Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Horse Feet

Horse Shoes? Who in the world still plays horse shoes? As you know horse shoes is reserved for those in retirement communities. Shuffle Board, Bingo and Horse Shoes are all events in the Grumpy Old Geezer Olympics. So why would a slightly balding, middle aged dad like me ever pick up the game of those who are teeth challenged?
Two years ago when we moved to Oregon we discovered this hidden park in the middle of a near by neighborhood. It is a great park with a playground, tennis courts, a baseball field, a picnic area and a horse shoe pit. Our wonderful friends the Condellos and the Williams often take our families there for picnics. For some odd reason Erik with a K Williams is the only adult in his thirties who actually owns horse shoes. Odd and Erik with a K are best friends. For the past few years Erik, Brian and I have periodically played the game. This past summer our casual game of leisure has become an all out cage match to the death of high stake horse shoe awesomeness and the quest for horse shoe world domination. On one side of the horse shoe pit is team Erik and Brian (two Pastors who have dedicated their lives to serving God in full time ministry.) On the other side is me (one man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of sophomoric tomfoolery and to being the cheapest man alive). The other person on my team is one of several innocent bystanders who have been unfortunate and foolish enough to get aboard this train wreck. For some unknown reason with a K, most of my teammates have only volunteered once and have opted out of future matches.

I have to confess that I love playing horse shoes. I grew up playing with my Dad. We have a horse shoe pit in the back yard of my childhood home. My dad is an amazing horse shoe player. I have never beaten the man in horse shoes. Dad would rip off ringer after ringer and he would make short work of my horse shoemanship. My Father is a man of honor and integrity and he taught me to play the game with good sportsmanship and with respect for your opponent. Dad always is a great encouragement and was genuinely excited when I managed to get a ringer or a point. Although I’ve never beat him in the game, I always left feeling good about myself and my effort. Playing horse shoes with my two pastor friends is a far cry from those games of honor.

I’m about to expose an ugly truth to you. Please remove small children and sharp objects from the room. I have discovered over the past 24 years of working with youth pastors that they are pathetic. I’m talking shameless unapologetic pathetic. Before I get hit by lightning please let me explain. Clinical research has shown that people seeking a career in youth ministry are slightly deranged. My theory is that when one enters the field of youth ministry they are young and are somewhat able to keep up in competition with their hormonal energetic flock, however as time, the human metabolism, and the effects of ageing cruelly deflate the youth pastor ego it renders them lacking on the field of competition. The youth pastor attempts to level the playing field by over compensating and develops their ability to mock and trash talks their foe. I can’t say that I blame them. It is a survival technique developed to maintain their cool awesomeness. The older you get the more developed the gift. Let me just say that Erik and Brian are very well developed. They are both pushing forty which in youth pastor years is like one hundred and twenty. Erik and Brian have taken mocking and trash talking to an artful perfection. I have had the honor of being on their team and witnessing the fine art of the perfectly timed cough, burp, fart, or inappropriate comment. I have watched their opponents who completely out match them in speed, skill and ability, crumble in humiliating defeat in the wake of their evil super power. This past summer Brian and I were getting schooled in game by this old pro and then Brian unleashed his shameless gift upon this poor man and we were able to snatch victory from a most certain doom. The poor man was so frustrated at Brian that I thought he was going to resort to violence. It was beautiful!

Now that I have set the stage for our all out cage match to the death of high stake horse shoe awesomeness and the quest for horse shoe world domination I would like to take you back in time to painful place which I like to call the worst moment ever in the history of my illustrious horse shoe career. One week ago in the twilight hours of the Lords Day I found myself walking the long lonely trail to the arena of my former glory and my current pain. On this road a small child greeted us with excitement as he joined the parade of horse shoe legends. His name was Ethan and he was a buzz saw of energy. As we prepared the arena for our pending battle, innocent Ethan began to connect to his new found horse shoe heroes. The match began as normal. There was the typical mocking, rock throwing and well timed inappropriate comments. Erik was in rare form as he succeeded in throwing me off my game. My partner answered with some key points that put us in the lead. My partner happened to be Brian’s father-in-law which deterred Brian from wisely unleashing his mocking game upon his Wife’s Dad; however it didn’t stop him from letting it go on me.

As I mentioned before Youth Pastors can be shameless. Ethan who was cheering for everyone was now an innocent pawn of evil in Brian’s pathetic scheme to have victory at any cost. Just as the Candy Man in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang enticed small children into his trap, Brian incites Ethan into his. “Do you see that man about to throw that horse shoe? Every time he begins to throw I want you to laugh at him.” Ethan played the pawn to perfection. He had this great mocking laugh that made me almost wet myself ever time he did it. I was now rendered useless by this innocent child. This made Erik and Brian drunk with mocking glee. Our sizeable lead was being demolished by innocent Ethan and Brian ripping off two or three ringers. My team was up nineteen to eighteen as the day surrendered its light. One ringer would mean victory for both sides. My first horse shoe went inches left of the target and slid to a disappointing nothing. In an act of mocking arrogance Erik tosses his first shoe three feet in front of him. Erik was betting the bank that I would choke on my second toss and that he would get a ringer. He would either walk away from the game a hero or a fool. The prior week Brian did a similar stunt which ended in victory for my team. It was getting dark as I stepped up to silence my foes arrogance. The trash talking and mocking reached a crescendo as I let the shoe slip into the dark. The shoe found its mate at the back of the pit. Erik steps up to the line dressed in all of his gloating arrogance. I shot up a quick prayer asking the good Lord to humble the proud and to give grace to the humble. My feeble prayer was answered with grace for the humble. The Holy Trinity looked on as Erik’s tossed his horse shoe into the night. The sound of metal striking metal and a bright spark that caused my knees to buckle gave birth to the emotional scars of my defeat. Anyone who is schooled in the fine art of trash talking and mocking knows that to win with grace, honor and respect is an invitation to future weakness. A true artist finishes their opponent off by the sheer obnoxiousness of their victory celebration. Erik is an artist. After his victory dance, yelling, screaming, mocking, gloating, boasting and teasing, came his tweeting and his horse shoe victory blog. The next day he even managed to rub it in by typing my name in our bowling score sheet as “Stevelostshoes”. Like a stray cat the memory of that painful evening still lingers. Erik will make sure that I will never forget it. The games that have followed have been haunted with my inner competitive demon. I find myself playing in silence in attempt to defeat the monster within. I love spending time with Brian and Erik. I love playing horse shoes with them. Brian and Erik bring life to my soul and laughter to my heart. They are the best of my friends, which brings me to the final and the main point of this blog. If by some chance you are an excellent horse shoe player or even if you are an expert in the art form of mocking please look me up so that together we can have revenge for my defeat and so that I can once again achieve dominance in our all out cage match to the death of high stake horse shoe awesomeness and the quest for horse shoe world domination.