Tuesday, July 26, 2005


World Champ Recap: Wranglers Take the Capital

[voice over]: "We have some special guests on the plane today!! American Airlines would like to welcome Rusty’s Wranglers Kickball Team, on their way to the World Championships of Kickball in Washington, D.C."

And let's roll the highlight tape…

Friday night:
Dave “The O.Z.” and I arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport with plenty of time to spare. Luckily, Katie called American ahead of time to make sure it was cool to travel with cap guns. “As long as they remain in your checked luggage.” Will do!!

Still about a mile down the hallway from Gate K3, we spied spots of orange up ahead. Could it be? It is!! The lovable, huggable, Wranglers: All lined up in a row and wearing cowboy hats and the same orange T-shirt. It was a sight for sore eyes!

We quickly made our way to the food court, where it seemed like somebody should have told all those people that they should take a picture because it would last longer. We scored some burritos and Dave “The Man with the Sombrero” Osborne heard some random (and not very diversity-sensitive) lady mutter, “There sure are a lot of Mexicans in here.” It pleased us greatly to hear it, as everyone knows that Dave is actually part Chinese, not Mexican, and that lady was totally tricked by his Mexican hat.

But I digress. Let’s skip to the airplane. Timmy bought Star Magazine (Are Nick and Jessica headed for a breakdown?!) and we were set to go. We sweet-talked our way into a whole bunch of seats together in the back, and lo and behold the woman in front of us had just started thumbing through the Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune with a big fat picture of Wheels (and horsy) en route to 1st base. We couldn’t stop giggling. Finally, Dooley asked her: “Wouldn’t it be so weird if the girl in that picture was sitting right behind you?”

Lady (who only 5 minutes before had been bitching out her corporate underlings via cell phone…scary broad!): “Heh, I thought that might be you guys.” She humored us for a minute or two and then turned back to her self-centered, unimportant life. But the dudes sitting next to her were excited, and the one on the end kept asking Cassie questions about our climb to stardom and local celebrity. I think maybe he wanted to climb HER stardom, if you know what I mean!

We worked our star-power full throttle only moments later when the lovely flight attendant said her little welcome message spiel and gave a SHOUT OUT TO THE WRANGLERS! American Airlines LOVES the Wranglers.

So, we landed in our nation’s capital—Ronald Reagan National Airport to be exact, which reminds me that you may be interested to know that I was absolutely IN LOVE with Ronnie as a small child. Believe it! We shared a common love for jellybeans and I had his picture on my wall. But. Look I’ve done it again: gone totally off the subject. Do you see how it is to have A.D.D.? Back to the story:

We deplaned and set off for the Metro to our respective host’s homes. (Shout out to our hosts! Thanks, guys!) Guess what color the seats on the D.C. Metro are?? ORANGE!! Yes, it seemed that everything was coming up Wrangler. The Karma Police was on our side, which, come to think of it, should not have been such a surprise given that all sorts of other police had had such affection for us in previous ventures.
Anyway, the evening’s destination was the Mad Hatter in the popular DuPont Circle neighborhood of D.C. It should be noted that Cap’n T-Dizzy once resided not so very far from there at 1725 Massachusetts Ave while interning for Senator Dick Durbin. (Seven years later I would be accused of spending that summer in the loving embrace of John Kerry, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.) So we hit the Hatter in our orange shirts, and guess what----the Mad Hatter LOVES the Wranglers.

There were all sorts of D.C. members of Wrangler Nation that many of us met for the first time (What up, McB? What up, Beard-Weiser?), and it wasn’t long before patrons large and small were chanting, “Let’s go, Wranglers! Let’s Go!! [Clap! Clap!]” They may or may not have come to the bar with us, but that’s neither here nor there. Even people who were not there as official members of Wrangler Nation were cheering. Cassie “Did You Know We’re Regional Champs?” Scott was scoring free drinks in exchange for Wrangler Trading Cards, Joy was relentlessly pursued by an amorous reveler, and drunk people everywhere found themselves babbling incoherently “Mount up, Wranglers. Mount up.”

It was hotter than a hoo-ha in that bar, and we wondered aloud why the city of D.C. seemed to be so anti-air-conditioning, but eventually chalked up the steamy conditions to be excellent practice for the next day’s temperatures that would surely soar close to the big Hundo. And you couldn’t stop our Wrangler feet from dancin’. Long-time Wrangler-lover Eric “the Beast” McBride, showed off his patented “lean” move and women swooned. I’m not sure when we got home exactly, but I remember feeling sad that it would not be very long until we were supposed to wake up. Tomorrow would be the biggest day of our lives: The World Championships of Kickball.

We awoke the next morning to a hot summer day. The sea was angry that day. And apparently there was some kind of wacky power outage in the area that prevented us from obtaining a delicious bagel breakfast at Einstein’s. There was no time to execute Plan B—we were supposed to be down on the National Mall by 9:30—so we hopped on the Metro with little in our stomachs beside a few nibbles of some of the orange-colored snacks we had bought the night before. (Cheetos, Cheddar & Sour Cream Potato Chips, Goldfish, etc.) Our new plan was to find something to eat once we got to the Mall, and luckily there was a lovely McDonald’s right when we got off the train. But by then I was too nervous to eat. Joy and Dools made friends with the teenager working the register and slipped him some limited edition trading cards. McDonald’s LOVES the Wranglers!!

We finally got to the proper field of play after some sort of hoopty-hoo mix-up about new sod on the field we were supposed to be on. Fortunately, there was a gaggle of bicycle cops on the sidewalk who took a liking to the Lady Wranglers, but were desperately unhelpful as far as directions on how to find the rest of the kickballers. Again, trading cards were passed out and the po-po asked where the ladies were headed after the tourney in a bizarre reversal of “Where’s the Party, Occifer?” cause the Occifer was all “Hey, where’s the party, ladies?”

Anyway, I don’t think they were very good police officers because they never showed up at the party and that does not seem like a very good effort to serve and protect.

And here’s where the story starts getting good. We show up to the fields where all the other teams are congregating, etc. Some of them were having little team pow-wow’s, all huddled in a circle talking strategy. One team was actually engaged in a group warm-up activity that was reminiscent of high school soccer: jogging in a line, high knees, grapevines, kick the butt. They were even jumping for headers, or similar.

Well, we had to check in with our very official government issued photo i.d.’s so we could be certified and bona fide and get our little wristbands to prove it. I almost had to get smacky-hoo-ha with the chick that was checking us in, though, because she was very strict about the “wristband must be on the right wrist” rule even though I strongly opposed for religious reasons. (Just kidding, really I just hate those wristbands and how they go scratchy-scratchy on your skin and I wanted it on the left side where it would cause the least trouble.) But, of course, this is WAKA, and they are very serious about their kickball.

We suited up rodeo style, strapped on our cap guns and horses, cowboy hats and boots, and we were ready to kick some Off In Public ass.

According to the scouting report we had received via email in days prior, our opponents, Off In Public (pronounced Off In Poo-Blic) were supposed to be total jerks (A charge one of their mothers would later dispute). Other kickballers in D.C. said they played cheap and dirty and all they cared about was winning. Supposedly they would drop infield flies on purpose, use pinch runners ad nauseum, and crap like that. Their pitcher was supposed to be the best, although apparently not the “best around” as something did eventually keep him down.

Anyway, most of those things turned out not to be true and they were actually quite congenial folks and seemed to genuinely appreciate our rodeo get-ups. The pitcher was, indeed, quite skilled and he sure did throw it fast and spinny. They employed the bunt-bunt-sac fly strategy to great success against our fun-loving competitor style. But to be honest, it wasn’t that much fun to play against them because they bunted 80 percent of the time, which was difficult to defend against, and, in general, not very exciting. We put up a good fight, though, and best of all we attracted quite a following from the Boy Scouts of America, who swung our Rally Noodles like I have never seen before and daresay I shall never see again.

The quarterfinal ended in a 7-1 defeat for the Wranglers and decent people everywhere. When I called my dad after the game, he reminded me that second place is first loser, but I found comfort in the fact that we actually ended up in seventh or eighth place overall -- and seventh loser somehow seemed better than first loser in a double-negative-makes-it-a-positive kind of way.

I will also rest easy knowing that I remain undefeated in the pre-game Rock-Paper-Scissors showdown to determine home field advantage. But back to the boy scouts….Boy scouts LOVE the Wranglers! There were loads of them on the sidelines cheering for us and Joy even bought one of them a Wrangler Nation T. Even better, these were not your average “Atomic Fission Merit Badge” boy scouts. These were the COOL boy scouts. I’ve written a letter to BSA headquarters requesting that they institute a Wrangler Nation merit badge for best cheering section ever on the planet. Have not heard back yet.

After witnessing part of the semifinals and finals, which were hyper-intense including a captain shouting at his team “Everybody take a knee!”, we came to the conclusion that the kickball gods must be crazy and departed forthwith for Kelly’s Irish Times for the after party. (Actually, Dooley and I stayed behind for a bit to kick it live at the concession stand for some Rocket Pops! We met more boy scouts there, who, although lovely children, were the not-so-cool kind of boy scout as evidenced by the fact that one of them informed me he had indeed earned the Atomic Fission Merit Badge, but unfortunately could not show it to me because he had not brought his “badge sash” out for sightseeing that day.)

The kickball bash was super fun and the DJ played all the Wranglers’ favorites! We danced and sang and played flippy cup and ate food. And Sweaty Rodeo Clown even won one of the raffle prizes!! Tickets to OZ Fest the next day in D.C., totally useless prize as is, but when sold to the highest bidder raked in some cash for pizza later on! Yippppeeeee! Thanks, Swett!

Which brings us to the pool party on a fancy rooftop with an incredible view of the D.C. skyline and monuments. A member of the team Crazy Kickers lived there and was nice enough to invite us over for a swim. You kind of have to wonder about someone who invites 15 of the biggest nuts at the bar to a fancy rooftop pool… but I think we behaved ourselves relatively well despite the cheesy photo shoot that was happening just yards from us that was SO tempting to jump in on. We got a keg and ordered some pizza (Yeah, Domino’s!!) and took a dip in the swanky pool. It was lovely…

Until, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Mark “Tootie” Frasier started taunting the Capitol building: “Oh, look at me! I’m the Capitol Building! I'm so big! I'm so tall!” And the next thing I knew people were doing keg stands! And the amorous bikini girl was trying to get the dirt on Swett from Lady Wranglers. “Does he like keg stands?” she asked. “I don’t F-ing know, girl!” Timmy Dubs was earning a reputation for being a sissy with a pitiful 7-second stand, and the coveted Silver Pitcher was suggested for use in a game of Sink the Biz. Things were getting crazy.

Now, Dave and I went home earlier than the rest, but from what I hear, that moon was hitting some Wranglers in the eye like a big pizza pie and you know what that means: Amore!! Apparently, the fancy rooftop may as well have been called the Love Rooftop the way people were sucking face all over the place. There was a lot of inter-city romance from what I hear. And bikini girl got what she was longing for: 7 seconds in heaven with a rodeo clown. Nice job, Swett. And big props to the other Wrangler maker-outers that will remain nameless. (Sadly, I did not make out, and back at Amy’s place my husband-to-be snored on the couch while I wrote the official epilogue for the Tribune. Is this what married life has in store??? Wake up, Dave!!!)

Well, that’s OK because I got to live vicariously through the single Wranglers who came home at approximately 3:30a.m. with all the fantastic stories of tonsil hockey disguised as “going to get tacos,” and all the details of the cab ride home where Lubbers apparently “suddenly” became a pervert. And then everybody crashed hard-core after a long day in the hot sun.

Things were winding down and some friends already had to say goodbye to catch early flights, etc. But a good chunk of us moseyed out to RFK stadium to catch a little Nationals vs. the Astros game. Yippppeeee! So fun!

But then it was time to go to the airport and that was not fun. Boo-hoo. Hard to believe our glorious season was actually coming to an end. It was a Wild Wride. Unforgettable. We’ll never be the same. Thanks for the memories.

And thanks for flying American Airlines, the official airline of Rusty’s Wranglers.

Don’t forget: The Wrangler Prom is coming up on August 12th!
And we’re looking at starting a new season in September….so keep those kicking legs in shape!



Michelle "Life Coach" Dooley gives advice to Off In Public's Cisco on how to make his life a little sillier: "Start with something only sort of silly, like a T-Shirt party." Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 25, 2005


Wranglers are World Champs of Silliness

Well, there’s good news and bad news for Rusty’s Wranglers Amateur Kickball Club this weekend as we wrap up our not-really-so-much of a Cinderella dance to the World Championships of kickball in Washington, D.C. The bad news: We are not world champs. The good news: Boys scouts LOVE the Wranglers! Come to think of it, everybody loves the Wranglers!

We arrived on the National Mall, betwixt storied institutions of our nation’s capital, on Saturday morning and knew we were in trouble when the pre-game breakdown from the referees included a warning, at the behest of our opponents, that all of our rodeo-themed costuming—including strap-on stuffed horses, cowboy hats and holsters—would be considered fair game for tag-outs. It was clear from the outset: Our opponents were hardcore. But with our orange-clad fan club, Wrangler Nation, in full effect on the sidelines, including a pack of boy scouts from Moline, Illinois, swinging the Wranglers’ signature Rally Noodles over their heads, it was hard not to smile.

Alas, the quarterfinal against D.C. locals "Off In Public" ended in a 7-1 defeat for the Wranglers and decent people everywhere. When I called my dad after the game, he of course reminded me that second place is first loser, but I found comfort in the fact that we actually ended up in seventh or eighth place overall—and seventh loser somehow seemed better than first loser in a double-negative-makes-it-a-positive kind of way. I will also rest easy knowing that I remain undefeated in the pre-game Rock-Paper-Scissors showdown to determine home field advantage.

Of course, the Wranglers always rest easy knowing that, while we may not be the World Champions of Kickball, we are definitely World Champions of Silliness. At the after-party Kickball Bash at Kelly’s Irish Times, we showcased our fun-having talents by dancing away the afternoon while fielding requests for autographs on the premiere edition of Wrangler trading cards (Collect them all!). We seem to have what the French refer to as a certain je ne sais quoi, the ability to inspire in onlookers young and old an uncontrollable urge to jump on for a swing on the Wranglers Wild Wride. And we’re always happy to oblige.

Coming next summer: A Very Wrangler Wedding! Cap’n T-Dizzy and Dave "The O.Z." Osborne get hitched.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


The Chicago Tribune Loves the Wranglers!

We made the front page of the Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune this morning with the opening of a 3-part series on the Wranglers Wild Wride to the World Championships. It's a modified version of this blog... check it out! Email it to everyone you know!

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:


Tuesday, July 19, 2005


I am a kickball fanatic! Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 18, 2005


Rusty's Merchandise

Now you can buy your own Wrangler Nation gear at cafepress.com

Get 'em while they're hot!


Monday, July 11, 2005


The world will be our oyster

YEE HAW!!! The Wranglers are movin' on up to the big time to a deluxe spot in the World Championships of Kickball tournament in Washington, D.C. in two weeks. So bring on Atlanta, bring on Dallas, this is for Mike and Papa Bear Halas.

the details:
On the 23rd day of July in the year of our Lord, 2005, on the National Mall, capital city of these great United States, Rusty's Wranglers Amateur Kickball Club will take on the world's best in kickball. 16 teams will enter, only 1 will emerge victorious. We hope it will be us, and we think you should come and watch.

Wrangler Nation.... Sweeping the Nation. (pass it on)



The Wranglers are on a Wroll!! We just won the Regional Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

Condolences to the runner-up K.C. Ballbreakers, who, well, got their balls broken.

More to come on the Wrangler victory and RV road trip....


I'm sorry we were naughty, Officer, but did you know that we're regional champs?? Posted by Picasa


Celebrating pool-style. Posted by Picasa


Showing off the trophy! Posted by Picasa


Recap: A Letter to the Unborn Rusty Simmons

Dear Baby Rusty,

You don’t know me yet, but I’m hoping we’ll meet sometime around December 15th when you come kicking and screaming out your mommy’s belly and into this crazy world. I’m your “Auntie” Tara, but people call me T-Dizzy, Diz, T-Dizzle fo’ Shizzle, T-Dizzle in the Hizzle, really any variation on the “izzle,” Welcome to the Tara-Dome (Tara-Dome for short), T-Money, or, sometimes, just “Captain.” Even “Cap” if they’re feeling spunky. I earned all those nicknames in various ways, Rusty, but I want to tell you the story of how you got your name.

You see, Rusty, your mom and dad are Wranglers. Wranglers to the bone. Is there any other way to be a Wrangler? I sure hope not. I’m a Wrangler, too, Rusty. In some ways, I always have been.

The story of your name, Rusty, is one of guts and glory, that rarest of human courage that sees a seemingly insurmountable challenge and says, “I will mount it;” that sees a wobbly red ball being rolled very fast but bouncing no more than one foot off the ground and says, “I am going to kick that ball so far over your head that you’ll wish someone had punched your lights out instead.” It’s the stuff of face-first slides into home, that whoo whoo noise as the ball streaks through the air, pitching a perfect spinner from the hip, the incomparable double play, and kicking a home run when they were trying to intentionally walk you. It’s the stuff of champions—regional kickball champions.

The story starts about a year ago… actually, it starts way before that, but suffice it to say it gets really good about a year ago. Some might call it dumb luck, some might call it serendipity, and still others might say it was a most blessed miracle. But anyway you slice it, we're all better people for it. It turns out there's a kickball craze that's sweeping the nation—and we got swept up sho’ nuf. It started out innocently enough, about 15 friends getting together for a little recreational sport and socialization along the beautiful lake shore of Chicago. But the first week of league play was rained out, and we found ourselves at the Bird's Nest Pub deciding that each week should have its own theme, and a costume to go with it, and each player should have a theme song that we would play when that person came up to bat. And Uncle Timmy would keep stats. Yes, that would be important. The first week was Cabana Night, and from there it just got sillier, including season highlights like Toga Party, Get Your Wig On, and Running of the Bulls.

And it was lovely and fun and harmonious, except when we played this one team of Jerk-Stores called “A Life.” We hated them. They were mean and nasty and they yelled at us and at each other, and plus their team moniker made no sense, a personal peeve of mine. Worse, one of their guys wore a tight, mesh, camouflage tank top that I daresay haunts me still. We attributed their hostile attitudes to the fact that they seemed to be from New Jersey or similar, and we thought maybe their East-Coast ethos didn’t jive with the Chicago kickball vibe.

Until this spring when we heard about and decided to join the local chapter of the World Adult Kickball Association. The website seemed lighthearted enough, and we were lured in by the sarcasm and the discount on Simple Shoes®. The rules did seem a bit lengthy and officious, but we passed that off as a necessary evil of sport. It wasn’t until our first game, though, that the ugly truth was revealed: These people were serious. They pitched fast-balls! Bouncy ones! They said there were “no backsies” (what?!), no “crossing the diagonal” (WHAT?!), and no “crashing the infield” (WHHHHAAAAAATTTTT??!!).

After only a few innings in the very first game against the Bike Rack Bullies (more like Band Camp Bullies, if you ask me), things really went South when the Bullies beaned one of our girls in the very illegal above-the-shoulder region, and the ref still called her out! Their catcher got snotty with me and I had to give him a verbal smack-down. Then later as he was crossing home plate, he taunted me with a "What are you gonna do about it?" shoulder shrug, which really set me off, and I consequently took my anger out on the hapless and kickball-rules-ignorant girl who thought she was safe at third. I apologized to God (although not to the girl) for shouting "YOU ARE OUT!" as she stood there smiling on 3rd base. (Girl, if you’re out there: Sorry.)

By then it was clear: We would have to beat them at their own game. I would have to learn the particular WAKA rules and teach them to the team. We would have to pitch a little faster, although not too fast, and we might have to bunt a lot. But we would not give an inch on silliness, no, there we would draw the line, and the costumes actually got more extreme as the weeks went on. We had Rodeo Night, to showcase our true cowboy style; we had Chef Night, complete with hair nets and a piping hot vat of lasagna noodles that eventually became our signature “Rally Noodles.” Then there was Birthday Party Night, with a piñata and cake; Mime and Street Performer Night; Toga Party, a revamped classic from season one; 80s Rock Star Night; and more.

On Toga Night it also became clear who our nemesis would be: the yellow team, James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party. We tied them in the regular season, but beat them squarely 2-0 in the division finals to advance to the Region 7 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. It was only after our victory that the other teams in our division finally felt free to confess that they, too, hated James Brown, and they rejoiced with us in our victory over the self-proclaimed despot(s). And then it was WAKA love, love, love, love all around, because we realized that perhaps all this time we were all fighting a common enemy: James Brown. (No offense to the Godfather of Soul, of course.)

And that division championship brings us…. Where?.... to Kansas City, of course, and a promise made by your mother and father. Your mom, Kathleen “Toxic” Simmons, on the Pregnant Reserve List since mid-May, said that if the Wranglers took home the Silver Pitcher in K.C. she would name her unborn child Rusty (that’s you). Your dad, Brad “The Bomber” Simmons agreed, and even upped the ante with a promise to dress you in costume whenever he took you out in public. We’re not even sure if you’re a boy or a girl yet, Rusty, and some of the Wranglers thought that might be problematic. But Michelle “The ‘Michelle’ Is Silent” Dooley was quick to remind us of the indefatigable female Rusty, as played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the 1980s blockbuster film Footloose, and everyone agreed it would be a lovely name for a boy or a girl.

Well, Rusty, I’m sitting here looking at a silver pitcher with these words engraved upon it: “WAKA 2005 Region 7 Champions.” Engrave those words on your heart, Rusty. Engrave them on your mind.

Here’s how it happened:

We pulled up to the Southwest Charter School in Kansas City with little time to spare, as a breakfast stop at the Bobber Restaurant in Columbia, Mo., went a little long on account of an all-you-care-to-eat buffet and a rule that no one was allowed to take care of “internal business” in the bathroom on the RV that was transporting all 15 of us on the 8-hour trip. Luckily, the WAKA officials and our opponents were so impressed by our 40-foot Wrangler-ational Vehicle painted head to toe with slogans like “Mount up, Wranglers.” “Kickball champions on board,” and “Honk if you love kickball” that they waived the 1 p.m. check-in requirement.

They may have also been intimidated by our rodeo outfits. Lots of us had holsters with guns loaded with real caps, and we were not afraid to use them. And then there was Tim “He’s Un-Bull-ievable” Whalen in the bull costume, who insisted on repeatedly lowering his head to the ground and “goring” the ball. Not to mention the matter of our rodeo clown in full clown regalia and painted face with a mullet wig and a colorful beanie. That may have scared them, too. It’s hard to say. Come to think of it, it looked as if everyone there was having a hard time knowing what to say. Strangely, their mouths gaped open and they avoided eye contact. Weird.

Anyway, let the games begin!! After all, we didn’t drive all this way just to drink beer and eat Oreos and play cards and jump in apartment complex swimming pools and be called a “Traffic Hazard” by the Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy, did we?

Our first opponent of the day was the Kansas City Ballbusters. I admonished them for choosing a seemingly seedy name like that, to which they responded that they were literally referring to the kickball and not some other naughty ball or balls. Let’s hope they’re being honest. After all, kickball is a family game.

Now, we were a little concerned because this field was all grass. What kind of crazy Kansas City crap was this?? Not even the baselines were dirt! It was just a big grassy field that they mowed baselines into. There was not even a backstop. These were unprecedented playing conditions for the Wranglers, and it was clear that we were NOT in Chicago anymore! (Get it? It’s like “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” only we WERE in Kansas! Well, really close to Kansas, anyway.)

I asked my Co-Captain and Co-Habitor Dave “Pancho Morales, the Mexican Cowboy, Not To Be Confused With Frank Pancherello, the Cop on the Popular 80s TV Show C.H.I.P.s” Osborne to do a thorough walk-through of the field and report back about any irregular surfaces or inclines—of which there were many. We also practiced fielding some grounders in the grass to get a good feel for how the ball would be rolling.

Well, it turns out the Busters had gone 1-7 in the regular season down there in K.C., but in a Miracle on Grass sort of playoff twist ended up taking the #2 spot in their league….which is how they ended up playing us. After doling out a sound bottom-whooping in the pre-game Rock-Paper-Scissors competition to determine home field advantage—I threw “rock” to completely CRUSH their scissors!! Suckers always fall for that!!—we started the first inning with a defensive 3-up, 3-down, and proceeded to score 7 runs in our half of the inning. It was something of a slug-fest smearing of the poor Busters, though they did end up scoring a run against us in the 4th on a series of overthrows that has been the Achilles ’ heel of the Wranglers all season. But we ended with a quick and relatively painless 9-1 score, and rushed to the sidelines for some water and refuge from the 100-degree heat. The championship game would start in 15 minutes.

Perhaps an ordinary team may have let the easy win over Busters go to their heads and expect a cake-walk to the championship, but not the Wranglers. No sir. We are experienced rodeo-riders and know that every bull presents a new and different set of horns. Each opponent a different barrel to corner, if you will. Each pitch a different helpless calf to lasso and bring crashing to the ground. Each fly ball a different beer can thrown at you by a rowdy rodeo audience member that you just hope doesn’t hit you in the head. No, we would not rest on our laurels. And besides the other team looked a lot bigger than us. Even their girls were big and strong-looking. In retrospect we should have asked for a drug test, but you know what they say, “Hindsight is 50/50,” a real crap shoot. And anyway, there was no one there to do the urinalysis.

Undaunted, we strapped on our rodeo belt buckles, snapped on our spurs, and mounted our horses for the big dance against the #1 seed, The Ballbreakers. Apparently, Kansas City is not known for its nomenclatural creativity. I mean, really, is there no other double entendre a team can think of than the ubiquitous crushing of the balls?

Anyway, we had mad skillz in Rock/Paper/Scissors again, and secured home-field advantage on a big Breakers blooper when their captain threw his hand too early and revealed his ‘rock’ strategy in a fatal false start. Of course I knew he wouldn’t throw rock again on the re-do! What does he think I am, stupid??!! Obviously, his remaining choices were scissors or paper, so I threw a scissors and cut the shiz-nizzy out of his paper!!! SUCKER!!! That home field advantage would prove critical about 45 minutes later.

Employing the “Bat All the Big Boys in a Row” strategy, Breakers lead off inning 1 with what appeared to be the offensive line of a pro football team. They scored 3 early, and the Wranglers were clearly unnerved until first basemen Josh “Hasselhoff” McKnight Rider came up big with an acrobatic foul fly catch. Throwing off his cowboy cap to get a better look, McKnight leapt at least 13 vertical feet to make the grab and hope was restored to Rusty’s clan. Why did we ever doubt ourselves? We are the Wranglers, Damnit!

Now we were fired up and we came up to bat with fierce determination. Hasselhoff landed a single, and then Matty “I’m a Lubber Not a Fighter” Lubbers banged a big bomber to score both the McKnight Rider and himself. After a couple more base hits, the inning ended on an unsuccessful bunt by none other than Katie “Bunt Cake” Whalen, who just might have gotten away with first base if she hadn’t cried out “Oh! I’ve been hit!” when the pitcher beaned her in the side. Way to play it cool, Whalen. That ditzy 1st base ref had no idea. Well, I suppose honesty is always the best policy. Still, two runs scored for the Wranglers.

We held them to a big fat nothing in the top of the 2nd, and boy, were they mad! And we were just getting warmed up! Pitcher Dan “Ricky” Martin lead off with another fatty homer, and then his lovely wife Barb “You Might Think I Regret Marrying Him, But I Don’t” Martin line-drove her way to a single. Joy “Smack Yo Mama” Hayes gave the ball a little kiss and ran her little heart out to first, sending good ol’ Barb to the #2 position. Timmy “That Ain’t No Bull” Whalen popped one over the infield and drove Barb home. Then it was up to Eileen “Dexy’s Midnight Runner” Lovett and Brad “Ryno” Simmons to bop in 2 more runs. Nice work, Wranglers! That makes an even 5 for Rusty’s crew.

With perfect pitching from Marty, we held them scoreless again in the 3rd, and I guess the tension was really starting to mount on the Breaker bench because that’s just about the time things got ugly. One of the big boys was on 2nd base when he lashed out and addressed our adorable rodeo clown centerfielder in the following manner: “Hey, Bozo.”
An audible gasp from the Wrangler fielders.
“His name,” I said through clenched teeth, “is Sweaty Rodeo Clown.”
“Well, he’s a clown and he’s from Chicago so I just figured he was supposed to be Bozo,” said big guy.
“He’s got a point,” said Dave.
“True dat!” said Clown.
“Ok, big guy,” I said. “All in good fun, then.”
But I remained suspicious.

McKnight Rider was first up to bat for the Wranglers and proved that real men do, in fact, bunt as he high-tailed it down the baseline to first. Then I was up and I don’t want to talk about it. Bygones. Then Lubbers was up and I don’t want to talk about that either. But then Michelle “As Played by Parker Posey” Dooley was up and she was not taking “no” for an answer. She showed that ball who was boss and McKnight proceeded to fly around the base path. He went all out and headed for home just as the Breakers were throwing it to their catcher. It was a blur of action: the ball was thrown, the ball was dodged, two bodies collided, Josh slid into home. The ref yelled, “Safe!” and the Wrangler bench exploded with glee.

But Breaker “Coach JackAss,” who was really not a coach at all but just some roid-raging yahoo who, days of athletic prowess long behind him, still gets a rush from being a prick on the sidelines and will surely someday be a hockey dad that beats up the other hockey dad at the Jr. Skaters league game, exploded with something else that can only be described as extreme madness. He screamed at the ref. He jumped up and down. And he uttered the abominable: “Next time put a knee to his head!”

WHAT??!! A knee to his head??!!

I wigged out. I was pig-biting mad, and so was Co-Captain/Habitor Dave “Pancho Morales …” Osborne, who came rushing up to home plate from the outfield. I was freaking: “GET THAT GUY OUTTA HERE!”

Fortunately, WAKA ref Aaron@worldkickball.com had it under control. “That’s not what WAKA is all about,” he told Mr. Steroid. And he instructed him to take a seat away from the team’s bench. He calmed the outraged Wranglers, and restored order in general. Aaron shall be heretofore known as the King of WAKA.

And the game went on.
They scored 1 in the top of the 4th and held us scoreless in the bottom. Drat! Now the score is 6-4, Wranglers.

Top of the 5th: The Breakers manage to squeak in 2 more runs despite spectacular fielding by pitcher Dan “Shake Your Bon Bon” Martin, including a behind the head hoopty holla shout out for an out at first. Now that’s heads up kickball!

So the game is tied 6-6 going into the bottom of the 5th and final inning. It’s do or die. Pressure’s on. And we bonk. Three quick outs. The game goes into overtime.

Despite being back in the “Big Boy” portion of their batting order, we thwart the Breakers at every turn. 3-up, 3-down, and the Wranglers are getting hot.

I’m up to lead off the bottom of the 6th. The blood is pumping, my veins are constricted, and I really have to pee! I haven’t been so nervous since I played Golde in the junior high production of Fiddler on the Roof! But I know what I have to do. There’s no other choice. I have to bunt. The pitcher, by far the smallest member of the Breakers—male or female—rolls it in nice and fast and I watch the first one go by just for good measure, and also because I’m nervous. But the next one is a beauty and I kicked it as not-hard as I possibly could. A dribbly-bibbler just in front of the plate and I’m well on my way to first. Safe!
Then it’s big Matty Lubbers and Leave ‘Em, and he bangs a single.
Then it’s Dooley the Rhinestone Cowgirl and her sparkly silver pants.
He pitches. Ball.
He pitches again. Ball.
Pitch. Ball.
First base coach Osborne gives Dooley the “take” sign, but she doesn’t know what that means. Luckily, instinct kicks in and she watches the next pitch swerve way left.
Ball 4!!!!

Bases are loaded and Sweaty Rodeo Clown steps up to the plate. His purple polka-dotted knickers pulled up as far as they will go, mullet wig just slightly crooked, and white face paint starting to drip, he steps back a few paces and gets into his stance. I can see now that it’s going to be glorious.

The pitch. A fast one. A spinner. Sweaty pops it up to the edge of the infield. Will she catch it? The red orb hangs in the air as if time has stopped. I go halfway to home to hedge the bet on the force-out at home. She drops it! I run! She throws the ball to the catcher who is standing right in my path. It’s inevitable: We collide, the ball is between us and it hits me. I’m out. But the ball flies off to the side just far enough for Matty to round 3rd and haul ass toward home. Breakers recover and try to throw him out, but Matty slides and they miss and he’s safe and WE WIN!!!!!


We jump up and down! We squeal and scream! We dance and sing! We dump water on each other’s heads!

The other teams from Kansas City are cheering because it turns out they hated the Breakers all along and secretly hoped for their tournament demise. For the record, aside from Johnny Steroid and the suspicious “Bozo” comment, we found them to be a pleasant enough bunch. And after the game at least 10 Breakers approached the Wranglers to apologize for Johnny’s bad behavior.

“Not everyone from Kansas City is an asshole,” Jana Breaker explained.
Fair enough, Jana. Fair enough.

The rest of the trip is really a euphoric blur. We were presented with our trophy at a local pub, which we proceeded to fill with beer and drink from communally, which technically makes us all saliva brothers and sisters now. Then it was off to the Kansas City Royals game, where we somehow developed a cheering section of our own. That is to say that people in the stands were cheering for us and not the Royals. Mostly I think they were cheering for Dooley in her silver sparkly pants and iridescent Child Diva Cowgirl hat as she danced to all the fun songs they played on the public address system. She is a lovely dancer, that Dooley, and lots of men wanted to give her high-fives. I think that was really sweet of those men.

And from there it was off to the Hillsborough apartment complex in Mission, Kansas, where a member of WranglerNation lives who was kind enough to host the team and our oversized motor vehicle for the night. The pool at the complex was particularly refreshing.

We had no less than four encounters with law enforcement officers along the way, but all of them turned out to be quite pleasant. Cassie “Did You Know That We’re Regional Champs?” Scott even got a ride on a Kansas cop’s motorcycle, one squad car came to visit the vehicle at 2 a.m. simply because he had heard about us and thought it was funny, and a lovely Illinois State Trooper let us off with a warning in hour 16 of the road-trip round-trip. Thanks, guys!

Actually, the scariest moment of the trip came when the man with the creepy tattoos at the Truckomat World’s Largest Truckwash in Iowa asked me, “What is that Rusty’s Wranglers?”
“Oh! It’s our kickball team!” I cried.
“I got that,” he said. “But what did you use to write it all over that RV?”
“Spirit foam.” I replied meekly, almost as a question, because the red and orange tattoo covering the left half of his neck seemed to be pulsating in an unpleasant way.
“Well it’s not coming off,” he said.
“Oh.” [Cue deflating balloon sound effect.]

So, with apologies to Katie Whalen’s parents, who actually own the RV, for the residual outline of “Rusty’s Wranglers” on the front of their very expensive automotive wonder, we wrapped up the trip and began the final stretch of road back to Chicago, where it was back to normal life for the Wranglers until the World Championships in Washington, D.C. in two weeks.

And that’s the story of you, Rusty. You were a champion before you were even born. I’d say that’s a pretty good start. Just remember, all your life, you’ll always be a Wrangler and you can always count on your 18 Wrangler aunts and uncles for anything you ever need. We’ll always love you, kid.

Oh, and Rusty, one more thing: Be nice to your cousin Regional Champ, I think he might have a hard time with the kids at school.

Love you! Mean it!
Cap’n T-Dizzle Fo’ Shizzle

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