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Many a parent has spent many a night in spring on the bleachers at Allsopp Park watching girls play softball. In The Observer’s day at the park, surreptitious sips of alcoholic beverages hidden in plastic cups and lots of chitchat made up for any lull in the action, and all were quick to nudge the proper mother when her daughter was at bat so she wouldn’t miss anything. When a fly ball was hit, all the players on the team rushed toward it, only to let it fall to earth in their midst. Once in a while, though, a girl would smack it all the way to the fence and the parents would roar – all of them, not just the ones on the team at bat.

Twice a week for a couple of months the games came around, and no one blamed mom if hot dogs were for dinner both nights. (That might be four nights if a mother had two girls playing in different age groups.) You could tell the children of experienced moms – their girls wore bandannas under their batting helmets, to ward off that bane of elementary school life, head lice. Only a few toddlers fell through the bleachers in any given season.

We haven’t fielded a child in years, but we figure nothing much has changed. But the Molar Rollers have been going at the Bad Nose Bears now since 1984. To celebrate this remarkable near-quarter-century of fun, the founding players are throwing a party and they’re looking for women who played in the 1980s to join them in a reunion game at the park.

Chelsea Clinton was one of the founding players, and her mother has been invited to throw out the first ball when the game starts at 5 p.m. July 14. It ought to be a swell game, coming on the heels of a margarita and beer party that starts at 3 p.m.

Pictures? Original T-shirts? Bring them along. Find out more by e-mailing hillcrestsoftball@gmail.com.

Over the weekend, The Observer was forced to revise our long-held belief that all Republicans are dumb. Now we’re operating under the theory that most Republicans are dumb. This new position is taking some getting used to.

For reasons that remain unclear, The Observer was chosen to be one of the judges for an adult spelling bee. Some 25 competitors took the stage at Pulaski Heights Christian Church of Little Rock. They were male and female, black and white, young and not-so-young, teachers and retired teachers, librarians, politicians and professional environmentalists.

This was a steel-cage spelling bee, not one of those sissy affairs where the contestants are given long lists of words in advance. Those are memorization bees, not spelling bees, The Observer thinks. The competitors in this bee had no idea what words they’d be given.

These were good spellers, and The Observer imagined the competition going on for hours. But “good” is not “perfect,” and inevitably, contestants began to be eliminated.

(Let us explain that The Observer played a crucial part in this process. There were three people at the judging table. One was the pronouncer who gave the words to the contestants. One was a judge who also kept records on what round it was and other such data. Then there was The Observer, who was not only a judge but was also commissioned to sound the counter bell in front of him whenever a speller missed a word. After the competition, The Observer heard nothing but compliments on his ringing — “The best ever,” one longtime bee fan said — but, perfectionist that he is, was not entirely pleased with his own performance. He hadn’t wanted to seem eager to eliminate anybody, so he sometimes waited too long to ring the bell — that is, the pronouncer was telling the contestant he’d erred, and what the error was, before the bell made it official. The Observer will steel himself next time. No more Mr. Nice Guy.)

Early on, The Observer saw a Republican member of the state legislature among the contestants and naturally assumed he’d be eliminated early. But he kept hanging around while others left the stage. Finally, it came down to the politician needing only one more correct spelling to win the championship. He got it. And it was a hard word, too: hypochondriasis.

Who would ever have guessed that a Republican could spell like that?

But this Republican is a native Arkansan, and that makes a difference, obviously. We don’t look for George Bush to win any spelling bees.

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