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km gresham
05-13-2005, 10:43 AM
Hope for those of us who throw like a girl. smile.gif

Playing Catch-Up

By Gene Weingarten

Most sexist stereotypes are false. Women are not worse drivers than men. Women can be just as decisive as men, just as competent, and, with proper inducement, they can even let rip a perfectly respectable belch. But I think we all know, in our hearts that at least one sexist stereotype is true. With notable exceptions, but by and large, in the aggregate, generally speaking, on the whole, in the main, qualifying this as much as possible to avoid disagreeable personal sanctions, women tend to Throw Like a Girl.

Because Washington now has its own pro team, the town is ababble in baseball. In offices all over the area, middle-aged men with the muscle tone of marshmallow Peeps have been loudly proclaiming about how they could have made the majors with just a little more practice. It was during one such conversation in my office that a female editor, just being sociable, said she'd always felt intimidated by baseball because she Throws Like a Girl.

Guys instantly snapped to attention. A baseball was produced, and, gamely, the editor— her nickname is, I swear, "Spike"— demonstrated her throw. Because Spike is a well-liked and well-respected member of our cubicle pod, no one laughed. But I will reveal here that she resembled an 18th-century Parisian fop with a perfumed hankie in his sleeve executing the arm motion accompanying the expression "Oh, pshaw."

Like any great architect of social change, I decided right then to seize the moment and right a grievous social wrong. For Mother's Day, I would present a foolproof method to cure America's women of Throwing Like a Girl.

As a student of Skinner, I knew that most behavior can be modified. And, as a student of Berra, I knew that 90 percent of baseball is half mental. All it would take is psychology.

Spike agreed to be Patient Zero. The next day we repaired to an abandoned part of The Washington Post building with all the necessary paraphernalia: two gloves, two Washington Nationals hats (one blue, one pink), a regulation baseball, a tape measure and some cooked pasta. In full "Oh, pshaw" mode, at top speed, Spike achieved a throw of 21 feet, roughly the distance from first base to, um, real close to first base. Then we stood face to face.

I told Spike that we were not going to be learning anything athletic, that we were simply going to be learning a new dance step. And that's what we did. Facing each other, holding hands, with my leading and her following perfectly, we rocked back, and then pitched with full leg drive and follow-through.

That was it. She had it. One shot. (I acknowledge that if a woman had tried to teach me this, as a dance move, in, say, 1987, I would still be trying to learn it.)

Next, with a strand of al dente spaghetti, I demonstrated the arm-whip action—the last piece of the Throw Like a Boy puzzle. On Spike's fourth attempt with a baseball, she hit 40 feet. This was no sissy lob; there was an eight-foot ceiling. She was bringing it.

But there was still a problem. Spike's first attempt to catch the ball in a glove resembled an attempt by a very nervous and jumpy one-armed person to catch a thrashing fish with a spatula.

Me: What is your daughter's name, and how old is she?

Spike: Christine. Seven.

Me: Christine is in the window of a burning building. She is terrified. You yell up to her, "Don't worry, Baby, Mommy will catch you." Because you must transcend your fear, a preternatural calm takes over, the sort of calm that has allowed 100-pound women to lift two-ton vehicles off their pinned children. At this moment you are no longer a mommy. You are not even a woman. You are a gigantic lump of mashed potatoes. You cannot drop her. Christine will be safe, enveloped by the yielding warmth of mashed potatoes.

Spike: Um, okay . . .

Me: Now look at your glove. That is not a glove. It is a scoop of mashed potatoes. The ball will sink into it, thwunk.

I threw the ball. Thwunk.

She returned it like Clemens.

Again. Thwunk. Again. Thwunk. When I declared her cured— 15 minutes after we began—Spike demanded to play some more. An hour later, I swear, she was Googling the price of baseball gloves.

[ 05-13-2005, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: km gresham ]