This week I ran face-first into the America. I went to a professional baseball game.
I come from a baseball family. My dad and his twin brother played minor league ball. My cousin played minor league ball. My other cousin was a major league pitcher for many years. I inherited none of that skill, talent, or competitive nature. I’m OK with that. I’m proud of what my dad, uncle, and cousins accomplished.
When I was young my family went to many Texas Rangers games. Honestly, it was really just about the only thing we ever did. We didn’t go camping. We didn’t go to the movies. We didn’t go on vacations. We went to baseball games. Oh, we went to Houston a few times. To see baseball games. I didn’t really know that other people did things besides go to baseball games, so it didn’t bother me.
One of my favorite memories of going out to the ballpark goes something like this. We drove out early (as we always did) so we could be there for batting practice (not even kidding). For some reason we stopped at a Mr. M food store (kind of like a 7-11). There was a comic book rack. I procured what I believe was a “giant size” issue of Justice Leage of America. I was so happy! This was a real find! When we arrived at the ballpark I left the comic in the car, so as not to get it dirty or torn.
What followed was four or five hours of glorious anticipation of the time I could be back with that comic. The game couldn’t be over fast enough. I watched each and every moment of that game, silently urging them to finish so I could leave, go home, and read that comic.
That story encapsulates my level of interest in baseball at that time. A few years later I played one season of little league baseball. This was the mid-1970s, way before today’s world of little kids having private coaches, “travelling leagues”, etc. Even so, I really wasn’t into it, and I sucked. By that time I had discovered skateboarding, and so began my lifelong condition of really not caring too much about anything else.
As the teen years came along, I went to the ballpark with my parents less and less. When I did go, I often had a Sony Walkman and a paperback book to read. Yes, I was the kid in the stands with headphones on, listening to the Vapors, while I read Elric of Melnibone stories. I wasn’t intentionally “being rebellious”. That was just my way.
Now, decades later, baseball does hold some level of nostalgia and goodness in my mind. All of those years of going out to see the Texas Rangers play, and often lose, must have seeped in somehow. The year after my father died, the Rangers actually went to the World Series for the first time. Of course they lost (like he said they would), but still it was cool that they went. I think my dad’s absence increased its meaning for me. Then they went to the Series again the next year! And lost again! That pretty much used up my entire lifetime supply of Fan Power. Still would like to see them win, but I’m not gonna invest a lot of emotion into it.
My wife is a fan of the Chicago White Sox. Growing up in Chicago’s South Side, she learned early on to hate the Cubs and their fan base of lawyers, investment bankers, hedge fund scumbags, and other such vermin. So when the Sox came to play the Rangers last week, we procured tickets and went to the ballpark.
Now, this isn’t the same ballpark I went to so long ago. Back in the old days, the Rangers played at Arlington Stadium, which was the slightly improved stadium of the minor league team that had been there for some time, the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. I believe it had been known quite glamorously as “Turnpike Stadium” ( the imagination just soars, doesn’t it?).
As a side note, the “Turnpike” refers to what is now a 30 mile stretch of Interstate 30, which connects downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth. I had a little trouble remembering some of this, as it was pretty long ago and I was a child, but the Wikipedia entry is pretty interesting, noting how the creation of the Turnpike stimulated the growth of the cities between Dallas and Fort Worth. The City of Arlington, in particular, capitalized on this with quite a bit of vision, with the creation of Six Flags Over Texas and many other sports and amusement attractions over the years. They continue to do so. This guy has some cool pictures of the old toll booths.
OK, where am I going with this? Oh yeah… the ballpark, sarcasm, and elitism.
So, off the “the Ballpark in Arlington” we went.
Flashback. We tried this six years ago when the Sox were in town. Six years ago, we had my recently widowed mom with us. About 5 minutes into the game (or maybe before), it was announced that some very severe weather as moving in. The sky darkened. Radio reported a tornado in the general area of the stadium. Full-on ruined evening baseball tornado apocalypse was upon us. We decided to split. I ran to get the car, but had to take cover in a nearby government building as the tornado sirens were blasting and the rain got fierce. Meanwhile, my wife and mom were waiting for me to bring the car. Stadium employees were instructed not to let anyone leave, as the shit was about to hit the fan. My wife, having learned the lessons of Nine-Eleven quite well (if they say to stay in the building, ALWAYS leave) said “F this, we’re getting the F outta here”, stuck her foot out so the gate couldn’t close, and got herself and my mom out of the stadium. They waited outside, under an overhang. Finally I was able to get to the car and pick them up. We drove back to Dallas in-between two massive and violent thunderstorms.
So this last week, when we sat down in lower left field, and saw the Dark Clouds of Doom rolling in, we wondered what kind of curse had been put upon our House three or four generations back to warrant such a run of luck. The game began, by the middle of the 3rd inning the wind whipped up, the rain started, and we took cover down inside the stadium. This time it was only a massive amount of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. No tornados. We stuck it out for an hour or more for the rain delay.
As we leaned against the wall eating a small mountain of “Cajun Fries”, what else for the obsessive blogger to do but to observe, evaluate, and chronicle the parade of Humanity before him? Let me just begin by saying that while individuals may be almost genetically indistinguishable, the outward diversity of humanity is staggering, and America’s Pastime attracts a very substantial slice of the phenotypic pie. I reckon this to be a good thing. It is something I like about The America.
Now, I don’t go to a lot of sporting events, so I am not really used to seeing people in such deplorable physical condition, in such great numbers, as I encountered that night. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least 50 percent of my fellow sports fans that night were seriously, morbidly obese. No judgement here. Just the facts. Just reporting on what I saw. We gots ourselves a problemo, but for the consessioneers there was no problem, as many beers, $6 hotdogs, and other stuff was sold and devoured that stormy night. Honestly, the Cajun Fries — I could only eat about six of them. Six fries. Upon hitting my stomach the combination of grease and seasoning was sickening. We threw more than half of of ‘em away. Was this an subconscious desire not to end up in one of those scooter chairs with a reaching stick? Probably.
That all being said, and with the rain interrupting the game, I saw nothing but smiles on faces. People getting along, stuffing their faces, and spending the last of the rent money. Games aren’t cheap! Outfield tickets fairly low in the stands were $40 each! Taking a whole family to the game is not something for the financially weak-of-heart.
When the game resumed, the people sitting directly behind us included some classic ballpark loudmouths. I remember them from the old days. These were apparently “super fans”. They knew all the players, and enjoyed shouting insults at the opposing team’s outfielders. When the 7th inning rolled around, and the Rangers were losing badly, these super fans decided it was time to have one last beer for the road and take off, for adventures unknown. Had they stayed, they’d have seen a comeback by the Rangers, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the 8th, to win 13 touchdowns to 11. People got excited about this! Sox fans reacted with disappointment. Bloggers found themselves in states of detached amusement. An exciting match, and probably an olympic record!
My wife of course gives no credit to the Rangers, insisting it was simply the collapse of the Sox that enabled the home team to “win.” But as a great man once said, “That’s how baseball go.”