At Fenway Park, when the Red Sox win, the song “Dirty Water’ blares over the speakers, and the players just retreat to the showers.
At Pacheco Park in North Smithfield, home of the 11-12-year-old state softball tournament, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” plays over the speakers no matter who wins, and the players on both teams dance in the outfield. Some of the coaches join in too.
There’s an intentional difference between the two.
And, after long games that extend deep into the night, with cheering parents, nervous coaches, great plays, strikeouts, errors and determined players, the outfield dancing is the clearest indication of what we’re actually watching.
If Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and John Farrell started doing the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” dance in front of the Green Monster, we’d all assume they’d found Manny’s leftover drug stash in the locker room.
When 11 and 12-year-old girls – the Warwick West Side and East Providence all-star teams, specifically – decide to do it, it makes all the sense in the world.
They’re not getting paid and they’re not fighting for their reputations. They’re not getting peppered with questions from the media (besides my hard-hitting “How did that win feel?” question) and they can go out in public without being mobbed.
They’re just a bunch of girls who like playing softball, who are trying to have fun.
It seems like they have a lot of it whether they win or not.
Of course it’s great when they do win, but they’ll go home and have spaghetti or pizza or whatever’s for dinner and go to sleep regardless of what the outcome of the game is. They’re kids.
West Side beat East Providence 4-2 in the loser’s bracket final of the tournament on Tuesday, ending East Providence’s season. West Side advanced to the state finals.
You’d think that the girls from EP would have their heads in their hands, sobbing that they didn’t get to play another game.
And you’d be right, sort of. They were a little downtrodden immediately after the last out. But then “Cotton-Eyed Joe” started playing over the speakers.
Wins and losses went right out the window.
Both teams knew the dance by heart, just like they all know the choreographed chants and songs they yell from the dugout all game long.
East Providence was all smiles, and so was West Side. You got the idea that even if West Side had lost, it would have been smiling just as wide.
That scene, in and of itself, was the epitome of what these summer tournaments are really about. They provide opportunities for kids to play baseball or softball, and it’s natural for the competitive juices to get flowing on the field even at a young age.
But when it’s over, and they’ve won or lost, it’s usually just over. They’ve got kid stuff to worry about. Maybe even more choreographing to do.
The point is, it’s great to earn a victory at any level. Everyone wants to win. But what’s greater is that they’re playing the games, they’re forging relationships, learning along the way and enjoying all of benefits of team sports at that age.
You don’t get to dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” in the outfield very much the older you get. Although, with the fun those girls were having, it might not be a bad idea.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.