There have been moments in my life when I have been accused of talking a bit ... vociferously.
Since I was a little kid chucking basketballs from between my legs at an iron hoop, there has typically been a torrent of trash-talk spewing forth from my overactive lips. It has ranged from the low-key “It’s got to be painful for you watching me make all these in a row,” to the more aggressive, “If I were you, I wouldn’t even go home. Your mother is probably going to change the locks after the beatdown I am giving you out here.”
It didn’t stop after the age of 4, either. In fact, the older I got, the more proficient I seemed to get at flapping my gums at opponents. Before a baseball game when I was in middle school I once told the opposing pitcher that he should just fake an injury before the game started because that first pitch he threw me was going to come back and drill him in the chest. Now, that one kind of backfired on me because the first pitch I saw, in fact, hit me in the ribs.
Eventually, my obvious lack of talent brought a rather abrupt end to my athletic career, but did very little to diminish my propensity for talking smack to other people. I found myself doing it in grocery stores (“Nice choice of tomatoes, lady. I’d hate to see what your husband looks like.”), in church (“Was that a sermon or a greatest hits album of the most boring thoughts ever thought?”) and at work (“Really, that was a great story you wrote in this morning’s paper. The only thing that could have made it better is if it had an actual point and I had written it instead of what was apparently a half-trained monkey on acid.”).
Needless to say, people have taken great pleasure in topping me over the years, both in competition and with words.
There are two people, in fact, who seem to take great delight in that over all others — Sarah Lyons Hoban and Emily Lyons Harne. The “Lyons” part of their names should give you an indication that they are the daughters of our publisher, Susan Lyons, and have both been kind of sisters to me over the past 13-plus years their mother and I have been working together.
Sisters, mind you, with barracuda teeth and streaks of mean that could make Genghis Khan quake in his shoes. Well, that’s assuming they wore shoes in the 13th century. I’m guessing it was some kind of sandal or ...
But I digress.
Their sorority, Beta Sigma Phi, holds an annual cornhole tournament at the Millville fire hall to raise money for the Russell White scholarship, named in honor of a young Indian River High School graduate who gave his life in defense of this nation in Afghanistan. Needless to say, it is a terrific event, for a terrific cause, and one that I truly look forward to for months in advance.
One of the elements of the tournament that I most anticipate is the annual grudge match between the team featuring Sarah and Emily, and me and my partner, Shaun Lambert. In fact, I often start talking trash to Emily and Sarah about two months in advance of the tournament, and giggle to myself while I see them get more and more irritated with my words.
Two problems with my strategy immediately jump to mind, however. The first is that Sarah and Emily apparently only get angry and become better players when I run my mouth. And the second problem is that I’m just not very good at cornhole, so the end result is me and Shaun on our knees at the end of the game, and Sarah and Emily lording over us like they just burned down our castle and ate our horses.
So, little sisters, I will now do as promised and offer you hearty congratulations on your victory. We stink. You are good. We are nerds. You are cool. We are subhuman. You are almost mythical in your greatness.
Enjoy your victory. You left little doubt who was the supreme team on Saturday, and we stand humbled by your greatness. But we are going to beat you like rented mules next year. Bring tissues to dry your tears, and hope your mother is there to give you comfort.
I never really learn, do I?