Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female (Contributor)
By Lisa Bernhard
(Hyperion, 2006; pgs. 115-118)
Lisa Bernhard joined the Fox News Channel in 2003 as an entertainment correspondent. She reports within the entertainment industry on film, music, television, and celebrity news. Before joining Fox, she was deputy editor of TV Guide, where she covered major entertainment stories, conducted celebrity interviews, and made numerous appearances on the Today show, The View, and Access Hollywood, among others.
My first memory of loving baseball dates back to age seven. That beautiful expanse of green. The cunning duel between pitcher and batter. The languid pace, the surge of excitement. The ball landing — swish! — into the web of a mitt and cracking off the end of the bat. The game meant summertime, warmth, purity, simplicity, and joy.
The New York Mets were my favorite team. I'd sit in front of the TV rooting for each player by first and last name. I was superstitious that way. I couldn't just say, "C'mon, Tom." I wasn't sure that the baseball god I was praying to knew I meant Tom Seaver, the Mets' ace pitcher. There were lots of Toms playing baseball after all. I had to be clear, I thought, if I really wanted my team to win.
By the time I was ten, baseball was a huge part of my life. I owned my second mitt by then. I had all the accessories to make me a better player, including a Johnny Bench Batter-Up and a Pitch-Back. There were no Little League teams for girls in my town, but I was fortunate to live among spacious lawns that served as beautiful baseball diamonds.
When I was twelve, I went off to summer camp. I couldn't watch my beloved Mets there — I was too far north. But I knew I could watch the jewel in the crown — the Major League All-Star Game. Nationally telecast, it would be beamed to every remote corner of the country. It was baseball's big event — all the hometown heroes gathered for one great game.
But there was only one way for me to watch: I had to get into the Big House. The Big House was not a place in which they locked you up when you were bad — it was the rambling manse that contained our dining hall, a "telephone room" in which you could occasionally call home, and a cozy den with a television. I had gotten word from a younger boy that his entire bunk was being let into the Big House to watch the game. If younger kids were being let in, surely my spot in the den was secure. I approached the head of the camp.
"Mr. Golden, may I come into the Big House tonight to watch the All-Star Game?"
"You want to watch the game? I don't think so."
"Um, what?" I replied meekly.
"Lisa," Mr. Golden answered, "you just want to be with the boys. You don't like baseball."
I was shocked. Baseball was the love of my life, not boys.
"Actually, I love baseball. I'm a huge Mets fan, and I love the All-Star Game. I watch it every year."
"I don't believe you, Lisa. I think you just want to be with the boys. I'm not letting you in."
I felt humiliated. I was a shy kid, and it took a lot of courage for me to approach the head of the camp. Boys younger than I was were being given the privilege of watching the game, but I was not. I wasn't taken seriously, dismissed as some kind of boy-crazy prepubescent harlot.
I walked back to my bunk, defeated, deflated, angry, sad, and confused. I was not let in because I was a girl. Denied the thing I loved most. It hurt.
That night, I crawled into bed, thinking about what a great time the boys must be having watching the game. Then a flash: I had a tiny transistor radio that my dad had given me, and a single earplug. Maybe I could find the game on the radio. I spun through the stations on the receiver until, finally, success. I listened to the game through the last beautiful out, long after my fellow campers and counselors had drifted off to sleep. Or so I thought.
As it turned out, one of my counselors had lain awake too, picking up on the faint sounds that came through my earpiece. It was well past my bedtime, but she had let me listen. The next day — unbeknownst to me — she approached the head of the camp. She told him about how I listened on my transistor, fixated on every pitch, every swing, every catch.
That afternoon, Mr. Golden came toward me. Uh-oh. Did he want to tell me one more time that I was a liar?
"Lisa, I owe you an apology," he said.
I stood in stunned silence.
"I heard that you stayed up late to listen to the game on your radio. I should have let you in. You were telling the truth, and I didn't believe you. I'm sorry."
I didn't know what to say. I was shocked that he knew, and I was shocked that he apologized. I still wished that I had seen the game, wished that he had believed me.
It took me some time to sort through what had happened. Then my emotions swelled. I loved that counselor. I loved knowing that she had been awake, allowing me to break my bedtime curfew. I loved that she stood up for me in a quiet yet powerful way. I loved that the man who ran our camp now knew that I had told the truth, knew that girls could love baseball as much as boys could. I was filled with pride, and I soon realized why. In my own small way, I had done what my heroes had done — stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. I smiled. I loved my great game now more than ever.