Sunday, July 13, 2014

The fine art of people-watching at a baseball game

My father and I have developed a pretty unique, sort of out there summer tradition over the past few years: At some point each summer, we go to a baseball game together.
                I know, weird right? Fathers, sons and baseball. If that oddball mix can somehow work then by god I guess there’s still hope for my peanut butter and spaghetti sandwich idea.
                Baseball is a great sport to see live. Game aside, how can you beat sitting outside on a beautiful summer evening with a beer, peanuts and some good company?
                Even better, the very meandering nature of baseball, the thing that makes it borderline intolerable to watch on TV sometimes, makes it the perfect relaxing night out activity.
                There are a few brief minutes of action here and there that require your undivided attention, but the rest of the time you can just kick back and soak in the atmosphere.
                Or you can partake in one of my favorite pastimes in both baseball and my day to day life: People-watching.
                Which I did and here are a couple of things that I noticed during last night’s game:

  • The kid next to me was miserable. A kid and his dad sat down next to me and my dad before the first pitch, so we had a sort of past/present thing going on. The kid had a giant funnel cake and was happy as a clam. The funnel cake lasted him until the midpoint of the first inning and then it was all downhill from there. He immediately started asking how long they had to stay for. His dad tried to make the best of it, but it was a losing battle. Eventually, they got up to “walk around” around the fifth inning and were never seen again. It’s a risky thing for fathers of young kids. That night out could either be something you want to remember forever or something that there isn’t enough scotch in the world to help you forget.
  • Pondering the Phillie Phanatic. Before the father and son disappeared, the Phillie Phanatic showed up to have some fun in our section. This prompted the kid to ask: “Is the Phanatic controlled by a computer or a guy in a suit?” I thought that question was terrifying. Imagine being a fan of a rival team and going to Citizens Bank Park knowing there was a giant, fur-covered 6 foot 6 inch robot patrolling the stadium grounds? Just one small programming glitch and suddenly instead of shaking its belly at you, the Phanatic just starts ripping out spinal cords. The world that kid inhabits must be a horrifying place if he thought that was a real possibility. I’d be less scared if the Phanatic actually was a giant, deformed turtle-creature from the Galapagos.    
  • Courtesy is dead, buried and currently being fracked to power PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s secret subterranean manatee fighting facility. There was a time when people who’d gotten up to go to the bathroom or buy a hot dog would wait until a stoppage in play before returning to their seats. The thing with baseball is that like 90% of the game is a stoppage in play. That doesn’t mean you can return to your seat whenever you want. It means you need to wait until there’s a substantial one. Something longer than the time between pitches to the same batter. Wait for a conference on the mound or any gap long enough so that you can get back to your seat without blocking the view of everyone behind you. There was a time when people did this voluntarily out of respect for their fellow fans. Then that time died and there came a time when the ushers at the game enforced this because outside of calling security on drunk people and showing out-of-towners to their seats, that was literally all they were good for. Now? It’s anything goes.
  • It’s not a movie, but still shut up. As I’ve already said, there’s a lot of time between the action in baseball games that needs to be filled. And other than wandering around like an amnesia victim, I’m mostly OK with people using that any way they want. Although, it’d be great if they didn’t talk incessantly throughout the game. If you’re talking baseball, then by all means, but the people behind us were talking about work, life, their wedding which was a year or so off. My question is this: Why pay for the tickets? If you’re going to be completely, 100% disengaged even from the brief flashes of excitement, why are you there? You probably have beer at home that cost you way less, you probably have a chair that can be relocated outside. So why spend the money on the tickets, the parking, the time driving down only to do things during the game you could have done at home for free?
  • Side note: The one dude behind us ended every other sentence he spoke which had something to do with the game with the word “kid.” As in: “There you go, kid!” or “Come on, Ryan! Get a hit, kid!” I desperately wanted to turn around and steer him back into the wedding talk. If you’re not Humphrey Bogart and you’re not in “Casablanca,” addressing people as “kid” should be punishable by exile.
  • Men are weird. Walk into any men’s bathroom during a break in the action at a sporting event and there will be a decent-sized line to get to the urinals. The stalls? Ghost town. Barely a soul as far as the eye can see. Why? The stalls are so much the better option, it’s mind-numbing. You get some privacy, there’s toilet paper if you want to blow your nose or something. And yet, guys still prefer to wait six deep in a queue for the privilege of standing shoulder-to-shoulder and peeing in a line with other guys. And don’t give me the “stalls are for pooping or little kid” nonsense. Guys have no etiquette in public bathrooms and the urine that is usually ankle deep on the floor is a testament to that. Besides, it the stalls were for little kids, where are they? Why are the stalls almost always completely deserted?

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