Generally speaking, sick days suck as a kid. Well actually, I should amend that. Sick days suck when you’re a kid and you are actually sick. Daytime sports TV gets repetitive as all of the talk shows cover the same things. Realistically, there is only so much nonsensical, arrogant blathering you can watch from Stephen A. Smith, or fast-paced yelling of Around the Horn or Pardon the Interruption. But, one of my most important sports discoveries came during a sick day in my eighth grade year from a source I did not expect, softball.
There I laid, thirteen, nose running like a faucet. My fever was probably at 165, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was mid-spring during that time period where global warming was starting to rock the mid-atlantic region. Any movement made my limbs ache like a marathoner’s. On top of that, the women on The View were especially annoying that day, and Ellen had guests that really did not interest me in any way (daytime network television was a staple of my preteen sick days).
I decided to make the Herculean effort it took to change the channel and plugged in the digits for ESPN, hoping that it was literally anything other than Stephen A. and Skip attempting to one-up each other’s idiocy. To my complete surprise, there was softball on, and I soon realized it was the Women’s College World Series. I was unfamiliar because softball is rarely televised outside of the tournament, and this was before the days of the conference networks that televise literally every single sport that is interesting. I decided to give it a shot since there weren’t many other options that day.
Within moments, I was hooked. The game is absolutely enamoring in every way. For starters, these are grown women with high-level athletic ability playing a sport on a field made for 12-year-old boys. The speed of the game is absolutely unbelievable. As a lifelong baseball fan and student of the game, it is basically all of the great parts of baseball, without the bad stuff (speed, scoring, throwing the ball at each other). The defensive skill, especially of the infielders, is honestly shocking. Their hand speed from fielding to throwing is up there with some of the best players in the MLB.
And also the pitching. As a baseball fan, it is so frustrating to see a guy get pulled in the seventh inning of a gem because if he throws any more pitches his arm might fall off. In softball, that isn’t a thing because the underhand motion is a natural arm movement. These girls can throw upward of 200 pitches and pitch every second or third day. Think of the stamina that takes. I would throw 80 in high school in mid-summer and be sweating my face off. These girls are doing more than double that in Texas heat. And on top of that, the pitches they are throwing are moving like a Wiffle Ball. Major League guys wished their changeups looked like these girls’ changeups.
This began an annual personal holiday on my sports-fanatic alt-calendar.
The Women’s College World Series became something I booked in my calendar as must-see TV, and it always seems to come at the best time. This year, I am working my first full time job, and last week’s forty hour week kicked the shit out of me. I decided that for the entire weekend I would not move from the couch other than to retrieve meals. Luckily, The regional round of the Women’s College World Series fell on this same weekend, blessing me with the wonders of softball. Now in the Super Regional Round (like the Sweet 16 for those unfamiliar), this tournament has been fantastic.
The regional round is sixteen four-team regions hosted by a nationally-seeded team. Although all of the national seeds made it to the Super Regional, this does not tell the whole story in any way. Cinderella hopeful North Dakota St. put defending champion Oklahoma on the ropes by beating them in the opening game of the Norman Region. Minnesota and Alabama played in one of the greatest pitchers duels I have ever seen in their first game, which was spoiled by a horrendous ending from the umpire, who seemed like he wasn’t really into seeing the game go past nine innings (a softball game is seven innings). Washington’s Taran Alvelo is an absolute tank (still my second favorite Washington women’s college athlete. Kelsey Plum is the queen of my universe).
May 20, 2017 is an important date in my life because it it's the day I realized that college softball is my favorite sport
— PJ Guippone (@pjguip1) May 20, 2017
The winners of the best two out of three Super Regional round will be shipped to Oklahoma City for the best show on dirt, the Women’s College World Series. I’m not one to tell people what to do, but if there is anything to get you through this lull before the finals of the NBA and NHL, it is this tournament. Bask in the wondrous glory of softball with me, starting with games from 4pm-1 am tonight.