I’ve been student teaching the last four months in a fifth grade class on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This past Thursday was my last day and so the kids made a bunch of individual farewell cards. I love this one because of the kid who made it and of course because of the Derek Jeter triumphant gesture. We bonded over the Yanks and he was the student who introduced me to the world of fifth-grade sports talk (which is similar in form to YFSF talk, but different in content). Here’s an example:
I came in a morning after a wild-card game between the Yanks and Tigers was rained out and I saw this kid, a Yanks fan, surrounded by his friends, all of whom are Mets fans. They were laughing at him as he frowned and looked downward at his feet. Turns out, they were mocking him because his beloved Bombers had the audacity to be rained out the previous night. I was confused. "Um…hmm…I don’t understand…"(a phrase I used often this past semester. Contrary to what the card says, I’m not the best student teacher yet…Far from it.)
"The Yankees were rained out. They couldn’t play. Ha!" One of the kids taunted me knowing that I was a fan as well.
"But it’s something they couldn’t control…" My brow was furrowed at this point and I painstakingly tried to understand this line of trash talking. Nothing but silence on the other end.
"It’s true, Nick. The Yanks were rained out," my fellow Yanks fan glumly chimed in, looking away in shame. We had clearly lost this round and it was best to retire with dignity. But I was still confused and I still am.
Another time, I was the arbiter of a debate between a Yanks fan and a Mets fan about who was better, A-Rod and Jeter (in tandem) or the pairing of Wright and Reyes. The argument went something like this: "But Jeter’s better!" "But Wright’s better!" They turned to me for a decision. I quickly scanned my memory of VORP totals and win shares and estimated that the Mets pair had the slight advantage this year, although I wasn’t sure. My answer was as diplomatic as I could get. "A-Rod and Jeter have been better in the past. For instance, last year they were better. This year, it’s a tie. And in the future, it’s the Mets players." The Yanks fan looked at me in disappointment. The Mets fan shook his head up and down and said "That’s what I was saying!"
Another insight I gained into baseball this year was regarding who the best person in all of baseball was. At least according to one ten year old, he knew the answer to this seemingly unanswerable question. The kid, a Mets fan (this season, by the way, seemed to create a whole new generation of Metroplitan loyalists on the Upper West Side. They outnumbered Yanks fans by a lot in my class) sidled up to meet one morning and said, "Nick, do you know who my favorite player is?"
I was somewhat surprised by that answer. Arthur Rhodes, well, he never struck me as favorite player material.
"He’s the best person in baseball," the kid interrupted my startled daze. "I should know. Once I went to a game and a foul ball was hit into the stands where I was. But this guy stole the ball from me. After the inning was over, Arthur Rhodes came from the bullpen with a ball and gave it to me. He told me and my dad that he saw what happened and he wanted me to have the ball." So, there you have it: Arthur Rhodes is the best person in baseball.
Indulge me this bit of nostalgia. I had a great few months and I figured I share.