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Taking life one play at a time

November 20, 2002|CHRIS ERSKINE

She's eight months pregnant, yet I'm the one who's dilated. Noticed it this morning, when I was putting on my running shoes.

"Five centimeters," I tell her.

"That's your mouth," my wife says.

"Well, technically, sure," I say.

On TV, Cary Grant is romancing Grace Kelly. I'm flipping through the channels on a Saturday morning, looking for a college football game. Ohio State. Miami. Instead, I get this, a sexy woman on the make. Like I don't get enough of that in real life.

"To you, words are just play things," Cary Grant is telling Grace Kelly.

"Six centimeters," I tell my wife.

"Shhhhh," she says, turning up the TV.

Cary Grant and I have a lot in common. Time and again, we're drawn to glamorous women of dubious circumstance. Women with a healthy bosom. Nice jaw line. Credit card balances through the roof.

You know the type. The only sunlight in the room tends to fall on their delicate faces. Cabs find them on rainy days. Perfect strangers pick up their bar tabs.

They have this special aura, these women. Nice teeth. Necks like violins.

"You know as well as I know, this necklace is an imitation," Cary Grant points out.

"Well, I'm not," Grace Kelly purrs.

Meanwhile, I make out my soccer lineup on the kitchen counter. The game is in an hour. I have butterflies in the belly. A game plan swirling in my head.

Do I play Brittany at midfield? No, Brittany at forward. Do I play Marisa at forward? No, Marisa at defense.

It's playoffs, you know, and I restructure this lineup over and over. At work. In my sleep.

Amy at midfield, or Amy at goalkeeper? Kristina at goalkeeper, or Kristina at defender? Playoffs make you crazy like this.

"I think," I tell my wife, "that we'll try using four defenders this week."

"Why not eight," she says, "why not nine?"

"Is everything a joke with you?" I ask.

"Why not 12? Why not 14?" she says.

"Because we're using four," I say.

I already have nicknames for our new defense. The Four Horsemen. The Fab Four. The Four Signs of the Apocalypse.

It's a brilliant adjustment, four. Why didn't I think of it earlier? Maybe my coaching position would be more secure.

"The parents haven't fired you yet?" my friend Paul asked the other day.

"Not yet," I said.

"I've heard talk," he said.

Yes, we've all heard the talk: "He's lost control of the players. The game has passed him by."

It's pointless, this talk. All it does is tear down what we've worked so hard to build. Such as this new four-defender formation. The Fearsome Foursome, we'll call them. Or the Four Seasons.

"One parent thinks you don't yell enough," Paul said.


"Your wife," he said.

"The pregnant woman?"

"She might be right," he said.

Or she could just be upset over this crib situation. For weeks, she's been asking me to put the old crib together, the one we'd stored away for the grandkids. The one we need now ourselves.

When I finally did, I found a cross-piece was missing. No big deal. I'll cut a replacement piece after the playoffs.

"You know, that baby could come any day," my older daughter warns.

"It could?"

"Dad, the due date is three weeks away."

"It is?"

"Poor Mom," she says.

What about poor Dad? The pregnant dad. I'm dilated at least 7 centimeters now. My coaching career is in disarray. My own kids don't listen to me. Only the dog will kiss me like he means it.

And, in my heart of hearts, I know that if I repair this old crib -- say, this afternoon -- I know that there will be a new baby in it by nightfall. In our family, an empty baby crib becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All night long, there'd be a newborn in there, demanding things I can't give. Milk. Talc. Money. As Lenny Bruce once asked about babies: "Why invite a stranger into the house?"

"Maybe I should just go out and buy a new crib," Grace Kelly threatens.

Or was it my crazy-pregnant-glamorous wife, the one I can no longer wrap my arms around? The one with the movie star glow.

These drama queens, you can hardly tell them apart anymore.


Chris Erskine's column is published Wednesdays. He can be reached at

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