The Haters: The Angriest Softball Team in New York City

by

10/01/2009

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Williamsburg

The Haters: The Angriest Softball Team in New York City
Haters team Captain Frankie and his wife Nancy, the team's official scorekeeper.
by Amber Cortes

Last August, on a brutally hot Sunday afternoon, after a debilitating outdoor 90-degree basketball game courtesy of The Word bookstore league, I was shuffling along the sidewalks from Greenpoint to the Bedford L stop trying to bring my core temperature below triple-digits. Needing a respite, I stopped to watch a softball game on a playground diamond across from McCarren Park proper and was sucked in by the raucous antics of a team clearly trying to live up to its name.

The Haters.

I was captivated the team’s heart and soul, Colin, a profane ball of sweat, energy and fury. From deep in centerfield, Colin implored his fellow Haters, “You guys fucking disgust me! Would somebody please make a fucking play!”

I positioned myself behind the fence between home and first, right behind the Haters dugout. Across the diamond was a team I’ll call the Lovers. They have matching team shirts and caps, hipster facial hair, Nike gear, a handful of female fans in the vintage-sundress-oversized-sunglasses-sleeve-of-colorful-ink, and a sense of joie de vivre. And decorum. The Lovers look like Billyburg, at least the Pete’s Candy Store version of it.

The Haters are a different breed.

They aren’t white-collar. They might not even be blue-collar. They’re a collection of what used to be known as working guys, thick with outer borough accents, reeking of last night’s beer and this afternoon’s salty recovery. They were a team of Tommys, Paulies, Johnnies, Sals, Hectors and Miguels, a team that smoked Newports on the bench and broke out the Coronas with the first pitch.

The Haters didn’t match. Some had jerseys. Others wore muscles tees or homemade tank-tops, and one Latino dude in loud orange leggings had a beef with the 350-lb. ump enforcing the ASA rule that a shirt be worn in the first place. Some had “Haters” on their front, others had “Hater Nation” on their back, and a number of them had no outward team affiliation at all. They don’t have ink, or tats, or skin art. They have tattoos. One large laconic man, El Jeffe perhaps, sports a large gray replica of the Twin Towers encircled in clouds on his left leg, as dark and grey as the canyon dust itself.

This isn’t “here to have fun” softball played in Central Park. Hell, it isn’t even the competitive suburban bust-your-ass leagues where guys ultimately laugh it all off after a few post-game cold ones. This is scraggly urban softball, played not on soothing grass and dirt, but out on hard baking asphalt where joints go to die.

For the Haters, it wasn’t softball. It was bloodsport.

An extra ump biding time as a spectator informed me that it was 7-1 as the Haters got their third out. He said this was the playoffs, whichever team won the best-of-three that afternoon moved on. Considering the palpable tension surrounding the Haters, I asked if they were about to be eliminated.

“No, it’s only the first game.”

“Oh, they’re awfully fired up,” I replied.

“Yeah, that’s what they do.”

“So what time’s the next game start,” I asked.

“Not for awhile. It’s only the second inning.”

Down 7-1, Colin ran over to give the 60-something pitcher Tommy a pep talk that would do Billy Martin proud. “If you walk one more fucking batter, I will take your old wooden bat and shove it so far up your ass, you’ll be shitting splinters for a week.”

Colin stormed off, but not before excoriating the dugout: “Stop fucking laughing! This shit ain’t funny!”

Tommy, soaking through his Wrangler jean shorts and non-ironic mesh cap with and American flag and a bald eagle that read “Don’t Ruffle My Feathers,” turned to El Jeffe and muttered, “This carried over from last week. Fuck! I don’t need this. I won’t be fucking back next year, that’s for sure.”

Tommy then turned in the direction of Colin and announced, “Maybe if we didn’t make so many fucking errors—”

“Shut the fuck up, Tommy! We only made one fucking error last inning! Quit saying they scored their runs on errors! I got the fucking book right here!” From the dugout came a burst of expletives out of the roaring mouth of a stocky woman doing the hot-blooded Latina stereotype no favors. The Haters official scorekeeper, she wasn’t about to have her rulings questioned. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, Tommy! Shut the fuck up and throw strikes!”

By the time the exchange was over, the Haters were done at bat.

In the third, the Haters “misplayed” a few more balls (No way am I labeling the mishaps “errors” without hearing from the official scorer), which gave the Lovers a 10-1 lead. This led to Colin spiking his mitt on the ground, kicking it, throwing his arms up in the air, turning his back to the rest of the Haters and then getting in a shouting match…with a guy playing in the other softball game taking place.

Mercifully, the inning ended. Colin began his pep talk while still running in from the outfield. “You all fucking know my mouth. Everybody in this league knows this is my fucking mouth. When I yell and scream it’s not because I’m an asshole, it’s because I fucking care. I care about this fucking team and care about winning. So let’s fucking start hitting and win this fucking game.”

The Haters were making the ’77 Yankees look like the ’99 Women’s World Cup Soccer Champions.

Colin’s motivation wasn’t strictly verbal. He offered the skinny young kid at second base a gift if he got a hit. It appeared to be a free coupon to a neighborhood tittie bar. He walked, so the freebie remained stuck to the fence behind home plate. Not sure if the base on balls earned him some boobs, but either way, it was to no avail. The Haters went down quietly.

The Haters would hold serve, giving up a couple of meaningless hits that lead to no runs. At some point during that half inning, things took a turn on the Haters bench. A random guy whom I’d hadn’t noticed up until this point, a dead ringer for Joe the Plumber twenty years from now, stood up and got into an argument with the scorekeeper. She of course told him, “Fuck you. Get the fuck off our bench."

He obliged, but not before he started screaming at one of the Haters in the game. Joe the Plumber was incensed at the shortstop and wanted everyone to know it. What set him off remains a mystery, but unlike Colin, Joe the Plumber was angry with more than the Haters bumbling softball effort.

“You’re a fucking disgrace. You’re a fucking cokehead. Fuck you. FUCK YOU!”

As Joe the Plumber made his way down the first base line, headed to the cooler out by the street, El Jeffe tried calming him down. “That’s your son, man. That’s your fucking son. You gonna’ air all your fucking family business out there in front of all these people?” It didn’t take. Joe the Plumber just got louder. “He fucking stole $2,500 from my ex-wife, he’s a fucking disgrace. You’re a cokehead. You’re no good. You ruin everybody’s fucking life!”

By this point, the shortstop was fuming. After snaring a line drive for the third out, he sprinted at Joe the Plumber in a ferocious full-blooded fever pitch. He got right in his face.

“You’re fucking dead to me! You’re gonna’ tell my business to the whole world out here? Fuck you! You’re not my father! You’re dead to me. Fucking dead!”

Another brother raced in from left field and got between them. He demanded that Joe the Plumber “get on the other side of the fucking fence.”

Joe the Plumber ended up taking his complaints to a neighborhood friend watching the Haters near where I stood. His boy wasn’t interested when Joe the Plumber started in again, “He’s a fucking cokehead—“

“Who the hell ain’t?”

It was the line of the day, but by then, I’d grown weary of the rough-edged street charms of the angriest softball team in the city. An uneasy feeling was settling in my stomach. Maybe it was a sun-induced mirage but I saw the combination of hot tempers, the 100-degree heat index, aluminum bats, free-flowing beers, possible cocaine usage, testosterone, a playoff loss, and a father-son meltdown turning into some violent mishmash of Death of A Salesman, The Warriors and Do the Right Thing.
I saw blood being spilled.

I felt bad for the team. I felt bad for the son. I even felt a little bad for Joe the Plumber. But more than that, I felt like getting out of there.

The Haters were no longer entertaining in a gritty foul-mouthed sort of way.

It was hot and I wanted to go home because for at least some of the Haters, the rage was as real as the team name.

As I walked on past the outfield, a guy in a Yankees cap waiting for his game to start passed by and said with astonishment, “Can you believe this shit? It’s not even three o’clock yet.”

I have no idea why that was the witching hour, but no way was I going to find out.

I headed down the next block and still heard Colin exclaim:

“Let’s go, Haters. We need to get some fucking runs!”

Raised in Billings, Montana, Patrick Sauer now lives in Greenwich Village. A reporter at hotel review website Oyster.com, a senior editor at www.TheDailyTube.com and a contributing editor at Inc., Sauer has also written for ESPN.com, the Huffington Post comedy page 23/6, Popular Science, Fast Company, Details, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood and Smith. He is included in Lost and Found and is the author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the American Presidents. Read more at his website: patricksauer.com

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