in my Elementary School. I remember this kid Troy and this other kid Jimmy were pretty bad too. After the tryouts, we all went back inside, and each student was given a slip of paper, and we were to write our top three choices for the team. I hopped on the bandwagon and voted for the kids that everyone was saying they were going to vote for, this kid Cory and this other guy Trent, and I don’t remember who the third was, but definitely a name I’d heard from someone else.
A day or so later the results were tallied and Mrs. Bankhead announced the roster. I don’t know if it is dweeb intuition or what, but I had this weird feeling that I was going to be on the team. The roster was announced in order of the most votes to the least. Cory was named first. Then Trent. Then a bunch of other athletic to semi-athletic guys. The whole time I was praying that I wouldn’t be named. The last thing I wanted to do was get out on a softball field and embarrass myself in the most important game of the year. It must not have been more than a minute before the nine man roster was set. I was relieved that I wasn’t on the team. Though, I must admit I was somewhat disappointed. I mean, I had had a feeling. In addition to not having athletic skills, did I also have no sense of intuition? Was I even a man at all? The answer came to me quickly, “Of course you’re not a man, you’re 11 years old.” Okay, joking aside, what happened next was that Mrs. Bankhead said, “… and the back up player is …” I heard my name, and my heart swelled with joy! I made the team, sort of! I was the backup player. Basically, what that meant to me was that I was on the team, but I didn’t have to play!
I now want to admit that I kind of omitted some details about why I had a feeling I was going to be on the team. Basically in 6th Grade, a posse of young ladies had sort of taking a liking to me. Namely this girl, Brianna, and by extension her best friend Charisse and another of their friends, whose name I don’t recall, so I knew I had three votes. And I knew that three votes was very likely to get me on the team, because I knew that everyone was going to do exactly the same thing I did and vote for Cory and Trent. That meant that most people only really had one vote to give out, and with maybe 50 boys to choose from, plenty of them semi-athletic, the votes would be all over the place. With these three ladies, though, I pretty much had it in the bag. That’s all I cared about, though, what these ladies thought of me. If I hadn’t made the team, I would have just assumed they didn’t really like me and gone into a heavy state of depression. Either that or play some Nintendo games or something. In any case, it had been confirmed to me that these girls really did like me, and that gave me enough confidence to be the Star Player … I mean Star Bench Warmer.
Naturally, my plan was to sit out the game. Being voted in was all that I wanted. I didn’t actually want to play. Fate frowned on me, however, the game was after school, so one of the kids on the team dropped out, and I was in. I was going to have to play. So I went home and told my mom that I had made the team. Now this is a bit weird, and I never really understood why, but my mom would never let me wear shorts, but I begged her to let me wear shorts for the game, and she agreed, but said I could only wear them during the game.
Now being that I had enough logic in my mind to figure out that I was probably going to get voted onto the team with a mere three votes, one thing I couldn’t figure out, was how I could possibly change into shorts right before the game. It didn’t even occur to me that I could change in the bathroom. So I wore the shorts underneath my pants. The plan was to take my pants off right before the game, and slip them on again afterwards. Unfortunately, I was way too embarrassed to be seen taking my pants off, so I didn’t, and with two layers of pants I could barely move. Also, I had never actually played softball before, so I didn’t have a mitt, and for whatever reason there were no spares, so they stuck me in right field and said, “Try to catch it with your hands.”
Do you remember how I was praying that I wouldn’t be on the team, but secretly hoping I would be? I was praying again, this time that no fly-balls would come my way.
We were getting killed. This wasn’t unusual. The 6th Graders pretty much got killed every year. The worst part of it, though, was my last time up at bat. You’ve probably heard the old story of someone being up to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. I was actually in that position in that game. I begged for the team captain to have Cory take my place at bat, but that wasn’t allowed. I had to bat. There’s no great ending to this story. No miracle hit. I struck out. The one redeeming thing was that we never really had a chance. I wasn’t dragging the team down, because we couldn’t get any lower. I mean the game is win or lose, and it didn’t matter how good the athletes were because the teachers were bigger and stronger. Normally you’d think that that would be a depressing thought, but when you don’t want to be the guy that made the whole team lose, it’s a pretty good one.
Of course, the joy of it all was hearing the chant. “Here we go teachers! Here we go, down the drain!” Yeah, all the students of the school made that chant. When I was out in right field I made that chant with them. It’s unfortunate, though, that when enough people chant it doesn’t determine the outcome of the game.