Behold, America’s Pastime. As the first buds of spring emerge on the branch, so do cleats on the baseline – ready to make and rake their own layers in the dusty tracks like so many generations before. However, today on Animal Planet‘s “Where the Wild Things Are,” we take you off the baseball field to capture a species rarely seen by the naked eye (because most people wear sunglasses): the elusive, the sugar-filled, the unkempt and unkept…Younger Siblings.
As the title suggests, a Younger Sibling is the latter offspring in a family group that also includes an Older Sibling. When enrolled in activities such as baseball, these Older Siblings require an excessive amount of attention – from identifying appropriate clothing (“Are we wearing blues or whites today?” a parent will ask, using the royal “We” to identify to the Older Sibling – who rarely knows the location or cleanliness level of any jersey, color notwithstanding), to providing nutrient-rich sustenance (“I hope we’re all hungry for microwaved hot dogs!”), to traveling to and from events (“We have to be at the field at 7am, so maybe we will sleep in the car.”), to watching every moment of gameplay (“Yes, instead of going to bed, let’s definitely talk about that minute detail.”).
An adult brain can only process so many thoughts at once; and, as a result, any Younger Siblings are given the barest minimum of care – basically, parents just make sure to bring them along to wherever they are going. Left to their own wild devices, these Younger Siblings organize into feral packs, roaming about the ballfield in search of food and fun. These packs are called “Buddies” because, once in a group, the Younger Siblings eschew their own given names so as to answer to all variations of the name “Buddy.”
Buddies exist everywhere and nowhere. One minute, they are under the bleachers. The next, they are in the outfield. Their location rarely has anything to do with their purpose; they will throw a ball back and forth from inside the bathrooms, or cheer at random for whatever team is in closest proximity from the top of an electrical box. Often, they will stop what they are doing and have a long conversation with another member of the pack – ending the conversation by slapping one another and shouting, “You’re it!” and running off.
Buddies are particularly hard to identify, as they are always shifting numbers, members, and clothing. Many Younger Siblings will arrive at the field wearing their SpongeBob jammie bottoms and their Older Siblings’ unused jersey, and leave the field in a pair of shorts and no shirt at all.
Because of these changing facts, and in order to hold up the “parenting” end of being a parent, adults will move their focus away from the Older Sibling long enough to regularly track the general vicinity of his or her younger child. Once they spot one or more members of their last-known pack, they will shout out an ambiguous missive, such as, “How’s it going, Bud?” To which their offspring will identify themselves by yelling, “I’m hungry.”
The Buddies’ diet is forged entirely from the nearby concession stand. This is not to say other options don’t exist; in many cases, the parents of the Younger Siblings will provide a carry-all filled to the brim with healthy/healthy-ish foodstuffs, ranging from sunflower seeds to fruit snacks to the same straight-up actual candy served at the stand. Regardless of what is provided, the Younger Siblings will wait until the exact moment that the Older Sibling is either up to bat or pitching and then ask for money “to get something to eat.”
“Hang on, Bud, your brother is pitching,” the parent will reply, their eyes glued to the field.
“But I’m hungrrrrryyyyy,” the Younger Sibling will say, invoking a tone which has the effect of completely erasing a parents’ memory of any previously-packed snacks and/or best-laid plans to not buy anything at the park.
“Oh, okay,” the parent will say, producing $5 without actually looking away from the game. “Bring back change.”
No change will ever return. Instead, it will be traded for hot dogs and candy bars, as well as cotton candy, Freezees, Ring Pops, and bags of chips. Once gathered, the Younger Sibling will graciously dole any and all foodstuffs amongst the Buddies, oftentimes forgetting to save enough to fill their own bellies. Not to worry, though; they will soon be sated as soon as the coach switches pitchers and another Younger Sibling can repeat the same song-and-dance with their own different set of parents.
If, for some reason, the concession stand is closed, the Younger Siblings will console themselves with fistfuls of unshelled sunflower seeds – which they will “eat” by sucking off the salt and spitting into the grass whole, thereby saving themselves the unnecessary exertions of shelling, chewing, or actually consuming any protein.
To get an inside look at this volatile pack environment, Animal Planet embedded one of our top researchers, Dr. Pat Patterson, into what we identified as Buddy Bravo (which was formed after one of the members of Buddy Alpha left to go to Sam’s Club with his grandma). Here’s what Dr. Patterson had to say:
“I found Buddy Bravo rolling down the pitching mound on an unused field, and I was able to join them by standing near the group until someone pointed at me and said it was my turn. We played on that field for one hundred hours, and then petted a dog for another hundred hours. I was briefly a member of Buddy Charlie after a kid named Sam called Finn’s sister a farthead, but we reconvened once Sam’s mom found a bag of balloons in her wagon. Come to think of it, we never did blow up those balloons; instead, Finn pulled us around in the wagon like a choo-choo train for infinity hours and then it was time to go. Did I have a good time? Well, Sam did – wait, is that the ice cream truck? Can I have $5?”
As Dr. Patterson – who is currently preparing for a similar study amongst Hockey Buddies – noted, Younger Siblings will spend “infinity hours” at the baseball park – time that will never be reciprocated by their Older Sibling. Yes, one day the Younger Sibling may be at his or her own baseball game, and yes, the Older Sibling may need to come to the field to get his or her mom’s car keys – and, while there, casually glance at the game while mom digs in her purse. When that happens, nearby adults will coo, “Isn’t it great that he came to watch his brother,” which is the cue to the Older Sibling that they are now allowed to leave to do something better.
Finally, speaking of leaving…all baseball games come to an end – and with it, our migrating Buddies find a soft landing pad on the folded-up lawn chairs of their parents.
“Can we go to the pool?” The Younger Sibling will ask, after a final handful of sunflower seeds.
“Sorry, Bud,” their parents will say. “We have to be back at the field in an hour.”
Join us next week on Animal Planet‘s “Where the Wild Things Are” for a look at the dictionary definition of universal chaos: that time you decided to invite your four-year-old’s entire preschool class to his birthday party.
This week’s news has a swimming lesson and a barbecue. Read on.
Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo is attempting to set the record for the world’s largest swimming lesson. (KX Net)
Fargo’s Johanna Zinke has created a business called Ramp Girl (she’s 10 years old) so that she can sell rare ramps she finds on her family hikes to area restaurants. (Fargo Forum)
Over 5,000 people came out to the 10th Annual Bakken BBQ – which broke records with 46 cooking companies – in order to raise money for Make-A-Wish North Dakota. (Dickinson Press)
Let’s Be (Official) Pals!
Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).