Monday, January 24, 2005

Son of a Pitch

How many of you have played Pitch before? For the uninitiated, it’s a card game for 4-8 players. That’s all you really need to know.

I learned to play Pitch in Italy. I was 14 when the Chorus of Westerly toured Italy in 1987. We traveled around in semi-air-conditioned motor coaches, moving from Spoleto to Florence, to Venice, to Milan, and finally, to Rome. Over the course of three weeks, faced with a language barrier that teenage apathy dictated no one try to overcome, we desperately needed something to occupy our time, other than trying to sneak wine into our hotel rooms.

Our savior came in the form of Jennifer Kent, daughter of the Chorus director. Every adolecsent male in the Chorus, and probably a few of the older ones too, lusted after her. And now, here she was, giving us the perfect opportunity to do so up close. Jennifer wanted people to play a card game called Pitch. None of us knew how to play, but we were damn sure going to learn really fast. Not only did Jennifer teach us to play, she taught us how to cheat.

Cheating, we learned, was an integral part of the game, an added challenge per se. Everyone cheated. If you were caught you got smacked around. So we continually searched for more creative ways to cheat, to avoid the smacking. Unless it was by Jennifer. Then we didn’t mind so much. To this day, I have great difficulty playing cards honestly.

We brought Pitch back to the States con entusiasmo. Our church Youth Group soon became a weekly card night. Choir practice was just an excuse to run from school to the church undercroft as quickly as possible, in the hopes that we could squeeze a game in before it started. If you didn’t know how to play, you just weren’t cool. Our coolness was relative, as we were all choirboys to start.

In college, I quickly discovered that Pitch was played outside my isolated little world. I played Pitch, and cheated, with people on my dorm floor. I was cool in college, too. Coolness in this case is also relative, as I went to gee. . . er . . . engineering school.

Almost every kid who toured Italy that summer has moved away, including me. Over the years, I’ve managed to resurrect a couple isolated games with my all time Pitch nemesis, Amber. Her husband Brendan has also been dragged into our little club.

I taught Leah how to play, but it was too late for her to really embrace the cheating part. She’s not that cool.