Sklars on Sports: Calling All Rogue Kickballers

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Alex Chadwick chats with Randy and Jason Sklar, host of the ESPN show Cheap Seats, about their visit to a game staged by the World Adult Kickball Association. The group's goal is to recruit "rogue" kickballers.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

You haven't played kickball since school yard days, but kickball is back, and so are our sports brothers Randy and Jason Sklar. They've gone out to a game, and they're here now to tell us about it.

Randy, Jason, before we get to talking about adults playing kickball, remind us exactly how is kickball played properly.

Unidentified Man #1: It's basically softball with your foot as the bat. You kick the ball and put it into play, and the fielders can catch it or throw it at a runner to make an out.

CHADWICK: And this is now--adults are playing this and it's organized in some way.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, yes, it is. There's something called WAKA, which is the World Adult Kickball Association. And WAKA has literally set up divisions all around the world. And recently, a group of unaffiliated players challenged a WAKA team here in LA.

(Soundbite of kickball game; ball bouncing)

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CHADWICK: And why would so distinguished a group as the World Adult Kickball Association team accept a challenge from a bunch of nobodies?

Unidentified Man #1: Well, that's a good question. Because they wanted to recruit these nobodies into the association.

CHADWICK: Ah.

Unidentified Man #2: And most of these nobodies, Alex, are employees of an independent radio station here in LA bound together by their sheer love of the sport. And immediately, we noticed the tension in the air. The rogue team had no interest in joining WAKA. Here's Dan Rowan(ph), their captain.

Mr. DAN ROWAN (Team Captain): WAKA can go `walk-a' their ass off of our field, because we didn't want...

Unidentified Man #1: I don't appreciate that kind of language.

Mr. ROWAN: I understand. I'm sorry.

CHADWICK: So what's going on? These guys sound all mad about something.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, he's mad about all the restrictions WAKA has put on who can play in the league.

CHADWICK: Oh. Uh-oh.

Mr. ROWAN: They want everybody to be 21. They want everybody to have medical insurance. We are poor people. We are working class. Like, we don't need your fancy rules or your fancy, highfalutin `no screaming at the opposing team' rules.

Unidentified Man #2: Not only do they have rules, Alex, but they have rituals. Listen to WAKA PR Chair Richard Manfredi talk about what he listens to to psych himself up before a game.

Mr. RICHARD MANFREDI (Public Relations Chair, WAKA): Sometimes some Dan Fogelberg, you know. There's some Air Supply that might happen.

(Soundbite of "Lost In Love")

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) I realize the best part of love is the biggest lies, and I don't care for much.

Unidentified Man #1: And, well, the non-affiliates had a different kind of pregame ritual.

Unidentified Man #4: I had a couple of beers. I'll have a couple more.

(Soundbite of screaming)

CHADWICK: Hmm. OK. The stage set for a battle of Homeric proportions.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, from the first roll of the ball, Alex, it was clear that WAKA was going to rely on their discipline and defense.

Unidentified Man #2: But you had to love the rogue team's energy, their hustle. And it was that hustle that put them on the board first.

(Soundbite of ball being kicked; cheering)

Unidentified Man #2: The play is to home. Oh, she's safe. The catcher missed the ball. It was a low throw.

Unidentified Man #1: Alex, WAKA was surprised to find themselves down early. So I tried to pump up WAKA's shortstop Larry Caldwell.

Kickball's like a marathon. You don't win it in the first inning.

Mr. LARRY CALDWELL (Shortstop, WAKA): Or the fifth.

Unidentified Man #1: Or the sixth.

Mr. CALDWELL: There is no sixth.

Unidentified Man #1: That's why you don't win in the sixth.

Still, as the game went on, WAKA had trouble scoring runs.

(Soundbite of ball being kicked; cheering)

Unidentified Man #1: Third baseman climbs the ladder to pull that one down. We call that the hot corner. A little Fozzie the Bear razzing coming from rogue league, `WAKA, WAKA, WAKA.'

CHADWICK: Did I say Homeric? I meant biblical. This is biblical. This is David vs. Goliath. And who's winning? I mean, surely Goliath comes back. WAKA--they stomp these little guys.

Unidentified Man #1: Nope, it was an upset, Alex.

CHADWICK: No.

Unidentified Man #1: The rogue team blanked WAKA 2-zip, shut them out. And reflecting on the day, Air Supply enthusiast Richard Manfredi was left with the hard task of sorting out his very identity.

I want you to order these in terms of how you see yourself, as an American, as a man, as a kickball player, as a Jew.

Mr. MANFREDI: Well, Jew would be at the bottom since I'm not. Probably an American kickball player who happens to be male and not Jewish.

Unidentified Man #2: In the end, though, a valuable lesson was learned, that if the goal of kickball is to have fun, to socialize...

Unidentified Man #1: To drink a few beers early on a Saturday.

Unidentified Man #2: ...than anyone who tries to control that through rules and regulations will never come out on top.

Unidentified Man #1: Because in kickball, Alex, you can't beat a good time.

(Soundbite of cheering and screaming)

CHADWICK: Randy and Jason Sklar, sometimes analysts for ESPN in some kind of capacity and regular sports brothers here at DAY TO DAY, thank you both.

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you.

(Soundbite of "Lost In Love")

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) Lost in love and I don't know much. Was I thinking aloud, fell out of touch? But I'm back on my feet eager to be what you wanted.

CHADWICK: We have other Sklar stories at our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of "Lost In Love")

Backup Singers: ...and I don't know why...

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) Lost in love.

Backup Singers: ...thinking aloud and fell out of touch.

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) Lost in love.

Backup Singers: But I'm back on my feet and eager to be what you wanted.

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) Lost in love. Now I'm lost...

Backup Singers: Lost in love and I don't know much.

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) I'm lost in love.

Backup Singers: Was I thinking aloud and fell out of touch? But I'm back on my feet and eager to be what you wanted.

AIR SUPPLY: (Singing) Lost in love.

CHADWICK: This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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