When I was 16, I asked a girl out for the first time in my life. The high school prom loomed with all its angst and trauma, and my friends and I had reached that age when asking girls out was the norm, in addition to the rejection that would follow for years to come. We had left the collective nest of the chaste and forced celibacy that embraces youth and stands out in its geekiness like a new Christmas sweater.
It was time and I had to take a chance. I espied a girl two years younger than me who was cute, but not popular. I knew my limitations. I was a nerd, therefore I couldn’t ask out the class whore, the perpetual beauty queen or the All-American Girl.
I don’t remember the details of the negotiations; I’m sure it involved several middlemen and hand-scrawled notes passed in the hallways of the school.
It didn't matter the process. She accepted and I entered the world of confusion that has remained a constant now, 35 years later.
At about the same time, my parents bought for me my first APBA sports board game. It was a game using dice and cards that replicated a professional sports season. Gamers tossed the dice, matched its results with numbers printed on individual players’ cards and read results on printed boards to discover the action. A low number could indicate a running back busted a long run or a quarterback hit a receiver for substantial yardage. A roll of a 25, say, could indicate an incomplete pass.
My first game was the 1976 NFL season, a hefty game for a kid of 17. A year later, my parents got the 1978-79 NBA season and away I went.
The prom date went only fair, as can be expected on a first date. We continued misstepping in the dance of young romance for two years; all the while I continued playing my APBA games. They provided the only consistency, the only normalness in the bizarre world of hormones, young love and misunderstood commitments.
And now, more than three decades later, I’m still playing APBA — having graduated to the more popular baseball game — and I’m still dealing with the same girl after a 30-year break.
Ever since I was old enough to really remember, I’ve been taking chances on love. And I’ve been playing APBA games just as long.
Yes, I’ve been rolling the dice all this time.
Both figuratively and literally.