Connie Schultz | Why Didn’t Coach Tell Me Only Lesbians Play Softball?

Several questions are burning my brain after last week’s flare-up over The Wall Street Journal’s decision to run a photo of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan In case you missed it — and bless you for caring about real news —accusations and denials were flying like foul balls over the decision to run that 1993 photo of Kagan at bat. Was it an innocent attempt to humanize the spirited 50-year-old single woman? Or was it code for a sinister suggestion about which way her bat swings?

No. 1: How many of my unmarried middle-aged girlfriends with thriving careers and no children are gay and never told me? They have shared the minutiae of their everyday lives — including all those hilarious dates with boys masquerading as grown-ups — and they never have bothered to tell me that what they really want is a date with no Adam’s apple and a drawer full of underwire?

No. 2: How is it that I played softball throughout my childhood, taught my son how to throw a ball and coached my daughter’s teams for years and I’m not a lesbian? What is wrong with me? God, are you listening?

No. 3: How come so many of the lesbians I know are terrible softball players? OK, make that one lesbian I know, but she’s one of my very best friends, and she does everything else so well that my admiration for her sometimes morphs just a teensy-weensy bit into raging envy. Her name is Jackie. She is so talented that she regularly bursts into a Broadway show tune that provides the perfect soundtrack to whatever experience we’re sharing at any given moment. It’s uncanny, and it only took me four years to get used to it. Now I don’t blink an eye when she belts out Snoopy’s “Suppertime” in the produce aisle.

The point here — and I do have one — is that Jackie, for all her God-given talents, is terrible at softball. Years into our friendship, I learned this after I asked Jackie to sub for an absent player on our newspaper’s coed She did warn me that she was a little rusty.

“Con,” she said, “I haven’t played softball since I was a senior at Immaculate Heart Academy and saved the game to beat our arch rival, Holy Angels.” No, I didn’t confirm this because the only time Jackie ever had lied to me was when she said I looked very New York-ish after cutting my bangs with nail clippers. I know the Jackie-lie face.

“I don’t play all that well now,” she told me.

“Great,” I said, desperate not to forfeit the game. “What time shall I pick you Quite a game, that was. We put Jackie out — way out — in left field, where she spent seven innings screeching and leaping like Scarlett O’Hara dodging cannonballs. Even she couldn’t come up with a song to match her attempts at bat to, as she put it, “meet the ball.”

“Why?” she asked on the drive home. “Why would I put both hands on the bat and leave myself entirely defenseless?”

I asked Jackie whether I could share this little story, and she said, “Sure, Con, as long as you also mention how all you journalists were too worried about injuring your precious little typing fingers to actually field balls and score some runs.”


What does this story about Jackie have to do with Elena Kagan’s qualifications for Supreme Court? Why, nothing. Just as that photo of Kagan playing softball has nothing to do with her sexual orientation, which also has nothing to do with her qualifications for Supreme Court. Talk about a string of coincidences.

See, even straight middle-aged women married with children know a red herring when someone slaps us in the face with it. But I do think it’s safe to say this whole brouhaha over the nonissue of Kagan’s private life does raise a crucial question about the current members of the United States Supreme Court:

Do they, or do they not, play softball?

I’m sure some intrepid blogger is already all over this one.

Meanwhile, to all you girls out there playing your hearts out on softball fields across America: Now you know that you, too, might be a Supreme Court justice one day.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have a friend like Jackie, too.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and essayist for Parade magazine.

Copyright 2010